The market for cancer immunotherapy in major world markets is set to grow from a value of $1.1 billion in 2012 to nearly $9 billion in 2022, soaring by an annual average of 23.8% and driven by the expected market entry of nine novel immunotherapies in new oncology indications and/or patient populations, say new forecasts.

This fast growth will be seen across the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and Japan, and the expected new treatments include four novel immune checkpoint inhibitors and five novel therapeutic vaccines, according to the research, from Decision Resources.

Taken together, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s anti-CTLA-4 agent Yervoy (ipilimumab) and novel immune checkpoint inhibitors that target the anti-programmed cell death-1/programmed death-ligand-1 (PD-1/PD-L1) pathway – including B-MS/Ono Pharmaceutical’s nivolumab, Merck & Co’s pembrolizumab (MK-3475), Roche/Genentech/Chugai’s MPDL-3280A and AstraZeneca/MedImmune’s MED14736 – will dominate the immunotherapy market and capture a colossal 85% market share in 2022, the study forecasts.

Experts interviewed for the report were considerably optimistic about the potential of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 agents, based on promising data released so far in multiple oncology indications.  And while they also find the added prospect of using PD-L1 expression as a potential predictive biomarker for personalising treatments intriguing, they remain cautious on this point, noting that considerable heterogeneity exists in PD-L1 expression and that good objective responses have also been reported in patients deemed to have no or low levels of PD-L1 expression.

The researchers also find that, following impressive early-phase data presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), there is enthusiasm among experts for combination approaches involving immunotherapies. These include dual blockade of the immune checkpoint pathway, combinations of immune checkpoint inhibitors with therapeutic cancer vaccines and combinations of immune checkpoint inhibitors with chemotherapy.

“We anticipate that nivolumab will be the sales-leading agent among immunotherapies. However, it will face direct and intense competition from other anti-PD-1/PD-L 1 agents, notably from pembrolizumab in malignant melanoma and non-small-cell lung cancer – and, to a lesser extent, from MPDL-3280A in non-small-cell lung cancer,” comments Khurram Nawaz, group senior business insights analyst at DR.

The study also forecasts that the therapeutic vaccines segment of the market will grow by an average of 13.6% a year from 2012 to 2022. However, with combined major-market sales reaching $1.2 billion in 2022, these agents will fall short of replicating the commercial success of immune checkpoint inhibitors, it says.