Cancer Vaccines: Meeting Unmet Needs in Lung Cancer

Cancer Vaccines: Meeting Unmet Needs in Lung Cancer


Nov 17, 2015

Blog Life Sciences , Pharmaceuticals Cancer Vaccines: Meeting Unmet Needs in Lung Cancer

The market for cancer vaccines is broadly categorized into therapeutic cancer vaccines and prophylactic cancer vaccines. Therapeutic vaccines, as the name suggests, are intended to treat existing cancer, whereas prophylactic or preventive vaccines are used to prevent cancer from developing in healthy people.

Although the market is witnessing moderate growth, there is still tremendous opportunity in the field of cancer vaccine research due to the high, unmet need for efficacious therapeutics. An increasing number of pharmaceutical companies are working to address the dearth of treatment options in this market; hence, the likelihood that these companies will enter the field of cancer prevention and treatment is high.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are feeling pressure as new R&D spending is dwindling. Moreover, patent expirations are also posing a threat to manufacturers’ profits. As a result, big pharmaceutical manufacturers are recognizing that the cancer vaccine industry offers an opportunity to generate new revenue streams to invest and increase revenues. Consequently, both established and new companies are investing a major amount of research resources into the development of therapeutic vaccines capable of fighting cancer. Merck & Co., GlaxoSmithKline and Dendreon are the three leading companies in the market.

According to BCC Research’s Cancer Vaccines: Technologies and Global Markets (PHM173A), the global cancer vaccine market was worth $4.0 billion in 2014 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.3% to reach $4.3 billion by 2019.

“The market for cancer vaccines is in a growth stage and offers vaccine manufacturers the opportunity to enter the market,” says BCC Research pharmaceutical analyst Shalini Shahani Dewan. “The increasing incidence, non-availability of drugs to fully eradicate the disease and approvals for extended indications are growth factors for the market.”


Lung cancer has a very high mortality rate, and accounts for almost 1.6 million deaths per year. The five year survival rate is only about 15%. Consequently, the lung cancer market has high growth potential due to various unmet needs of proper therapies.

One of the reasons for such a high mortality rate in lung cancer is late detection and diagnosis of the disease. Patients generally come in very late for diagnosis, so it is difficult to detect cancer early. Methodologies and support for early detection of cancer is needed.

With countries with a very high rate of lung mortality, focus needs to be on educating masses about the harm caused by tobacco. Governments should also provide programs that will encourage people to take various tests so that lung cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage.

According to BCC Research’s Diagnostics and Therapeutics for Lung Cancer: Global Markets (PHM174A), the global lung cancer market is estimated to grow at a steady CAGR of 7.8% from 2014 to 2019. Within lung cancer, the most prevalent is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). About 85% lung cancer patients are affected by NSCLC, and it takes less time to spread than small cell lung cancer.

The lung cancer therapeutics and diagnostics market is facing various issues of high drug costs, extremely lengthy timeline for approval of drugs and devices, and the problem of increasing drug resistance to cancer drugs.

NSCLC cells are intrinsically resistant to drugs. Small cell lung cancer tumors develop resistance to drugs over time with continued administration of the drug, drug trials are hampered due to low enrollments of patients, and low allocation of government funds on lung cancer though it has the highest number of fatalities among all the cancers.


Progress in lung cancer research has led to a better understanding and stratification of different types of non-small cell lung cancer. As a result, targetable molecular and genetic mutations have been identified. This has helped in using other methods of treatment instead of chemotherapy.

Until recently, the traditional exon-by-exon Sanger sequencing of each gene candidate tested cancer genetic risk. The latest development in technology has led to next-generation sequencing, where cancer gene panels assess inherited mutations in many genes simultaneously. Millions of short pieces of DNA can be sequenced and analyzed at the same time.

Another research focus area is using drugs that have been approved for treating other conditions but can potentially decrease lung cancer risk. For example, in one study, oral Iloprost (a drug used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension) used in former smokers appeared to decrease lung damage, which may also decrease risk of developing lung cancer.

Targeted therapies have been the latest development in treatment options. A patient’s molecular profile is studied and it helps in classifying and treating cancer by specific subtype. Scientists have been able to identify “driver oncogenes,” which lead a normal cell to convert to a cancerous cell. Therapies have been developed that can target and shut down these cells. Lung cancer patients with tumors that are anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) positive now have access to Novartis’ Zykadia (certinib).


The global lung cancer market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8% from 2014 to 2019 to reach $31.8 billion by 2019. Growth is expected to be driven by novel diagnostic and therapeutics.

Over 130 drugs are in development for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or small cell lung cancer (SCLC). More than 70% of the pipeline is made up of molecular targeted therapies (including therapeutic cancer vaccines). More focus is on NSCLC drugs as there is a high level of unmet need and a large and growing patient population.

Major drug companies are working on various new molecules in collaboration with other companies or academic centers to study their effect on cancerous cells. However, the companies will are estimated to find it difficult at this point in time to penetrate the large Asia-Pacific markets of China and India with expensive therapies. They will have to deal with the issues of regulations and high cost of the therapies, which will be unaffordable for a large number of populations.

“An aging population and increasing number of NSCLC incident cases, especially in China and India, will be the main drivers behind the anticipated market growth,” says BCC Research analyst Vijay Laxmi. “Further, Asia-Pacific is expected to be most lucrative market, owing to the rapidly developing healthcare infrastructure, increasing patient awareness levels and acceptance of technologically developed robotic surgeries in Japan and the emerging economies of India and China.”

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    Kevin Kinsella

    Written By Kevin Kinsella

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