Combination therapies use multiple drugs with different modes of action to boost the chance of the patient’s cancer being kept under control, or even cured. Combinations may include immunotherapies, which improve the patient’s immune response, and targeted therapies, which destroy the cancer cells or prevent them from spreading. Combining these therapies promises to deliver superior outcomes when compared with single medicines used in isolation.
Chemotherapy remains the standard cure for the majority of patients, which, due to its toxicity, can have a significant impact on quality of life. Combinations therapies may mean that fewer patients have to rely on this form of treatment. These therapies could also extend the lives of patients, increase their quality of life and even offer a cure in patients where a diagnosis would currently be terminal.
With around 400,000 people diagnosed each year in the EU, non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) is the third most common form of cancer. Survival rates are poor; only 15% of patients live beyond 5 years after their diagnosis. Through improved NSCLC treatment using combination therapy, 30,000 deaths could be avoided in the EU. Improved survival rates will also help relieve the emotional stress on patients and reduce the care and financial burden on families.
These treatments represent a shift towards personalised medicine, and their efficacy will be boosted as we understand more about the characteristics of the patient’s tumour and immune cells. Improved and durable long-term response rates would see fewer patients requiring palliative care or overnight hospitals stays, reducing waiting times for hospital beds.
Combination treatments in oncology will be launching with limited data as a result of small population sizes for combinations and urgent need. Patients are likely to benefit highly from combination treatments; however, their true value will only become known over time. Innovative pricing models would allow prices to be refined over time, depending on the benefits demonstrated through real-world evidence.