2023 Will Go Down As The Year Pharma Showed Its Determination To Beat Cancer

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During the last week of 2023, AstraZeneca PLC (NASDAQ:AZN) agreed to acquire Chinese cancer therapy developer Gracell Biotechnologies Inc. as it continues its efforts to tap pharma innovations from China’s biotech industry. Although this year, Covid-19 stars, namely Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA), were left in the dust with their shares tumbling, Wall Street is expecting a rebound as both are making efforts to enhance their cancer treatment businesses. 

AstraZeneca’s Newest Acquisitions

AstraZeneca agreed to acquire the cell therapy developer for as much as $1.2 billion. Oncology is the British drug giant’s biggest business. Last year, it made a third of its sales with its lung cancer treatment Tagrisso under the spotlight. AstraZeneca also holds key drugs in cardiovascular health and immunology, but even “rare disease” drugs made almost 16% of its top line last year. These so-called orphan drugs are margin-boosting specialty products due to their higher prices and exclusivity, so it is only natural that AstraZeneca continues to go deeper into this area, which also includes its purchase of rare-disease therapies from Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE). Back in September, AstraZeneca completed the purchase and license agreement for early-stage rare-disease gene therapy portfolio from Pfizer for a total consideration of $1 billion. Also, several of the Pfizer employees associated with the portfolio joined Alexion as employees. With the tools gained from Pfizer, these new resources will build on the combined capabilities of Alexion and AstraZeneca in genomic medicine. 

Pfizer Is Revamping Its Cancer Drug Business As Covid-19 Era Fades Away

Earlier this month, Pfizer received approval for its $43 billion acquisition of cancer drug maker Seagen. Along with the acquisition, Pfizer also revealed its plans to create a new oncology division early next year. Back in August, Pfizer also received the approval from US FDA for its blood cancer therapy. With Elrexfio, Pfizer targeted multiple myeloma, a cancer that is very difficult to treat.

Moderna Developed An Experimental Cancer Vaccine With Merck

The experimental vaccine that Moderna and Merck developed is to be used with Merck’s blockbuster treatment Keytruda. Although earlier clinical trial results were encouraging, latest data from December showed the combined treatment is even more effective than initially thought. When the cancer vaccine from Moderna and Merck is combined with Keytruda, midstage trial data revealed it reduced the risk of deadly skin cancer melanoma returning after three years by 49% compared to those who received Keytruda alone after three years. This treatment duo also reduced the risk of melanoma spreading to other parts of the body by as much as 62% over the same time frame.

The latest results build on midstage trial data Moderna and Merck released earlier this year, which examined the efficacy of the combination over a shorter period. Earlier trial results showed that after two years, the vaccine and Keytruda lowered the risk of a lethal outcome and relapse by 44% while also lowering the risk of the cancer spreading in the body by 65%. Moderna and Merck are also testing their protocol for treating other cancer types, including non-small lung cancer. 

But pharma has also advanced on the field of cancer prevention and early detection. For example, Mainz Biomed (NASDAQ:MYNZ), a molecular genetics diagnostic company that specializes in the early detection of cancer, reported optimistic results for its flagship product, colorectal cancer screening test, ColoAlert® this year. With its U.S. eAArly DETECT multi-center study, Mainz Biomed reported the test’s sensitivity for colorectal cancer as high as 97% with specificity of 97%. Also, by integrating novel mRNA biomarkers, Mainz Biomed achieved an 82% sensitivity for advanced adenoma, which is a known precursor to CRC. These positive results from ColoFuture confirmed the positive results that Mainz Biomed released from its European study earlier in October. Mainz Biomed already commercialized its efficacious and easy-to-use CRC screening test across Europe and in select international territories.

This year may not go down in pharma history, but it is the year when AstraZeneca, Mainz Biomed, Pfizer, Moderna and Merck clearly set their intention to redefine cancer treatment. 

DISCLAIMER: This content is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as investing advice.

This article is from an external contributor. It does not represent Benzinga's reporting and has not been edited for content or accuracy.

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