The number of cancer sufferers is rising dramatically but this will lead to better treatments and very strong sales for the firms who come up with the most innovative oncology products and excel at drug lifecycle management, according to new analysis published by Datamonitor.

The report notes that between 2000 and 2020, the World Health Organisation “is predicting a massive 50% rise in the global incidence of cancer.” Currently the world’s third largest therapeutic market, worth $35 billion last year, it is estimated that this figure will grow to be $60 billion by 2010.

In 2004, the top 20 drugs in the seven major pharmaceutical markets (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US) generated sales approaching $27 billion, 77% of total global oncology revenues. Yet, as Datamonitor senior oncology analyst Nish Saini notes: “While the economic value of these brands is undisputed, the looming threats of therapeutic competition and of even greater significance, patent expiry, provide a considerable commercial and clinical challenge to the Industry.”

He argues that the supportive care class of drugs which prevent or treat the toxicities associated with chemotherapy, like recombinant growth factors and serotonin antagonists, make up a major proportion of oncology drug revenues and this will continue.

In fact over the course of the next decade, Datamonitor predicts that of the current cancer drugs in top 20 position in one or more of the seven aforementioned markets, only those in the innovative and supportive care classes will maintain a positive compound annual growth rate. On the other hand, drugs in the cytotoxic and antihormonal categories will experience declining sales, with patent expiries hammering market share.

Mr Saini added that fortunately “a rise in prominence for treatment approaches employing molecular-targeted drugs, improved diagnostics, the emergence of more personalised treatment regimes and cancer’s perpetually high profile in shaping government healthcare policy will help ensure continued improvement.”

For the drugmakers, however, increased R&D costs, restrictive pricing and reimbursement policies, as well as reduced periods of market exclusivity, mean that drug lifecycle management strategies will play an increasingly prominent role”. He argues that this is well evidenced in the cytotoxic market where reformulated second-generation ‘super-generic’ versions of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Taxol (paclitaxel), such as Cell Therapeutics’ Xyotax and American Pharmaceutical Partners Abraxane [[11/01/05c]], are expected to be launched from 2005. These super-generics “should allow companies to make a higher up-front investment in product development, commercialisation and marketing,” Mr Saini concluded.