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Replacing Chemotherapy with ADCs - A new method of Curing Cancer

Cancer treatment has been carried out using hormone and chemotherapy. The commonly used chemotherapy showed harsh side effects. Prolonged chemotherapy damaged cancerous cells as well as surrounding normal ones.

Current Cancer Treatment:

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 2.1 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. About 18% of these cases get cancer from a protein called HER2. The cancer patients are first treated with chemotherapy along with Roche’s Herceptin and Perjeta.


At present, DS-8201 has been successfully tested in late-stage breast cancer. Scientists are hoping to use ADCs drug for curing of the first line treatment within 2 years.


The present breast cancer drugs named Herceptin target only high levels of HER2. Hence, women with lower levels of HER2 have to depend on hormone therapy or chemotherapy. This is where ADCs drugs for DS-8201 can be used. The ADCs would target and remove HER2 present at every level. Additionally, ADCs do not damage any of the surrounding normal and healthy cells. Thus, replacing chemotherapy with ADCs treatment is advantageous.


History of ADCs Cancer Drugs:

In the 1900s, Paul Ehrlich, the German Nobel laureate, had discovered the concept of ADCs. According to him, these act as “magic bullet” or single toxic molecule.  These attack only diseased cancerous cells without damaging other healthy cells.


The Success of ADCs:

The word “ADCs” stands for antibody drug conjugates and these are complex biological medicines. Scientists have been developing these ADCs over the past few decades. Ultimately, usage of ADCs proved successful in the late-stage testing of breast cancer treatment (DS-8201).


Development and Approval of ADCs:

AstraZeneca Plc decided to pay $6.9 billion to jointly manufacture DS-8201 with Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Co. This decision made in March 2019, was the biggest deal made by AstraZeneca Plc., the British drug-maker. The investment was observed as a validation of the potential cure for DS-8201. Additionally, ADCs would be developed and used as an alternative for chemotherapy treatment for certain cancers.


Presently, doctors use Herceptin from Pharm. Roche Holding to treat breast cancer in the USA. This medicine would be replaced by ADCs once it is approved in September 2019 in the US. Analysts have predicted that after ADCs approval for DS-8201, the annual sale would cross $7 billion.  

Globally Using ADCs for curing Cancer:

DS-8201 might become the largest cancer biological drug. The sale of ADCs would be about $12 billion globally. This biological drug would have to be made using extracts of other living organisms.


Use of DS-8201 might triple the number of patients getting targeted treatment for breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common tumour amongst women killing over half a million per annum. Unlike chemotherapy, ADCs treatment do not harm normal cells so the latter is a healthy alternative.  


In March, Atsushi Seki, a former analyst of UBS Securities Japan Co., observed. The breast cancer patients using ADCs treatment made by Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Co showed a positive impact. These advanced breast cancer patients lived longer from 10 months to 20 months. Also, patients using DS-8021 had less nausea and hair loss compared to patients treated with chemotherapy.


According to the Grand View Research report, the global ADC market was valued at $1.57 billion in 2017. This has been predicted to grow at 26% every year. The maximum predicted growth would take place from 2025 to almost $10 billion.


Although the actual use of ADCs began in 2000, there was less interest as it failed expectations. Instead, Merck & Co.’s Keytruda and Novartis AG’s CAR T-cell therapy Kymriah became cancer immune-therapies.  


The Potential use of ADCs:  

Full potential usage of DS-8201 is still unknown. Research and development on the most suitable ADCs are still in an experimental stage. Scientists need time to collect data for validation using a wide range of cancer patients.


After ADCs is approved in September 2019 in the USA, Big Pharma Roche would lose Herceptin patent.  ADCs would be added with Kadcyla breast cancer treatment. Also, Pfizer Inc would use ADCs from Mylotarg to treat myeloid leukaemia.   


Around 56 Pharmaceutical Companies have been engaged in developing ADCs. Some of the reputed names include ImmunoGen Inc. and Seattle Genetics Inc. Soon, these Companies would be contacted to get ADCs and licensing deals from Global Pharmaceuticals.




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