After decades of research to advance cancer progress, an average of 68% of medicines in the oncology pipeline today are likely to be first-in-class, meaning they use a new and unique mechanism for treating a disease. More than 1,300 medicines and vaccines for various cancers are currently in development, either in clinical trials or awaiting review by the FDA. The pipeline is also ripe with innovative therapeutic approaches, like mRNA, with the potential to transform a wide range of cancers — many which have already seen approvals in recent years. For example:
The new era of medicine transforming our ability to treat, and in some cases even cure some of the most challenging diseases facing our country today like cancer, is built on the robust U.S. biomedical R&D ecosystem. This ecosystem has been sustained by a policy framework designed to support and advance America’s leadership in the innovation of new medicines, including strong intellectual property protections, a well-functioning, science-based regulatory system and coverage and payment policies that support and encourage medical innovation. Nearly 60% of oncology medicines approved a decade ago received additional indications for other types of cancer, but legislation enacted in 2022 – The Inflation Reduction Act – puts this kind of medical innovation in jeopardy by setting the price of medicines well before many of these critical advancements can be realized. This disincentivizes the investment necessary to conduct post-approval R&D and get approval for new uses for lifesaving treatments. The progress that we have seen in cancer in recent years and our ability to catalyze and accelerate future progress will be further impeded without public policies that reward and incentivize innovation.
Over the past 20 years, the FDA has approved 115 medicines across the cancers, but there have been a total of 1,366 unsuccessful investigational drugs. So-called “failures” are an inherent part of the process because treating human disease is one of the most complex undertakings on the planet. But these projects are not wasted efforts as their findings inform future study and direct research efforts toward new approaches to addressing the cancer causes, growth and progression.
Cancer continues to be a major challenge, but biopharmaceutical companies have over 1,300 potential cancer medicines in development and are dedicated to transforming cancer from a devastating diagnosis to a chronic, manageable condition. This goal drives researchers past the setbacks to discover how to apply the knowledge gained to inform the development of innovative medicines that bring hope to patients and their families and ultimately win the battle against cancer.
Biopharmaceutical innovation and new drug discovery delivers far-reaching benefits to patients, the U.S. health care system and our state and national economies. New cancer medicines discovered and developed by America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are helping patients lead longer, more productive lives, controlling health care costs and stimulating the economy through high-quality jobs and a healthier workforce.
Updated as of January 2023.