Merck & Co and BMS set to retain their positions as current and future key players in head and neck cancer, says GlobalData

Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) have transformed the treatment paradigm in advanced and metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) settings by improving real-world patient outcomes in the first and second-line metastatic setting. These two companies are expected to retain their position as market leaders in HNSCC, primarily based on proven product efficacy and first-mover advantage. However, HNSCC does have several strong candidates in the pipeline being developed by other established companies, as well as new players in the industry, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Aarohi Rede, BDS, MPH, Oncology Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “While HNSCC largely remains a chemotherapy-dominated market, the launches of immunotherapeutic agents such as Merck & Co.’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and BMS’s Opdivo (nivolumab) have transformed the treatment paradigm in advanced and metastatic HNSCC settings. With approvals in advanced settings in place, these drugs are now targeting labels in earlier lines of therapy in locally advanced settings resulting in a prominent market position for these drugs.”

Post-launch of Keytruda and Opdivo, many big and mid-size biopharmaceuticals have followed suit in developing immunotherapeutic agents and targeted therapies for use in HNSCC. Biopharmaceuticals such as Merck & Co, BMS, Taiho Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca have been well-known for their strong oncology portfolios, whereas lesser-known companies in the HNSCC market such as Kura Oncology, Debiopharm International, and several others are emerging players in the field positioned to enter the targeted therapy space.

Rede adds: “As many of these companies have their clinical stage assets in pivotal Phase 2 or Phase 3 clinical trials, the market outlook for HNSCC over the next several years looks promising. As with most oncology indications, the Asia-Pacific markets present lucrative growth opportunities for key players in head and neck cancer owing to large target patient pools, whereas the US retains focus from drug pricing perspectives. Overall, the trend for contributing market players is seen to be moving from large established pharma companies to smaller emerging companies.”

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