The market for drugs to treat oesophageal cancer in China will almost double by 2014, growing from $75 million in 2009 to $149 million, according to a new report.

The market’s growth will be driven by improved access to medical care, a rising drug-treated population and an increasing number of higher-income esophageal cancer patients leading the demand for more efficacious agents, forecasts the study, which is published by research firm Decision Resources.

Use of targeted drugs to treat esophageal cancer will increase in China as more results from clinical studies become available throughout the period to 2014, it says, and goes on to note that reports from Chinese oncologists indicate that key targeted therapies currently used to treat the disease are Shandong Simcere Medgenn’s Endostar – a novel recombinant human endostatin, AstraZeneca’s Iressa (gefitinib) and Roche’s Tarceva (erlotinib). __

“Additionally, through 2014, we expect that two other targeted therapies - Merck KGaA’s Erbitux (cetuximab) and Roche’s Avastin (bevacizumab) - will be used to treat oesophageal cancer in China,” said the report’s co-author Jing Wu, who adds: “however, uptake of both of these agents will be modest, and Erbitux will face generic competition beginning in 2014.” __

Newly-diagnosed cases of oesophageal cancer in China are expected to increase by almost 1% per year through 2014, says the study, which also notes that that 67% of oesophageal cancer cases are diagnosed in advanced stages of the disease (stage III or IV).

Oesophageal cancer is the third most common cancer of the digestive tract and the seventh leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Overall incidence of the disease is highest in men over the age of 50.

Incidence of the cancer worldwide varies considerably according to geographic location, and most cases are found in the “oesophageal cancer belt” which stretches from northern China through Central Asia to northern Iran, according to an analysis published in China’s People’s Daily newspaper.

About 250,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in China, accounting for half the world’s total, and they mainly occur south of the Taihang Mountains on the borders of Henan, Hebei and Shanxi provinces, it adds.