Incidence of Cancer

GenEng News  25 min ago  Comment 
Mutations in the Ras gene are double trouble: not only do they drive 25% of human cancers, they also suppress the immune system’s anticancer response. Essentially, these mutations not only turn good cells bad, they also help bad cells masquerade...
FierceBiotech  6 hrs ago  Comment 
Daiichi Sankyo has tapped Vernalis for its drug discovery expertise. The agreement will see Vernalis turn its fragment and structure-based drug discovery platform on undisclosed cancer targets.
FiercePharma  Dec 13  Comment 
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Oncology unit today unveiled a new website that creates big expectations with its very name. As one Janssen manager said, “If you put something on, it had better be good." 
Forbes  Dec 12  Comment 
CAR T-cell treatments continue to achieve impressive results in treating an ever-increasing variety of cancers, but will they ever be able to completely replace chemotherapy?
Motley Fool  Dec 12  Comment 
Updated data that was presented at a key blood conference is exciting investors.
Forbes  Dec 12  Comment 
There are more than 2,000 immune-boosting cancer treatments in clinical trials, a new study finds. That raises both hopes and concerns about the future of this promising field of oncology research.
Motley Fool  Dec 10  Comment 
Juno Therapeutics has now gained more than 211% in value this year. Can this red-hot cancer stock keep pushing higher in 2018?
MedPage Today  Dec 8  Comment 
(MedPage Today) -- Oncology support, speech and hearing assistance, and EGFR testing apps all made the cut
FierceBiotech  Dec 8  Comment 
Checkpoint inhibitors to treat cancers, such as Roche’s Tecentriq, fail to work in as many as 80% of patients—a problem that their manufacturers have been trying to solve. Now Roche is uncovering data from a Tecentriq trial in bladder cancer...
GenEng News  Dec 8  Comment 
Scientists have uncovered a mechanism by which tumors can become resistant to treatment with checkpoint inhibitors including anti-programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) and anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) antibodies, and suggest one way of...


In modern times, cancer has emerged as a leading cause of death, particularly in developed countries. Whereas vaccines and cures have eliminated many of the diseases that, in the past, were common causes of death, there is no such cure for cancer. Additionally, the quality of modern medical care, combined with new therapies, enables people to live longer lives than ever before. While innovative developments can make certain cancer treatments more chronic, cancer is often the result of cumulative damage to cells that's built up over time. Longer lifespans provide more time for damage to accumulate, which might be a factor in the incidence of cancer.

As the second-largest cause of death in developed countries and the third-largest worldwide, cancer has spawned the development of an entire industry dedicated to its treatment. Pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and biotech companies, among many others, contribute to the overall treatment of cancer. Every year, universities, governments, and foundations spend billions of dollars on cancer research. Due to the vast amounts of time and money required to develop new treatment options ranging from tumor vaccines to selective nanoparticle based targeting of cancer cells, chemotherapy drugs and other cancer-related treatments are often quite costly. With longer life durations enabled by chemotherapies and other treatments, medical costs have risen drmatically. Fees for cancer therapy are often reimbursed by either insurance companies or government health plans, however, allowing companies to maintain their pricing power. In addition, the grave nature of the disease minimizes the "Vioxx effect", or the risk that a cancer drug's adverse side effects will severely impact its manufacturer. Patients are often willing to accept a certain degree of risk if a drug's benefits are large enough.

Which companies offer products related to the treatment of cancer?

Supportive care

Companies that make supportive care products -- which treat the side effects of cancer treatment instead of treating the cancer itself -- can have broader exposure to the oncology market than the makers of therapeutic drugs themselves. Therapeutic drugs to treat cancer are often specialized and used in just a few different tumor types, while supportive care products tend to treat side-effects of cancer treatment that are common to almost all cancer patients.

  • Amgen (AMGN) has an enormous oncology supportive care franchise with over $7 Billion a year in sales. Amgen produces Neupogen and Neulasta, two drugs that combat neutropenia, a condition in which chemotherapy depletes neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. This can help offset the immunosuppressive effects of chemotherapy. Amgen also makes Aranesp, which is used to treat anemia, another common side effect of chemotherapy, by stimulating red blood cell production.

Antiemetics control the nausea that is a common side-effect of chemotherapy and radiation

Therapeutic Drugs

  • Genentech (DNA) produces Avastin, which is used in the treatment of colon and lung cancers, and Herceptin, a blockbuster breast cancer drug. Additionally, its drug Tarceva is used to treat advanced lung and pancreatic cancers.
  • Novartis AG (NVS) makes Gleevec, a drug designed for first-line treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia, a rare disease affecting between 5,000 and 8,000 MS symptoms patients each year.
  • ImClone Systems (IMCL) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMY) distribute the drug Erbitux, which is used to treat both colorectal and head and neck cancers.
  • GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) received FDA approval in March, 2007, for Tykerb, a second-line cancer drug used for advanced sacroiliac joint pain cases of breast cancer.
  • Sanofi-Aventis SA (SNY) produces Eloxatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat colorectal cancer. Sanofi-Aventis has recently filed lawsuits against both Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA) and Sandoz, a division of Novartis AG (NVS) for filing for FDA approval to sell generic versions of Eloxatin in the U.S. If either of these two companies were to win their court battles and gain FDA approval, they would benefit greatly (at Sanofi's expense).
  • Dendreon (DNDN) is a biotech company focused almost exclusively on drugs aimed at fighting cancer. Its drug Provenge is currently being reviewed by the FDA.
  • Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (SPPI) is a biotech company with a primary focus on oncology. It currently markets Zevalin used in the treatment of Refractory Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma through radioimmunotherapy.

Drugs in the development pipeline

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Distribution of Cancer Drugs

What is cancer?

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U.S. new cancer cases per 100,000 people, 1975-2004

Cancer is a unique disease in that it comes in many different forms and can entail any of a variety of treatment options. Cancer is characterized by a group of abnormal cells that grow and replicate uncontrollably. These cells' rapid replication allows them to invade adjacent tissues and organs and even spread to other parts of the body. As they replicate, they can crowd out organs, preventing the body's essential processes from occurring normally. Cancer, if left untreated, can hinder the body's organs from performing their functions enough so as to cause death. In the U.S. and other developing countries, cancer is responsible for around 25% of all deaths, second only to cardiovascular disease.

What causes cancer?

In the majority of cases, cancer results from a mutation of cells' genetic code. Healthy cells follow a highly regulated cycle of cell division and cell death. This cycle maintains a balance in the body, with new cells being formed only as fast as old cells die. Cancer results when a cell with mutated DNA divides and passes on the mutation to its daughter cells, which starts a cycle of erratic, uncontrolled cell division leading to the formation of a tumor, or mass of cancerous cells.

There is no one factor that guarantees that cancer will form, but there are several things that have been proven to increase the risk of genetic mutation leading to cancer. These factors range from environmental influences to hereditary factors.

  • Common Causes
    • Smoking tobacco
    • UV radiation
    • Viral infections
    • Hormonal imbalances


There are a variety of treatment options for various types of cancer. The most common methods of treatment are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (drug therapy), which are often used in conjunction with one another to treat various aspects of cancer. Surgery is used to remove physically remove cancerous cells from the body, while radiation therapy damages cancer cells' genetic material, rendering them unable to replicate. Chemotherapy drugs work to destroy cancer cells by interfering with cell division in a number of different ways. Newer experimental treatments such as gene therapy have demonstrated some effectiveness, but are not ready for widespread adoption. Due to the varied ways in which they function, these drugs are often used in combinations of two or more, attacking cells from various angles.

In addition to curative treatments, cancer often necessitates supportive care, including symptom control and palliative care. Treatments such as these are not aimed at curing or halting the spread of cancer. Rather, supportive care is designed to reduce the severity of cancer's symptoms and improve patients' quality of life. Examples include treatments for the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can include anemia, immunosuppression, nausea, skin damage, and swelling, among many others. Though supportive care is not directly involved in the treatment of cancer, it has become recognized as an important part of overall cancer therapy.

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