A recent report by consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan suggests that the breast cancer therapeutics sector is likely to see a continued growth spurt, with the advent of personalised medicines and a higher number of products used in the adjuvant setting or as preventative measures.

According to the group, a compound annual growth rate of 9.8% will push the market’s value from the current $5.9 million to $11.5 million by 2011, as the potential for new and innovative products, that are more effective and less toxic, is realised.

Because breast cancer is a multi-factor disease, no standardised therapy is available for patients. In fact, Roche’s Herceptin (trastuzumab), which is growing in notoriety in the UK after a spate of wrangles regarding the unavailability of the drug under the National Health Service, is the only product that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration currently available in the market. Therefore, in order to improve survival, the administration of hormonal, cytotoxic or biologic therapeutics is carried out to improve the long-term outlook of the treatment, as well as mastectomy and radiotherapy.

Other avenues such as adjuvant settings are being explored across the market to assess their potential utility in breast cancer treatment, and extensive use of combination therapies and early diagnosis systems is likely to offer more growth prospects, Frost & Sullivan notes.

But major obstacles for market expansion still remain. A major factor is the lack of consensus among doctors around the globe over the best products to use, which is down to several factors, such as efficacy versus toxicity issues, government reimbursement and the size of a sales field force in a particular territory.

Therefore, to help grow this market further, pharma companies must also persuade payers that the expense of novel therapies is justified considering the resulting survival benefits, reduced hospital stays and reduction in therapy costs, F&S concludes.