75% of nanopharmaceuticals are in clinical development for oncology indications

Of the more than 230 nanopharmaceuticals in clinical development, 75% are for oncology indications, including many hard-to-treat cancers with few treatment options, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Nanopharmaceuticals have many physical and biological advantages compared to conventional medicines, including enhanced efficacy and reduced toxicity, which are particularly important in treating cancer patients. One of the main areas of opportunity for nanomedicine to date has been oncology, with high levels of research and development (R&D) activity detected in the field. 

GlobalData’s recent report, ‘Nanopharmaceuticals – Thematic Research’, reveals that 45% of pipeline oncology candidates are immunoconjugates. These targeted medicines deliver a toxic payload to tumor cells via a linker attached to a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that binds to a specific antigen expressed on cancer cells.

This drug delivery strategy has enormous potential in oncology as it reduces the associated toxicities and side effects of highly potent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Indeed, according to GlobalData’s Drug Sales and Consensus Database, the nanopharmaceuticals with the highest forecast sales in 2025 are all marketed immunoconjugates and include Daiichi Sankyo/AstraZeneca’s Enhertu ($3.6bn), Seattle Genetics/ Takeda’s Adcetris ($2.1bn), and Roche’s Kadcyla ($1.9bn).

Other types of novel nanopharmaceuticals that allow targeted cancer treatment with reduced local side effects include smart nanocarriers that release drugs at tumors once triggered by internal or external stimuli, such as changes in pH, electric or magnetic fields, heat and ultrasound. Furthermore, nano-radioenhancers are nanoparticles with high atomic numbers that have strong interactions with X-rays, thus improving the efficacy of local radiation therapy. Nanocarriers can also be used to develop ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) therapeutics that regulate genes linked to certain difficult-to-treat diseases, such as esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Kathryn Whitney, MSc, Director of Thematic Analysis at GlobalData, comments: “Non-targeted cancer treatments can cause significant side effects due to their impact on healthy tissue. The development of targeted therapies with reduced side effects is key to improving patient outcomes and treatment efficacy. Nanomedicine is expected to play a key role in this field in the future, especially as cancer rates are expected to increase significantly over the next ten years.

“Furthermore, as well as innovative treatments such as immunoconjugates and nano-radioenhancers, nanotechnology also allows the development of new formulations of existing potent chemotherapeutics such as docetaxel, paclitaxel and cisplatin, whose clinical use has often been limited by their side effects and toxicity.”

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