2017: Prognosticating Progress in Cancer Cures and Costs

Author: David Oarr

2016 continued the trend of pharmaceutical companies filling their pipelines with cancr therapies and investing significant capital in their oncology research and development programs – especially immunotherapies. Despite this, and aside from a few well-polished product commercials, the industry had few big wins to celebrate at the end of 2016. Immunotherapies (mostly checkpoint inhibitors) continued to impress, but have also begun to show their weaknesses. Revenue growth was driven by a few previously approved “blockbusters” and price increases on older products. At the end of the year, there was far more talk about drugs approved in 2014 and 2015 than breakthroughs in 2016.

Vice President Biden declared the cancer moonshot and Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act and named it after Bo Biden to show that politicians are really, really serious about finding a cure for cancer. ObamaCare made cancer therapy more accessible to millions of Americans, but high prices for newer biological therapies made it more expensive and anecdotally at least, it would seem the number of denials for these new therapies skyrocketed. Now Trump is coming to town. Maybe he’ll tweet cancer to death?

Enough of 2016. Let’s put last year behind us and look ahead to 2017. Since lists are fun…, here’s a top ten list of 2017 cancer prognostications.

  1. Cancer pharmaceutical sales will exceed $100,000,000,000 (some say they’ve already done so) and become the single largest revenue generator for the global pharmaceutical industry. Check it out.
  2. Immunotherapy will continue to attract the lion’s share of new investment and media interest, though I predict no breakthroughs that matches the Opdivo/Keytruda success story. Check it out.
  3. Still on Immunotherapy, there will be an increasing amount of conversation, spurred by mounting evidence and high prices,  about immunotherapy’s serious, negative long-term effects on patients. Check it out.
  4. Insurance companies will begin pushing back with much greater zeal against the costs of treating cancer. This will most hurt patients seeking newer, more expensive, but marginally better treatments. Cost/benefit will become a big part of the U.S. conversation around cancer drug prices. Check it out.
  5. Outside the U.S., one or more nations will tie cancer drug reimbursements directly to treatment outcomes. Inside the U.S., PhRMA will rally to prevent this from happening. Check this out.
  6. Donald Trump will not be a friend to the pharmaceutical industry. He will use the  same bullying tactics on the pharmaceutical sector that he is using on the insurance sector. He will, however, turn out to be a friend to investors and c-suite executives, who will benefit from even more mergers and consolidations in the industry.  Check it out.
  7. Metastatic cancer will elevate in profile because of increased advocacy efforts; but cancer funding, research, and drug sales will still be overwhelmingly focused on the primary tumor model (e.g. breast, lung, pancreatic cancer etc). Check it out.
  8. The proportion of cancers effectively treated using personalized medicine (currently estimated to be about 1.5%) will not increase significantly, although the number of therapies with genomic-based companion tests will increase. Check it out.
  9. The brightest spot for the year: Breakthroughs will emerge in rapid cancer diagnosis, identifying cancer cells and imaging of tumors. Check it out.
  10. Tumor micro-envirionment, specifically internal tumor pressure, will come to be seen as one the most significant hurdles to effectively delivering cancer therapies. Check it out…(it’s a shameless plug for CytImmune).

Do you have your own 2017 cancer prognostications? We’d love to hear them.Share in the comment section below.


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