Feb 04, 2022
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
IMCD Pharmaceuticals experts discuss the latest advancements in cancer treatment
IMCD spoke with three of its experts in the Biopharma and API market sectors to discuss the latest developments in cancer treatment.
2020 was a year like no other: an unknown pathogen took over our lives, so much so that everything else seemed to take a back seat. However, one of COVID’s more positive outcomes was the acceleration of pharmaceutical developments, which has, in turn, meant that the introduction of new cancer treatments is also progressing. Whilst the pandemic caused a drive for immediate solutions, now it is time to look to the future with a focus on prevention, self-care, and timely therapy.
Based on the latest cancer report from IQVIA, in 2020, over 30% of new medicines were for cancer, including many that target specific genetic mutations. There is a new direction towards precision oncology that is transforming the way patients are treated. We are seeing medicines and diagnostics that are being adopted rapidly across geographies, promising to improve outcomes for millions in the coming years.
IMCD spoke with three of its experts in the Biopharma and API market sectors – Sylvain Tamier, Dr Heeshma Shah and Dr Cristina Marti - to discuss the latest developments in cancer treatment. Sylvain Tamier, IMCD Biopharma Market Leader, has vast experience in this topic, from his previous position at AstraZeneca to his latest biopharma market development responsibilities at IMCD. Dr Heeshma Shah, IMCD Global Biopharma Technical Director, has been committed to bringing the best solutions to patients in India throughout her long career. Dr Cristina Marti, IMCD Director API Strategy, has spent much of her professional career focusing on active ingredients and the pursuit of better solutions for patients.
We are hearing a lot about the advancements in cancer therapy and prevention. But what do you think is the most promising for patients suffering from cancer acutely or who are at risk of getting it?
Cristina: “Well firstly, prevention is becoming key: simple things like healthier lifestyles and stopping smoking are a tremendous help. Certain cancers caused by infection agents like HPV, HBC, or H.Pylory could be prevented through behavioural changes in vaccinations. Screening helps prevent colorectal and some cervical cancers. Adding whole genome testing (allocating genes for hereditary cancers) or liquid biopsies (for detecting malicious cells post-chemo) are slowly becoming a normality in western countries.”
Heeshma: “The field of immuno-oncology has been transformational in the care of cancer patients. The next revolutionary wave in cancer immunotherapy came with the better understanding of the process of immune surveillance, by which innate immune cells eliminate cancer cells.”
What are the latest innovative therapies that you are most excited about?
Heeshma: “Despite the potency of cytotoxic chemotherapy and the specificity of immunotherapy, neither method alone has been sufficient to eradicate the disease. In the last two decades, biologics have been a pioneering step in the treatment of cancer and have made a significant impact.
Because of molecular profiling, biologics can offer personalised treatment that often improves clinical outcomes, extends survival, and restores patients’ quality of life in a way that chemotherapy cannot. Although their economic advantage got off to a slow start, predictions are now that they will reduce the cost of biologic medication by $100 billion over the next five years. As of May 2021, 39 biosimilars of filgrastim, bevacizumab, trastuzumab, pegfilgrastim, and rituximab have been approved in the EU, and 14 oncology biosimilars were approved by the FDA for use in the United States.”
Cristina: “Advances in cancer therapy need a novel therapeutic agent with a novel mode of action, several mechanisms of cell death, and synergy with conventional management. Gene therapies possess all these profiles. Several gene therapy approaches were developed for the management of cancer, including anti-angiogenic gene therapy, suicide gene therapy, immunotherapy, siRNA therapy, pro-apoptotic gene therapy, oncolytic virotherapy, and gene directed-enzyme prodrug therapy.
Over the last few decades, there have been several molecular techniques developed that help to edit the DNA codes and modify mRNA by post-transcriptional modifications.”
Sylvain: “By November 2017, over 2597 clinical trials were conducted on gene therapy in the world. Among these trials, more than 65% were associated with cancer, followed by monogenetic and cardiovascular diseases. The use of CAR T cell therapy showed promising results for the management of both myeloid and lymphoid leukaemia. The recent discovery of T cell immune checkpoints, such as CTLA-4 and PD-1, propelled the field of immuno-oncology into its current era.
The CRISPR-Cas9 technique of genome editing has been used in a myriad of basic cancer research studies. By deleting, inactivating, or otherwise modifying specific genes in cultured cells or animal models, researchers have been able to study the role of these genes in cancer development and progression, providing insight into how to prevent or treat certain cancers.”
Personalised treatment is driving positive advancements
Gene therapy for cancer treatment has seen good progress in the last three decades. Several drugs have been approved, while others are still in trials. Generally, gene therapy has better safety with more tolerable adverse effects than chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer. In the future, tumour genomic analysis, assessment of host humoral and cellular immunity will facilitate a better selection of the most appropriate patient for gene therapy. Recent progress in developing safe and effective vectors for gene delivery and understanding the activity of nucleases enables future genome editing as a new treatment approach for diseases like cancer.
While progress is being made, we recognise that there is still a long way to go. IMCD’s Pharmaceuticals team is dedicated to supporting and driving advancements in the treatment of this disease that affects so many people all over the world. We know there is still an ongoing fight against cancer, and at IMCD, we are striving to be more aware of how we can assist this battle with the products in our portfolio, but also through the initiatives we support around the world.