September is observed as National Prostate Cancer Month to raise awareness about the disease, which is the leading cause of death in men, second only to skin cancer in the United States. A light blue ribbon is used as a symbol to raise awareness about prostate cancer.
About the Disease
Prostate cancer is a very complex disease with several subtypes. It is a slow growing disease which occurs due to development of abnormal cells in the prostate gland. Sometimes, these abnormal cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body.
Some of the subtypes can be fatal and severely impact patients' life ultimately leading to death. However, an early diagnosis can delay the risk of death by almost five years. The risk of the disease increases with age.
The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 164,690 patients will be newly diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018. The cancer is also expected to cause death of more than 29,000 patients this year.
Prostate cancer is mostly diagnosed early and progresses slowly, which makes treatment decisions easier for patients. Early-stage or locally-advanced prostate cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy and systemic treatments.
Systemic treatments include androgen deprivation therapy ("ADT") and chemotherapies. The most common chemotherapies include docetaxel and Sanofi's SNY Jevtana (cabazitaxel). Androgen deprivation therapy includes AstraZeneca's AZN Casodex and Tolmar Pharmaceuticals' Eligard.
However, in advanced cases of prostate cancer wherein the disease has spread to other parts of the body, surgery and radiation therapies are not suitable and less effective. Docetaxel along with ADT and Jevtana in combination with prednisone are used as treatment options for metastatic prostate cancer.
A few large pharma companies and biotechs have developed improved therapies and are exploring different treatment options. Here is a look at some of the drugs with new mechanism of action available or under development in the prostate cancer market.
Johnson & Johnson JNJ
J&J's prostate cancer drugs, Zytiga and Erleada work by controlling hormones that produce androgen, which helps the cancer to spread and grow. Zytiga is a blockbuster drug with sales of more than $1.5 billion in the first half of 2018. In February, Erleada was approved and Zytiga's label expansion in first-line setting received FDA nod.
The company is also supporting/funding development of TESARO's TSRO PARP inhibitor, Zejula, as a new treatment option for prostate cancer.
J&J currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here .
The company in collaboration with Astellas Pharma is commercializing Xtandi for prostate cancer and developing the drug for newer settings and subtypes. Pfizer recorded alliance revenues of $330 million from Xtandi sales in the first half of 2018, up 21.3% year over year.
In July, the drug's label was expanded in the United States to include non-metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer patient population. A regulatory application for a similar indication is under review in EU.
Pfizer also carries a Zacks Rank #3.
AbbVie ABBV provides a palliative treatment for advanced prostate cancer, Lupron.
Some biotechs are developing new technologies as a treatment option for advanced prostate cancer.
Endocyte, Inc. ECYT is developing its prostate cancer candidate, 177 Lu-PSMA-617, in a phase III study initiated in the second quarter of 2018. The candidate is a radionuclide therapy, an emerging technology, which targets cancerous cells. Privately-held Dendreon Pharmaceuticals has developed a personalized immunotherapy, Provenge, for treating the cancer.
Strong numbers for the marketed drugs show steady demand for prostate cancer treatments. Successful development of new therapies and label expansion of approved drugs will help more patients and also drive sales of the drugs, thereby boosting the top line of the companies.
However, none of the available treatments can completely cure prostate cancer and have side effects. These treatments only delay the progression of the disease. Researchers are continually exploring and developing new treatments that may help completely cure the disease in the future.
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