Good news for cancer patients. Another immunotherapy approach has succeeded in showing benefits toward extending life for adavanced cancer patients - this time it is BMS' drug ipilimumab for the treatment of melanoma. Ipilimumab's most recent clinical results, announced at the ongoing ASCO meetings, have been viewed as outstanding by those in attendance and have even been characterized as a "paradigm shift" for the future treatment of melanoma patients.
Coupled with last month's FDA approval of Dendreon's Provenge, for the treatment of prostate cancer, we now have two drugs that validate the immunotherapy approach to treating cancer. Both drugs work similarly in that they turn off the production of CTLA4 by the body. This allows immune killer cells to mount a more spirited attack on the cancerous cells. It feels good to break through that Wall.
Based on this successful use of the immunotherapy concept, we can expect to see this applied by others to the treatment of cancer. BMS will now attempt to establish that the treatment can be applied to earlier stage melanoma patients. But, the company also believes that the treatment potentially can be applied to all cancers - and will be pursuing trials in lung cancer patients as well.
With this success, we can expect more competition in this area and for this approach. BMS is well down this path already having picked up several other cancer immunotherapy candidates through its purchase of Medarex. GSK is also working on an immunotherapy drug to be applied to lung cancer, and Pfizer has its own ipilimumab version called tremelimumab.
Regardless, we now have another new approach to try on cancer. Coupled with some of the new ADC approaches, we should continue to have a lot of activity in the development of cancer therapies - further justifying the analysts predictions that this will be a fast growing area for biotech drugs in particular.
Posted by Bruce Lehr June 6th 2010.