The American Cancer Society estimates 1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 deaths caused by cancer in the U.S. alone this year. In its latest report, deaths caused by breast cancer for both males and females will hit 42,260 and more than 200 thousand new cases will be diagnosed. The numbers are staggering. With all the advances in the field of oncology, why are cancer cases still rising? A new kind of cancer medication is causing a stir because of the positive response of breast cancer patients in the initial phase of its trial. The new cancer treatment offers hope for patients with low expressing HER2 breast cancer.
New Cancer Medication: Better Understanding of DS 8201
About 15% of breast cancers are human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive. It means that patients in this group have a high level of the HER2 protein, the kind that spreads and grows faster unlike other kinds of breast cancer. People who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer are advised to go through HER2 screening right away to benefit from targeted treatments available should they be found HER2 positive.
According to Dr. Shanu Modi of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, there has been a tremendous success among the targeted therapies for HER2 positive patients. The problem, however, is there are so many patients with low levels of HER2 expression who cannot be treated with HER2-targeted therapies. The exploration of a new cancer medication that will address this specific need is a game changer in medical oncology.
The ongoing trial for Trastuzumab deruxtecan (DS 8201) has shown a clinically meaningful response among breast cancer patients. The potential new cancer treatment was tested on approximately 54 patients with low levels of HER2 expressing metastatic breast cancer. DS 8201 was given once a week with the Phase 2 expansion doses of 5.4 or 6.4 mg per kilogram. The response rate was an impressive 44% with the duration of response of over eight months. In other words, the majority of patients tolerated DS 8201 very well. Phase 3 of the study is currently ongoing.
AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo: Penning a Bright Future Ahead
Japanese company Daiichi Sankyo has announced a collaboration with AstraZeneca for the new cancer medication. The partnership entails the development and commercialization of DS 8201 in different countries worldwide. Daiichi, however, retains exclusive rights in Japan. The total value of the deal amounts to $5.6 billion, of which $175 million will go to sales goals, and $3.8 billion on regulatory and development progress.
Astra is paying $1.35 billion upfront for the license and is selling $3.5 billion in shares. Senior analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Center, Takashi Akahane, sees the AstraZeneca’s upfront payment to be exorbitant. He believes Astra assumes the new cancer treatment will become mainstream in the next generation.
Daiichi has set its focus on oncology towards 2025 with a target of $4.52 billion in annual sales from the business. This is an uptick to the company’s $18.5 million sales in 2017.
The Future of Cancer with New Cancer Treatment DS 8201
The antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) resulted in a positive response among patients with breast cancer. The scope of the new cancer treatment, however, does not stop there. DS 8201 is also in the Phase 2 development of HER2 expressing metastatic colorectal, bladder, and gastric cancers. As Dr. Toshihiko Doi of the National Cancer Hospital East puts it, “DS-2801 is a promising anti-tumor activity.”
Daiichi Sankyo will accelerate the filing Biologics License Application (BLA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the new cancer medication DS 8201. It was previously set for 2020, but Daiichi is firm on filing it on the second half of 2019.