Oncology Trends, Views and Perspectives from Blueprint Partnership

14 June 2021

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What are the leading oncology issues and drug development trends, outside of reimbursement/drug access?

What is the impact of COVID–19 across oncology?

How can we use market research methods to maximise stakeholder insights on future oncology drug development, profiling and brand planning?

The wide-ranging impact of immune-oncotherapeutics on the outcomes in some “hard-to-treat” cancer indications over the last few years is well documented and set to continue; for example, long-term follow-up data is showing that the combination of ipilimumab with nivolumab delivers 5-year OS of 52% in stage III/IV malignant melanoma a substantial improvement over previous treatments. Similarly, the use of PD-1/L1 for the treatment of metastatic NSCLC without driver mutations, doubles mOS in some instances.

Here at Blueprint Partnership we anticipate that use of immunotherapies – especially in innovative combinations with novel agents – will increase across a range of oncology indications and settings causing the landscape to become increasingly competitive and complex.

An in-depth understanding of physician prescribing drivers & barriers and their data requirements, including which patient segments can derive benefit will become even more essential for both commercial planning and optimising patient benefit. Thoughtfully crafted market research will help to uncover the role of evidence-based prescribing versus personal experience, and emotional aspects, while keeping respondents sufficiently engaged and stimulated.

Therapies targeting molecular characteristics/mutations and niche patient populations have been widely developed over the last decade or so.

We believe this trend is set to continue – driven by previous successes, patient unmet need, and also by developers searching out untapped commercial niches.

Oncology drug development now lies primarily in the hands of large or medium sized-pharma, and the size of the drug pipeline has burgeoned over recent years, making clinical trial recruitment, and ultimately marketing more competitive than ever.

Identifying a patient population where a drugs’ use is compelling provides a competitive edge. For example, in November 2018 the FDA approved larotrectonib for the treatment of solid tumour patients with an NTRK gene fusion. The frequency of this fusion is <3% in tumours such as lung, GI, glioblastoma and sarcoma but can be as high as 100% in rare salivary gland tumours and for patients with the gene fusion response rates are high. However, often it is seen that penetration of niche drugs may be low as they find difficulty gaining traction in the market. Conducting thoughtful market research uncovers potential barriers and emotional aspects to prescribing which can feed into marketing and planning.

At Blueprint Partnership we are seeing growing industry focus on clinical trial design and the importance of endpoints.

We are increasingly being asked to engage with KOLs to explore their thoughts and experiences relating to trial design, clinically relevant endpoints and persuasive gains over SOC, alongside regulatory requirements is a highly valuable and efficient way of information gathering. Attitudes towards basket and umbrella trials, interim endpoints etc provide a wealth of valuable insights towards development planning which becomes ever more important with the increased competition for patient enrolment on clinical trials.

The elephant in the clinic – the lasting legacy of Covid-19: well, we certainly could not write this article without mentioning the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic for cancer patients – which so far has been multi-faceted. Many diagnosed patients have faced uncertainty with delayed treatments, while others have not sought consultations due to either fear of going to healthcare centres or not wishing to detract physician focus from the pandemic.

In the UK alone, experts estimate this could contribute to an additional 18,000 cancer deaths due to delayed diagnosis and/or sub-optimal treatment. Additionally, disruption to treatments has seen suspension of, or slowing patient accrual in important clinical trials, thereby potentially delaying valuable new therapies to the market and to patients. These are the hidden impacts of the pandemic, and highlights the need to focus even more acutely on relevant clinical trials, guided by expert physician input in an attempt to mitigate the damage and delays caused by coronavirus across the world. Incorporating questions to understand the impact and how quickly the industry will adjust and correct for this global impact is likely to be an inclusion of future research.

These are indeed unprecedented times, and this is only the beginning. I believe we will see unprecedented changes to healthcare and pharma as a result. I welcome the positive elements which will emerge from this challenging time and I hope we can support our clients in their goals of improving peoples’ health. That’s our purpose and it feels more valuable than ever.

Blueprint has a strong foundation in oncology – representing over a third of our annual business:

  • We utilise a variety of novel & traditional methodologies across many indications
  • We have dedicated oncology experts to ensure the research is deep rooted in up to date technical and therapy area excellence
  • Our proven record of adapting our broad skill-set and experience to any Oncology area enables the development of deeper insights to guide effective strategic decision making for our clients

Hopefully, this article provides you with a flavour of our thinking. We’d love to hear from you and discuss your needs in more detail – please do get in touch.