Why Are Immunotherapy Drugs Being Used for Cancer Treatment?

The increasing cases of chronic diseases have raised the demand for immunotherapy drugs in recent years.

The increasing cases of chronic diseases have raised the demand for immunotherapy drugs in recent years. Such a treatment modulates the immune system to fight off infections, inflammation, and cancer. These drugs are administered in two forms — vaccines and checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors are preferred over vaccines for the treatment of chronic diseases, as they offer effective and better results than the latter.

The requirement for immunotherapy drugs is increasing due to the growing incidence of chronic diseases in both low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) and high-income countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018, nearly 9.6 million people died because of cancer, globally. The WHO also says that approximately 70% of the cancer deaths occur in LMICs. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (ICAR), by 2040, around 29.5 million people will be affected by cancer, thus echoing the WHO’s concern and red-flagging the unmet need for effective therapy.

To contain cancer deaths and treat the disease, doctors are administering immunotherapy drugs in high volumes. For instance, the immunotherapy drug Keytruda is prescribed for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), gastric cancer, melanoma, cervical cancer, urothelial carcinoma, and head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC). Apart from cancer, immunotherapy drugs are administered for the treatment of infectious and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. In the coming years, large quantities of immunotherapy drugs will be used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

In the recent past, North America held the largest share in the immunotherapy drugs market due to an increase in the per capita expenditure on healthcare, growth in the elderly population, rise in the prevalence of chronic diseases, and presence of several drug manufacturers in the region. Moreover, the establishment of research laboratories, research collaborations, and investments in research and development (RD) by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are adding to the availability of new immunotherapy drugs for an array of cancers, infections, and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

For instance, Pfizer Inc. signed an asset contribution agreement with Allogene Therapeutics Inc. in April 2018 to utilize Pfizer's portfolio of allogeneic CAR-T therapy, an investigational immune cell therapy for cancer. Further, Sanofi received the approval for Libyato in September 2018 to treat patients suffering from metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) or locally advanced CSCC. The therapy is indicated for patients who are not fit for curative radiation or curative surgery.

Likewise, in September 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved Lumoxiti (moxetumomab pasudotox-tdfk). Developed by AstraZeneca plc, in collaboration with MedImmune LLC, Lumoxiti is being used to treat adult patients with refractory or relapsed hairy cell leukemia (HCL). To qualify for this treatment, patients must have received a minimum of two systemic therapies, such as purine nucleoside analog treatment. Other companies actively working to introduce effective immunotherapies include Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, GlaxoSmithKline plc, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., Merck Co. Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, Celgene Corporation, and AbbVie Inc.

Thus, the development of new drugs and increasing demand for the treatment of chronic diseases will result in the increased utility of immunotherapy drugs in the foreseeable future.

Sheersh Shrivastava

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