The most successful cancer drugs in 2017

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Posting date: 26/07/2017

As many as 1,688,780 people in the US alone expect to be diagnosed with cancer this year, leading to an unprecedented and skyrocketing demand for better oncology drugs and treatments. Cancer is one of the most feared diagnosis among patients, with over 200 types of the disease as it can affect almost every organ or tissue in the body.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are making incredible strides forward with the development of many innovative and effective treatments for some of the leading causes of death in the world, one of which is lung cancer. Certainly, despite increasing cases, survival rates of cancer are improving significantly meaning that cancer is no longer a death sentence for many.

ProClinical has compiled the top 10 list of the top selling cancer drugs in 2017, thanks to their outstanding success so far in treating various types of cancer.

  1. Gardasil


Merck & Co

The vaccine Gardasil (human papillomavirus quadrivalent) has been a breakthrough in the prevention of human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cervical cancers in young women between the ages of 9 and 26. It protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 which are thought to cause up to 70% of cervical cancer cases. Since being approved in 2006, the vaccine has lowered the infection rate of HPV by a staggering 90%, halving the number of cervical cancer cases in countries with high immunisation rates.

  1. Erbitux


BMS/ Merck Serono

Erbitux (cetuximab) is an inhibitor drug used to treat bowel, non-small cell lung, head and neck cancers. The inhibitor attaches itself to epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) on cells to stops cancerous cells from further dividing. What makes Erbitux particularly successful is that is it a targeting drug that has proved effective in a relatively high number of cancer cases, although not in patients who have a mutation in the KRAS gene.  

  1. Alimta


Eli Lilly

Alimta (pemetrexed) is another blockbuster cancer drug that has been very effective in treating non-small lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, which is cancer found in the lining of the lung. The drug’s patent ended in 2017 but Eli Lilly have so far been able to hold patent rights until 2020, on the grounds that they need to find a solution to side effects when the drug is taken without vitamin supplements.

  1. Velcade



Proteasome inhibitor, Velcade (Bortezomib) is a cancer vaccine that stops proteasomes from breaking down proteins in cells so that the cell dies. It is used to treat myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma. In recent years, Velcade has been used in combination with other drugs such as Darzalex and dexamethasone that has reduced the risk of progression or death in cases of reccurent or refractory multiple myeloma by 61%.

  1. Revlimid



Similarly, Revlimid (lenalidomide) has been very successful in the treatment of multiple myeloma as it promotes immune responses that slow tumour growth. It is also used to treat myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Prior to the development of Revlimid, prognosis for patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma was poor so in the years following the drug’s entry to market, survival rates have soared.

  1. Gleevec



Gleevec (Imatinib), a tyrosine inhibitor that suppresses the immune system, was Novartis’ bestselling cancer drug in 2016. It is used by patients suffering with blood cancers such as chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and acute lymphocytic leukemia, as well as some gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST). A 10-year study of survival outcomes suggested that the drug can provide close to normal life-expectancy, reaching survival rates of 80% and even higher rates when combined with other drugs such as interferon and cytarabine.

  1. Imbruvica


Johnson & Johnson/Pharmacyclics

Another bestselling oncology drug is tyrosine inhibitor Imbruvica. The drug is used to treat various B cell cancers such as mantle cell lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and Waldenstrӧm’s macroglobulinemia (a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). According to a recent study, patients being treated with Imbruvica experienced a much better quality of life than those taking similar drugs. The drug also reportedly has a superior adverse event profile and was better tolerated by patients.

  1. Herceptin



Making the top three cancer drugs in 2017, Herceptin (trastuzumab) is just one of Roche’s many cancer biologic success stories. The breast cancer drug is a monoclonal antibody that is administered via injection and works by attaching itself to HER2 receptors on cancer cells to stop them from growing. Boasting a very high survival rate of 84% (compared with 75% without Herceptin), Roche is currently looking to improve efficacy further by developing combination drugs. In 2017, various biopharmaceutical companies were granted permission to begin making Herceptin biosimilars that will soon be accessible in large markets worldwide.

  1. Avastin



The second top selling cancer drug is Avastin (bevacizumab), another monoclonal antibody developed by Roche. The biologic drug works by reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to a tumour and preventing the growth of new blood vessels. Contributing to its success is its ability to treat a variety of cancers including kidney, cervical, ovarian and brain tumours.

  1. Rituxan



Top of the cancer drug list is Rituxan (rituximab), the star of Roche’s portfolio of blockbuster oncology drugs. The monoclonal antibody is used to treat many types of blood cancer including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and some leukaemias, as well as for other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis. The antibody works by attaching to B cells that will cause the cell to die (apoptosis). Rituxan was the Roche’s bestselling drug in 2016.

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