Fighting cancer – a five front battle
First there was surgery. You found a tumor and you cut it out.
Then came radiation therapy that killed a tumor and cytostatica that did the same.
For a long time, cancer treatment has meant a combination of two or three of these approaches, surgery, radiation and cytostatica. It is the cancer therapy equivalent of carpet bombing and everyone who knows a cancer patient can witness how brutal such a treatment can be. The patient pays a very high price for a therapy that often does not provide a real cure, just a temporary life extension.
Over the last decade, therapies for patients with cancer have changed gradually, moving away from the administration of broadly acting cytotoxic drugs towards the use of more-specific therapies that are tailor-made and targeted to each type of tumor.
To facilitate this shift, tests have been developed to identify those individuals who require therapy and those who are most likely to benefit from certain therapies. In particular, tests that predict the clinical outcome for patients on the basis of the genes expressed by their tumors are likely to increasingly affect patient management, heralding a new era of personalized medicine.
These are the first four therapies that are available but the fifth that is currently emerging – immunology or immune oncology – holds a bigger promise. To finally provide a cure for cancer.
As a market, COWEN estimates that cancer therapies will grow from 95 billion USD 2015 to 163 billion USD worldwide in 2020.
The biggest segment today is the combination of established therapies radiation and cytostatica, but targeted therapies are growing fast and is expected to emerge as the most important segment in the coming five to ten years. Immunology hold a huge promise as the first approved products like Bristol Myers Yervoy and Opdivo and Mercks Keytruda are starting to emerge on the market.
Roche, Bristol-Myers, Novartis, Celgene, Amgen, Pfizer, Merck and AstraZeneca are the leading companies. Roche has an innovation center in Copenhagen and AstraZeneca research facilities in Sweden.
In this section we will look closer at five areas of cancer treatment – radiation, cytostatica, targeted therapies, immunology and biomarkers/diagnostics - and some of the most interesting Nordic companies involved.