A drug that can cure cancer without chemotherapy and side effects!

The complex biological medicines, called antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), have been in development for decades, and are now generating renewed excitement because of the success of one ADC in late-stage testing, a breast cancer treatment called DS-8201.


A class of drugs is emerging that can attack cancer cells in the body without damaging surrounding healthy ones. They have the potential to replace chemotherapy and its disruptive side effects, reshaping the future of cancer care.

 

The complex biological medicines, called antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), have been in development for decades, and are now generating renewed excitement because of the success of one ADC in late-stage testing, a breast cancer treatment called DS-8201.

 

The fervor over ADCs is such that AstraZeneca Plc in March agreed to pay as much as $6.9 billion to jointly develop DS-8201 with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Co., the British drugmaker’s biggest deal in more than a decade. The investment was widely seen to be a validation of DS-8201’s potential -- and the ADC class of drugs as a whole -- as an alternative for chemotherapy, the most widely used treatment, for some types of cancer.

 

DS-8201, which will be filed for U.S. approval by the end of September, is so well-regarded that some analysts already predict it will surpass the $7 billion in annual sales for Roche Holding AG’s breast cancer drug Herceptin, which it aims to replace.

 

“DS-8201 may become one of the largest cancer biologic drugs,’’ said Caroline Stewart, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, who estimates sales of the drug to eventually approach $12 billion globally -- that’s a level attained by only a handful of biologics, which are drugs based on a living organism. “While the field has advanced and there are several companies focusing on ADCs, Daiichi in particular seems to have developed a unique expertise.”

 

Analysts say DS-8201 could triple the number of patients who get powerful targeted treatment for breast cancer, the most common tumor in women that kills more than half a million annually. As importantly, its ability to target cancer cells without affecting normal cells is a key advantage over the take-no-prisoners approach of chemotherapy.

 

Daiichi’s treatment has been seen to double survival time for advanced breast cancer patients to 20 months from 10, former UBS Securities Japan Co. analyst Atsushi Seki said in March. In trials, patients using DS-8201 experienced less nausea and hair loss compared with chemotherapy.

 

Magic Bullet

DS-8201’s full potential is still years away, as it will take time for data to validate the drug’s efficacy in a wide range of patients. Still, the potential of ADCs is already jolting Big Pharma. Roche, whose Herceptin loses patent exclusivity in the U.S. this year, has added ADCs to its portfolio with its Kadcyla breast cancer treatment. Pfizer Inc. has Mylotarg, an ADC that treats myeloid leukemia.

 

About 56 pharmaceutical companies are developing ADC candidates, including ImmunoGen Inc. and Seattle Genetics Inc., and they could be targets for acquisitions or licensing deals from global pharmaceuticals anxious for a piece of the ADC pie, according to Cowen Inc.

 

"ADCs are being positioned as a chemo replacement,’’ Cowen analysts including Boris Peaker wrote in an April note. “There is significant potential for partnership activity."

 

The global ADC market was valued at $1.57 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow 26% every year through 2025 to almost $10 billion, according to a report by Grand View Research.

 

The concept behind ADCs was envisioned in 1900 by German Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich, who formed the idea of a “magic bullet” in which a single toxic molecule would be delivered to attack a diseased cell without damaging surrounding healthy cells.


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