Biopharmaceuticals and monoclonal antibodies in oncology trials--a cross-sectional analysis

Janowitz, T. (January 2011) Biopharmaceuticals and monoclonal antibodies in oncology trials--a cross-sectional analysis. Protein Eng Des Sel, 24 (1-2). pp. 105-11. ISSN 1741-0126

DOI: 10.1093/protein/gzq090


Protein engineering has led to a significantly improved understanding of the biophysical properties of proteins and, importantly, of the molecular mechanisms of disease. Moreover, it has enabled scientists to modify the molecular characteristics of peptides and proteins, leading to improved pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of protein therapeutics. Consequently, biopharmaceuticals, such as monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), interferons/cytokines or vaccines, contribute increasingly to clinical practice. Some of these new treatments have dramatically changed the outcome of specific diseases. However, treatment options remain limited in many conditions, particularly in malignant disease, despite a much-improved understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying cancer. With the successful pre-clinical development of therapeutic biomolecules, the most significant barrier prior to implementation into clinical practice is proof of concept in humans. This is in part addressed by clinical trials that evaluate the toxicology, dose response and efficacy of the molecules. This observational study summarises the current state of biopharmaceuticals in clinical trials and provides a particular focus on oncology trials. It identifies those cancer types that are most likely to benefit from the efforts made in pre-clinical protein science and establishes evidence that engineered proteins and peptides are set to play a growing role in clinical practice. This study was based on the 95,254 trials registered on the National Institute of Health Clinical Trials Database by 31 August 2010. Of these, 25,525 trials assigned to cancer conditions, including leukaemia and lymphoma, were further analysed, with a particular focus on the 3653 interventional trials that were based on biological interventions. The inclusion criterion for the analysis was registration on the Clinical Trials Database by the above date. No other trials were included. Biopharmaceuticals were the more prevalent intervention in cancer trials (14%) compared with trials in non-cancer conditions (6%). Further subgroup analysis based on the 20 cancer subtypes with the highest mortality revealed that biological therapeutics comprise 43% in malignant melanom