Bayer Looks to Become Player in Oncology Treatments

Bayer Looks to Become Player in Oncology Treatments
December 11, 2015
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

LEVERKUSEN, Germany -- Fresh off the heels of its reorganization into three units, Bayer AG is looking to strengthen its oncology pipeline to carve out a bigger share of the $100 billion global market for such treatments, Bloomberg reported this morning.

The Germany-based company is looking to launch five oncology treatments within the next few years. In its developmental pipeline, Bayer has multiple products, including treatments that marry radiation and biologics, Bloomberg reported. Currently Bayer has 17 oncology therapies in development, including ODM-201 which will be used to treat prostate cancer and copanlisib for the treatment of indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Additionally, Bayer has Xofigo for the treatment of patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer, symptomatic bone metastases and no known visceral metastatic disease. Bayer acquired Xofigo in 2014 when it purchased Norway-based Algeta ASA for $2.9 billion. That acquisition also brought the experimental radiation technology called thorium-227 under Bayer’s umbrella.

Bayer has an approved liver and thyroid cancer treatment Nexavar in its arsenal, as well as the bowel-cancer drug Stivarga.

David Weinreich, who oversees Bayer’s oncology division, told Bloomberg that Bayer wants to be a “major oncology player.”

Bayer’s developmental oncology pipeline is about half of a cancer-treatment company like Roche , which has 34 products in its pipeline, Bloomberg noted.

One way Bayer is advancing its pipeline is to look at combination therapies of immune treatments and radiation, Weinreich told Bloomberg. The company expects that to be possible through thorium-227. Bayer believes thorium-227 will make it possible for radiation therapy to be linked with a monoclonal antibody that will help stimulate the body’s own immune system to respond to therapy.

“The first of the assets is targeting a marker that’s present on lymphoma cells, but there’s actually an even larger pipeline of other targets behind that,” he told Bloomberg.

To develop its oncology pipeline, Bayer is planning on ramping up its investments into research and development. Last year the company spent $2 billion on R&D. In contrast, Roche spent $8.5 billion on drug R&D, Bloomberg said. Additionally, Bayer is working with other companies to develop therapies, including Israel-based Compugen Ltd. The two companies are collaborating on antibody-based cancer therapeutics against two novel Compugen-discovered immune checkpoint regulators, CGEN-15001T and CGEN-15022.

Increased oncology R&D will Bayer in competition with numerous pharmaceutical companies pursuing treatments for a wide variety of cancers and drugs that are establishing themselves as blockbuster treatments, such as Merck & Co. 's Keytruda, which has shown to be effective in treating patients with three types of cancer, melanoma, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

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