Investment in oncology drug development remains strong, as 133 companies initiated late-stage clinical trials from October 2009 to September 2010, a 21% increase, according to Citeline, a research company focusing on pharmaceutical clinical trials and intelligence.
Citeline recently completed a comprehensive review of clinical trial starts in the oncology therapeutic area. Over the one-year review period, over 400 late-stage trials were initiated in the oncology sector, more than any other therapeutic area.
Non-small cell lung cancer was the leading disease type, followed closely by breast cancer. "Notably, trials enrolling multiple hematological cancers and multiple solid tumors came in third and sixth, respectively, among all oncology diseases," said Dr. Fern Barkalow, oncology senior analyst at Citeline. "These trials represented 10% of the total, which was almost double that of the prior year, suggesting an effort by industry to increase the likelihood of success."
Additional highlights from the Citeline analysis include the fact that Hodgkin's lymphoma and supportive care were the only indications that had more phase III than phase II trial starts; both Merck KGaA and Boehringer Ingelheim had the highest proportions of phase III to phase II trial starts; and the majority of the trials initiated by the leading five companies evaluated targeted therapies, ranging from 63% to 97% of their trial starts.
The high level of activity in the oncology therapeutic area was further underlined by the significant number of distinct companies sponsoring new trials in the 12-month period. Coinciding with the increase in the number of sponsors was a small decrease (16%) in the number of trial starts. "This could be the result of the apparent trend toward testing multiple cancer types together in one phase II trial," noted Dr. Barkalow.
Twenty companies sponsored more than half of all new trials during the year. Roche and Novartis initiated nearly twice as many as any other company, with Celgene, Lilly and Pfizer rounding out the top five.