Bristol-Myers Squibb's nivolumab will overtake proven blockbuster competitors to dominate the non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treatment market, following an expected launch in 2015, according to new forecasts.

Nivolumab, a first-in-class immunotherapy, will become the overall NSCLC market sales leader by 2022, reaching revenues of $1.75 billion in the key global markets of the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, China and India, says a new report from GlobalData.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb (B-MS) product will eventually outsell the currently-marketed frontrunners - Avastin (bevacizumab) and Tarceva (erlotinib), both made by Roche - and will also outperform the leading pipeline drugs such as Boehringer Ingelheim's afatinib and Eli Lilly's necitumumab, whose 2022 revenues are forecast at $688 million and $384 million, respectively, according to the study.

"NSCLC is the second most common cancer in both men and women, and patients who are diagnosed with the condition have an extremely poor prognosis, with five-year survival rates limited to approximately 2% in US patients diagnosed at stage four of the disease," comments Dr Brooke Baker, oncology healthcare analyst at Global Data.

"However, nivolumab's mechanism of action means it is able to exploit the body's own immune system and initiate an anti-tumour immune response by targeting PD-1, a biomarker with high expression across many tumour types, therefore giving the drug the potential to be a blockbuster new NSCLC therapy," adds Dr Baker.

With B-MS seeking to position the drug in the second line for all NSCLC patients, it could well fulfil two significant unmet needs within disease management - as a superior second-line therapy and as a treatment for squamous patients, the report suggests. Expected entry of nivolumab in the first-line setting in 2019 will cement the leading position of B-MS' strong asset, it adds.

Considering these advantages, GlobalData believes that nivolumab will become a key driver behind the growth of the global NSCLC market, which is expected to increase, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3%, from $5.7 billion in 2012 to $7.9 billion in 2022. 

"This level of growth will also result from an increasing number of NSCLC incident cases in the majority of the markets covered by the report, especially in Japan and the emerging markets of China and India," comments Dr Baker. 

However, the report also finds there are a number of barriers that will prevent the market from growing any further. The expiry of patents for several major drugs will spark a significant increase in generic and biosimilar competition for these branded therapies, severely impacting sales. Also, growth in the European Union (EU) will be limited by hurdles in obtaining approval of reimbursement and premium pricing for emerging pipeline agents, while in the US, the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could generate a new cost-conscious environment which may affect the free-pricing system, it cautions.