Big Pharma Invests in Immunotherapy Lung Cancer Drugs

Mesothelioma lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that four of the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest giants, AstraZeneca, Merck, Bristol-Myers, and Roche, are currently developing BIg Pharma immunotherapy drugs for  lung cancer and mesotheliomaexperimental drugs to treat lung cancer that many are calling game changers. Particularly, Roche’s progress seems to hold the most immediate promise, already engaging in clinical trials for non-small cell lung cancer.

Patients diagnosed with mesothelioma or asbestos-caused lung cancers know better than anyone that lung tumors are extremely difficult to treat. Traditional cancer therapies (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation) are minimally effective, and once the cancer spreads, it is for the most part incurable.

Roche Enrolls Dozens of Cancer Patients for Trials

Roche’s new drug, preliminarily called MPDL3280A, is a scientifically-engineered antibody designed to target a protein known as PD-L1. This protein is encoded in our genes and plays a significant role in suppressing our immune system. Cancer tumors take advantage of PD-L1 to deactivate the immune systems’ T-cells, leading to tumor growth and spread.

Fortunately, the clinical trials for this drug are not affected by the government shutdown and are able to continue enrolling and conducting studies. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health have had to stop enrolling new cancer patients in similar clinical trials due to Congress’ tribulations. Roche, however, is a Swiss company, and is conducting its trials for MPDL3280A in Europe.

53 lung cancer patients enrolled in Roche’s early-phase clinical trial, and of these patients, 23% saw their tumors shrink. The drug works by blocking PD-L1, which allows immune system T-cells to reactivate and recognize tumors as foreign, thus attacking them more efficiently. Investigators called these early-stage results “great news,” and “definitely a game-changer” for patients with lung cancer.

Roche’s drug is part of a new class of cancer immunotherapy drugs known as PD-L1 inhibitors, which also hold potential for treating other cancers, such as melanoma and kidney cancer. Other Big Pharma companies, most notably AstraZeneca, Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb, are also currently developing immunotherapy drugs in the PD-L1 inhibitor class. Analysts are predicting that these new drugs will not only extend cancer patients’ lives but also generate tens of billions in sales.

AstraZeneca Experiments Challenge Traditional Cancer Treatments

Executives at AstraZeneca are claiming that the company’s new experimental cancer drugs will change how oncologists treat cancer. Like Roche, it is specifically focusing on its immunotherapy portfolio, which is at its early stages but making strides. AstraZeneca is touted as the creator of many successful cancer drugs, such as Arimidex, Iressa, tamoxifen, and Faslodex.

Thanks to developments in scientific, pharmaceutical and technological understanding, the pace of cancer drug creation has accelerated substantially over the past decade or so. One of Astra’s experimental immunotherapy drugs, MEDI4377, is also a PD-L1 inhibitor, and Phase I of clinical trials are now being conducted.

The company intends to use MEDI4377 in conjunction with other cancer treatments, such as its popular Iressa and the newer tremelimumab (which we recently wrote about regarding its potential for mesothelioma treatment). Tremelimumab, another immunotherapy treatment, has also showed some promise in its clinical trials.

Analysts believe that immunotherapies will quickly become the backbone of cancer treatments for as many as 60% of cancers within the next decade. They also predict sales of these types of drugs will generate about $35 billion, making the investment more than worthwhile for Big Pharma.

Mesothelioma attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on relevant cancer drug developments, experiments, and important results. If you or a loved one was exposed to asbestos and developed mesothelioma or lung cancer, you have important legal rights. Our attorneys have decades of experience in this field and can help you obtain the maximum amount of compensation for your illness. Contact our firm at any time of day or night for a free legal consultation.