Immuno-oncology Becoming Established as Fifth Pillar of Cancer Therapy, Analysts Say

Immuno-oncology Becoming Established as Fifth Pillar of Cancer Therapy, Analysts Say

The analytics firm Global Data argues that immuno-oncology appears set to become a fifth pillar among the mainstay of cancer treatments made up of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and other targeted therapies.

The company reached the conclusion in a report titled “Pharma Focus Visual Analysis of Immuno-Oncology Development and Opportunities,” and produced by analyzing more than 4,000 clinical trials of over 800 immuno-oncology compounds, developed for 18 solid tumors and eight blood cancers.

Among key points in the report, Global Data looked at the development of checkpoint inhibitors that target additional molecules.

‘‘Beyond PD-(L)1 and CTLA-4, 18 other IO [immuno-oncology] targets are currently being explored in Phase 1 to 3 clinical trials,” Maxime Bourgognon, senior healthcare analyst at GlobalData, said in a press release.

Most of these emerging therapies will likely be combined with checkpoint inhibitors that are already on the market, according to the report.

But analysts also looked at the potential of CAR T-cell therapies to make an impact. In fact, the development of active immunotherapies was a main focus of the fifth-pillar report, which also dealt with cell vaccines and combinations of different immuno-oncology products using cancer-fighting viruses.

Nevertheless, checkpoint inhibitors constitute a large part of immunotherapies in development — a fact illustrated by a bubble graph dominated by the well-known molecular targets PD-1, PD-L1, and CTLA-4.

These so-called checkpoint molecules aid a tumor “hiding” from the immune system. By blocking these factors, immune therapies can unleash an immune attack in a treatment approach that has improved survival compared to standard therapies, analysts said. These drugs have done so by maintaining a relatively good safety profile, they added.

“The future of IO looks brighter than ever, and IO drugs are now in a position to compete as monotherapies against traditional SOC [standard of care] chemotherapy regimens in the first line of the metastatic setting. In addition, these treatments have shown efficacy in a wide variety of indications offering a less toxic treatment alternative,” analysts wrote in the release.

“Despite all the initial setbacks and challenges in IO, researchers and drug developers have now found innovative ways to successfully augment the immune response against cancer,” Bourgognon said. “In the near future, it is hoped that the combination of IO agents with other IO agents, targeted therapies, or chemotherapy regimens will lead to improved long-term survival outcomes for even more cancer patients.”