December 9, 2023

Oncology Drugs Market Analysis: A Bright Future Ahead

The global oncology drugs market is experiencing remarkable growth, driven by advancements in diagnostics, rising awareness of drug abuse, and groundbreaking pharmaceutical therapies. According to recent statistics, the National Cancer Institute estimated 1,806,590 new cancer cases diagnosed in the US in 2020, with approximately 606,520 recorded deaths. However, the five-year survival rate for cancer has surged to 70%, up from 50% in 1970, a testament to the transformative impact of improved healthcare systems, public health measures, and innovative pharmaceutical solutions.

Oncology’s Dominance in Pharmaceuticals

Oncology therapeutics, which account for nearly one-fifth of global branded pharmaceutical sales, have consistently posted double-digit growth. The market is projected to exceed US$300 billion by 2026, contributing 21.7% to total pharmaceutical sales that year. The world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies have prioritized oncology as a key focus area, driving significant organic research and development efforts. The sector is also witnessing a surge in multibillion-dollar oncology-focused mergers and acquisitions and strategic collaborations. Notable examples include Pfizer’s acquisition of Array BioPharma for US$11 billion in 2019 and AbbVie’s strategic partnership with Genmab for a bispecific antibody development deal worth US$3 billion.

Demand for Oncology Drugs on the Rise

While oncology encompasses more than 20 different indications, a major portion of revenue derives from just five of them: breast cancer, multiple myeloma, non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), accounting for approximately 65% of the market. These indications have high incidence rates and unmet medical needs. Notably, six out of the top 10 highest-grossing drugs are treatments for various cancers, with three being anti-PD(L1) antibodies. The future landscape anticipates a substantial increase in diagnoses of breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, collectively representing around 50% of all new cancer cases by 2026.

Innovations Driving Oncology’s Future

Recent disruptive trends such as cell therapy, RNA therapy, viral vectors, and stem cell therapy are reshaping the oncology drugs market. Cell and gene therapies, while promising, introduce complex manufacturing and supply chain processes, particularly for autologous therapies. Notable approvals include CAR-T cell therapies like Kymriah and Yescarta, marking significant progress in diagnostics and treatment regimens. Precision medicine is advancing rapidly with over 160 oncology biomarkers approved by 2019, and more than 90% of pivotal trials targeting molecular targets. Increased competition has led to shorter development cycles, resulting in faster initial launches and subsequent competitor therapies.

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Continued R&D Investment in Oncology

Oncology remains the primary area of research and development expenditure, with the highest number of novel FDA approvals expected in the current US pipeline. The projected total clinical development spend is a staggering US$82.0 billion, more than triple that of any other therapy area, with 103 new molecular entities in phase III development. Oncology accounts for 37.4% of total pipeline expenditure and 28.7% of total pipeline FDA approvals. It is also one of the costliest areas in terms of therapeutic development, with experts estimating that approximately US$0.7-0.8 billion is spent for each oncology drug approval.

Challenges Faced Amidst COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the oncology field, resulting in decreased sales and clinical trial disruptions. A shortage of physicians and the emergency hospitalization of COVID-19 patients contributed to decreased demand for physician-administered oncology products. Clinical trials for cancer drugs and biological therapies experienced a substantial decline, with a Lancet article reporting a ~60% decrease in new trials during the pandemic. Cancer screening also suffered, with a sharp drop in testing between March and June 2020 compared to the previous year.

Immuno-Oncology Steers the Ship

Immuno-oncology, in particular, is poised for significant growth, with sales expected to reach approximately US$95 billion by 2026. Immuno-oncology agents and protein kinase inhibitors are projected to account for about 65% of sales in 2026. Ongoing momentum and innovations in immuno-oncology treatments are anticipated, with over 550 active cell- and gene-therapy agents in clinical development. Companies are investing heavily in immuno-oncology combination studies, exploring more than 200 mechanisms as PD-(L)1 or CTLA-4 combination partners. Immuno-oncology assets are estimated to comprise approximately half of the top 10 company pipelines.

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Market Leaders and Key Players

The global oncology drugs market is highly concentrated, with the top 10 companies capturing over 75% of the market value. Key industry leaders include F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG (Roche), Celgene, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck & Co., Novartis, AbbVie, and Astellas Pharma. Roche currently holds the world leadership position in the oncology space but may experience a decline in market share by 2026 due to biosimilar competition and late entry into the PD-1/PDL-1 space with Tecentriq. Conversely, Keytruda (Merck & Co.) is anticipated to become the world’s top-selling oncology drug by 2026, outpacing its closest rival, Humira (AbbVie), by a significant margin.

Global Industry Analysis (2018 – 2021) – Growth Trends and Market Forecast (2022 – 2029)

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This press release first seen on Brilad