Immunotherapies in oncology: the future of cancer treatment lies in combinations and partnerships

Frances Hendry|19th May 2017

Image: molecules in a particle-based vaccine for cancer therapy  (Flickr: NIH Image Gallery)

**This article originally appeared in PharmaPhorum's Deep Dive magazine - May 2017 edition

With the promise of using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, immunotherapy has received significant interest from the scientific community, bringing hope to patients across many cancer indications.

The recent development of immunotherapies has led to considerable change in the oncology treatment landscape, driving transformation in the standard of care and yielding lasting responses in patients with metastatic cancers.

While promising, first and second generations of agents have demonstrable weaknesses too, such as:

  • Reduced efficacy in a limited subset of patients
  • Increased resistance mechanism, where patients do not respond or stop responding
  • Toxicity issues, which diminish quality of life for patients.

In order to optimise agent efficacy and overall patient survival, most of these agents are now used in combination. This shift has led to a proliferation of combination studies and approvals, as well as research and commercial partnerships between top pharma companies and small biotechnology companies with innovative product pipelines.

What are the immunotherapy agents currently investigated in monotherapy and in combination?

The first generation of agents has shown some interesting results, while also highlighting the limits of immunotherapies in oncology. Yervoy (ipilimumab, Bristol-Myers Squibb) is a first-generation agent which was approved by the FDA in 2011 for advanced melanoma.

The second wave of agents encompasses checkpoint inhibitors and cell therapies, among others. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab and atezolizumab are checkpoint inhibitors, meaning that they help the immune system to recognise and kill tumour cells. These three agents have been approved in the US and Europe for multiple indications, where they have shown promising efficacy.

Third-generation agents are emerging. These are a broader set, targeting other aspects of the immune system. They promise multiple therapeutic options that can be tailored to the patient and offer a wide range of possibilities for combination (Hoos et al, 2016).
 

Download the full article by clicking the button below.

Delivering impactful customer engagements in COVID-19

Blue Latitude Health|14th July 2020

Blue Latitude Health, and our parent company Fishawack Health, have developed exclusive intellectual property, processes and tools to ensure you’re engaging customers in the right way. View our service one-pagers below to find out how we can help solve your challenges whether you’re in a medical, brand, portfolio or an above brand role.

read more

Top 5 tips for a multi-indication product launch

Sana Rahim|8th July 2020

Senior Associate Consultant Sana Rahim and Senior Consultant Victoria Clark explain the lessons the team has learned from launching six different indications of an oncology product in an accelerated timeframe.

read more

If our patients are diverse, why are clinical trials so white?

Ling Song|22nd June 2020

Despite facing worse health outcomes, minority populations are often left out of clinical trials and miss the opportunity to participate in life-saving research. Associate Consultant Ling Song explores this issue and calls for the pharmaceutical industry to change its approach.

read more