The market for cancer immunotherapies is set to swell more than fourfold from $16.9 billion in 2015 to $75.8 billion by 2022, with a rapid compound annual growth rate of 23.9 percent, predicts business intelligence provider GBI Research.

According to the firm's latest market report, there are currently 2,037 products in active development in the cancer immunotherapy pipeline, accounting for 37 percent of the entire oncology pipeline, underscoring the high level of interest in this class of drugs.

However, "although the cancer immunotherapy pipeline is clearly strong, a significant proportion is made up of early-stage products, namely those from the Discovery stage to Phase I," noted Yasser Mushtaq, a senior analyst at GBI. "This is indicative of the difficulty associated with progressing cancer immunotherapies from preclinical laboratory studies to clinical application in humans".

"The imbalance between early-stage and late-stage product development is more pronounced than typically seen in the industry, and may suggest greater difficulty than normal in developing cancer immunotherapies. However, these findings may also indicate a substantial drive to invest in early-stage cancer immunotherapy development, which could eventually filter through to late-stage product development," he added.

The firm's research also indicates that several late-stage pipeline drugs, as well as some already marketed drugs, should achieve blockbuster status by the end of the forecast period, while a number of existing blockbuster therapies - including Celgene's Revlimid (lenalidomide), Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab), MSD's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Roche's Gazyva (obinutuzumab) - are expected to experience strong revenue growth.

"A number of pipeline products are also forecast to be approved by 2022, some of which are expected to be commercial successes," said Mushtaq, adding that AstraZeneca's durvalumab and tremelimumab, in development as individual therapies and in combination, "will be the most notable products".