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Immunotherapy: Has the Answer to Cancer Been Inside Us All Along?

August 6, 2015

​This year over 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and nearly 600,000 people will die from the disease. That’s over 1600 people each day. The need for innovative therapeutic approaches to treat cancer has never been higher. To help fight the tumor, oncologists are literally looking within at new immunotherapeutic approaches aimed at unleashing the body’s own natural defenses.

The idea of immunotherapy isn’t a new one. Since the first studies of antibodies began in 1891, researchers have continued to investigate the potential of the immune system. But the idea held little more than promise.

But all that has changed.

Numerous breakthrough advancements in immunotherapy, with unprecedented results, have propelled the entire class forward. At this year’s Annual Meeting of the American Society of Oncology (ASCO), immunotherapy took front and center. Thousands upon thousands of oncologists crammed the educational sessions for just a glimpse of some of the new data being presented, CNN ran headline news stories from the congress, and even patients are aware and asking their physicians about the new therapies being researched.

Across the board, the pharmaceutical industry has started to mobilize behind the potential of immunotherapy unlike anything else seen before. Most of the major pharmaceutical companies already have one or more new drug candidates in development—and if they don’t, they are aggressively exploring opportunities to catch up.

Over 800 Clinical Trials With Immunotherapy Products
At present there are 844 ongoing or completed clinical trials with immunotherapy drugs across a wide range of tumor types. These trials include some of the most challenging cancers associated with the worst prognoses, like lung, stomach, brain, and melanoma. And new trials with new products and new regimens are added almost daily.

$35 Billion in Projected Sales
Analysts believe that annual sales for immunotherapy products in oncology will reach $35 billion a year.

60% of Cancers Will be Treated With Immunotherapy
Researchers believe that immunotherapy may become the dominant form of treatment in oncology, with nearly two out of every three cancer patients receiving some form of immuno-based therapy within the next decade.

While these numbers are staggering, the greatest benefit may be for the patients diagnosed with cancer. The early results from the emerging next-generation immunotherapy agents have rightfully captured the hopes of both patients and oncologists. With continued research and a little luck, these treatments may provide more than a treatment for a cancer, they may offer a cure.

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