Sales of cancer drugs are set to outpace the global pharmaceutical market over the next few years, growing 12-15% to reach as much as $80 billion by 2012, according to a new report from market analysts IMS Health.

This is nearly double that predicted for the global pharma market, which rose just 6.4% last year, in particular reflecting the growing patient population in Europe, Japan and North America, as well as the expanding influence of the emerging markets.

In 2008 alone, sales of oncology products are forecast to exceed $48 billion, contributing 17% of global pharmaceutical sales growth. However, it’s not all a bed of roses, and IMS suggests growth will taper off over the next five years as other factors, such as payor constraints, increasingly influence uptake.

Current blockbusters are also likely to see their growth moderated, with fewer star drugs coming up behind them than in previous years, and the loss of exclusivity on four compounds bringing in $1 billion, including Eli Lilly’s Gemzar (gemcitabine) and Sanofi-Aventis’ Taxotere (deocetaxel). However, there are 30 new cancer treatments expected to enter the market between now and 2012, helping to expand the treated patient population.

In 2007, 71% of oncology product sales came from the USA and Europe’s top five markets – France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Spain. IMS foresees this dropping to 65% by 2012 as the so-called pharmemerging countries – notably China, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, India, Turkey and Russia – witness improvements in screening and diagnosis as well as access to innovative medicines.