Immuno-oncology (IO) looks set to become the fifth pillar of cancer treatment alongside surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other targeted treatments, according to GlobalData, a recognised leader in providing business information and analytics.

The company’s health team analysed more than 4000 clinical trials and more than 800 IO products in Phase I–III clinical trials to generate a number of unique actionable insights in their latest report: Pharma Focus Visual Analysis of Immuno-Oncology Development and Opportunities.

The report predominantly focuses on developments in active immunotherapy products based on their molecular targets and molecule types. The team also assessed immune checkpoint modulators (based on 21 individual targets) together with a total of 18 solid tumor types and eight blood cancers.

A large selection of treatments within immune-oncology focus on utilising the immune system to induce an antitumour response, leading to tumour stabilisation and potential remission from the disease.

These treatments achieve their effects through the inhibition, or blockade, of immune checkpoint proteins (ICPs) such as CTLA-4 and PD-1. PD-(L)1 inhibitors are rapidly adopted in indications receiving approval owing to significant survival benefit and relatively good safety profiles in comparison with other Standard Of Care (SOC) treatments.

The number of regulatory designations generally correlates with the number of first-to-market indications.

Maxime Bourgognon, Senior Healthcare Analyst at GlobalData, commented: ‘‘Beyond PD-(L)1 and CTLA-4, 18 other IO targets are currently being explored in Phase I–III clinical trials. However, agents targeting emerging checkpoint targets will not represent a threat to the uptake of existing PD-(L)1 checkpoint modulators, as most agents will be combined with already marketed immune checkpoint modulators.’’

Of the big advances in cancer care in recent years, excitement around the clinical and market potential of IO has been driven by IO’s ability to harness the natural processes of the body’s immune system to search for, examine and eradicate foreign particles.

IO teaches the immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells and thereby enable the body to regain control. The future of IO looks brighter than ever, and IO drugs are now in a position to compete as monotherapies against traditional SOC 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.

Bourgognon continued: ‘‘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. 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.’’

Key topics covered in the report include

  • Immune Checkpoint Modulators – Trends in Clinical Trial Development
  • Competitive Assessment of Marketed PD-(L)1 Checkpoint Modulators
  • Emergence of New Immune Checkpoint Targets
  • Clinical and Commercial Opportunities for Highly Anticipated CAR Cell Therapies
  • Cell Vaccines: Steady Development Stimulated by Prior IO Success
  • Promising IO-IO Combinations Utilising Oncolytic Viruses.

Bourgognon, added: ‘‘This report consists of a highly visual presentation that is intended to facilitate the dissemination of aggregated data and insights. Types of graphical analyses include cumulative plots, aggregated bubble plots, pie charts, and matrix analyses.’’