Oncology, as with other areas of Drug Discovery, is a shifting landscape. As we come towards the end of 2013 we look forward to what some of the current trends and focus of Oncology may be in 2014.
As a starting point, we wanted to compare and contrast the informal feedback from our scientists and business development teams with thought leadership from research and development organisations around the world. What are people talking about and what are they publishing on? We analysed the last 3 years of publications and presentations at AACR’s annual meetings and the AACR/EORTC Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics conferences to look for potential trends, and found some surprising results.
The first group analysed were the main solid cancer types. The relative frequency of key words between the main cancer types in 2013 is listed below:
Has there been a significant shift or change in focus between the main solid tumor cancer areas? We looked at the change in frequency of key words between 2011 and 2013 as a percentage change compared to the overall number of presentations each year:
Overall, there does not appear to be any dramatic change in the frequency of publications around each cancer type. We will bear in mind the dip in Prostate numbers at the 2013 EORTC compared to previous years when we review 2014, as at this point it may just be an outlier.
The second group analysed were the haematological cancer types. The relative frequency of key words between the main cancer types in 2013 is listed below:
Has there been a significant shift or change in focus between the main haematological cancer areas? We looked at the change in frequency of key words between 2011 and 2013 as a percentage change compared to the overall number of presentations each year.
Considering the relatively low total number of times haematological key words are mentioned, there does not appear to be a significant change in the frequency or focus. We will continue to monitor the numbers in 2014.
So the news so far does not appear to show any dramatic shifts in the patterns of areas of interest for research. However, when switching to the frequency in the use of terms more relevant to the informal feedback from our scientific and business development teams, we begin to see some important trends emerging.
Resistance, Immunotherapy, Tumor Microenvironment & EMT
A common theme from 2013 has been the focus by oncology drug discovery on resistance – whether mechanistic, or simply looking for pharmacological approaches to overcome resistance. In the last 2 years the relative frequency with which resistance has been mentioned in publications at AACR has increased by 22%. The use of the terms Tumor Microenvironment and EMT have also increased by a similar number of 19%. Interestingly, the mention of immunotherapy has not significantly increased, even though there have been a burgeoning number of articles referring to the importance of immunotherapy. This does not appear to be feeding through to research publication at this point. Perhaps a sign that early drug discovery does not necessarily equate with publication numbers.
When reviewing over 40 other terms and reference to key mutations whilst there are a few noticeable exceptions, the majority of terms and the reference to their use remains surprisingly constant. One particular terms though stands out above all others.
Whilst it may be no surprise to many, the phenomenal increase in the use of Patient-Derived Xenograft models for Drug Discovery has clearly become “mainstream” in 2013. A seven fold increase in the number of times PDX is referenced over the last 2 years at AACR and 9 fold increase at the EORTC, attests to their dramatic increase in use both as research tools and drug discovery platforms. Crown’s HuPrime® collection of over 650 characterised PDX models remains the gold standard for drug discovery researchers to test their novel agents against solid tumors and the HuKemia® provides a unique collection of patient-derived haematological models. Their use in Phase II-like studies or human surrogate trials (HuTrialTM) is dramatically changing the way compounds are evaluated prior to transitioning into the clinical setting.
Want to know more about current trends and models available for your drug discovery program? Contact us today for a personal discussion about how we can help.