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July 14, 2017

PhRMA Report Shows More than 240 Immuno-Oncology Treatments in Development

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In early June 2017, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) – in partnership with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) – released a report that found there are over 240 immuno-oncology medicines and vaccines currently in development.

Immuno-oncology treatments are found through research into the role of the body’s immune system in fighting cancer. New immuno-oncology treatment options are allowing the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer similar to the way it fights disease-causing viruses and bacteria. The treatments can help the patient’s own immune system to work against cancer, with the potential for lasting results.

According to the report, there is no single accepted definition of immuno-oncology. However, this report includes many of the most recognized classes: adoptive cell therapies (including CAR-T therapy), bi-specific antibodies, cytokines, immune checkpoint modulators, oncolytic virus therapies, and vaccines. Former President Jimmy Carter was a notable recipient to immunotherapy treatment in his battle to fight metastatic melanoma.

In addition to the medicines currently in development, researchers are working to understand the full potential of each individual medicine, seeking approval for new indications for currently-existing immunotherapies, as well as new uses in combination with other cancer medicines.

“Cancer continues to be one of the most complex and vexing diseases of our time and it will impact an estimated 1.6 million Americans who will be diagnosed this year,” said Stephen J. Ubl, president and chief executive officer of PhRMA. “As our understanding of the root causes of cancer grows, we are expanding the types of treatments we are able to bring to patients. The idea of harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer is not new but recent breakthroughs are making it a reality, bringing hope to patients.”

“We are at a moment of tremendous opportunity when it comes to developing therapies that can address even the most vexing cancers we see today,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “To fully leverage our potential to reduce suffering and death from cancer, robust and sustained federal investment in basic research is critical to provide the necessary building blocks that together with privately-funded innovation lead to advances in immunotherapy and other targeted treatments.”

In 2016, then-president Barack Obama announced the creation of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. Immunotherapy research was identified as a priority and a blue-ribbon panel of experts called for the creation of both adult and childhood immunotherapy clinical trial networks designed with the needs of cancer immunotherapy research in mind. As part of the Moonshot initiative, the American Cancer Society – the largest nongovernmental funder of cancer research in the United States – also committed to a goal of doubling its own research budget to help reach the national goal of accelerating progress.

Increases in federal research funding, like those advocated for by ACS CAN, enable continued growth in our understanding of cancer immunotherapy, and allows important investments in research infrastructure such as the Moonshot-recommended immunotherapy trial network. Those federal investments in basic research provide the necessary building blocks to fuel further privately-funded innovation.

The report was released as part of PhRMA’s GOBOLDY campaign, which showcases the bold advancements the industry is making in tackling some of the most complex and devastating health conditions through innovative research. While the biopharmaceutical industry is a leader in the development of innovative treatments, it also plays a critical role along with others in the health care ecosystem to help bring new medicines to patients.

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