"About 300,000 people in the United States are affected by NHL and it causes about 23,000 deaths each year in the U.S. alone," says Technical Insights Analyst Al Hester. "This has created a greater need for advanced NHL therapies."
Rituxan (rituximab), from the California-based IDEC Pharmaceuticals, was the first monoclonal antibody approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of a particular form of NHL. It has found widespread market acceptance and its sales surpassed the $1 billion per year mark.
The efficaciousness of the drug challenges developers of new therapies to discover treatment with some distinct advantages to differentiate their products and provide better relief for patients.
"The need for improved lymphoma treatments has by no means disappeared and a large market awaits developers of successful new products," says Hester.
Sensing the potential, many biotech firms have joined the global race for developing new NHL therapies despite being confronted by high production costs.
"Most of the new lymphoma therapies under development are monoclonal antibodies," says Hester. "These antibodies are high-priced proteins and, therefore, they are expensive to manufacture and also inconvenient to administer to the patients."
However, they can be generated to target specific therapeutic molecules. Biotech firms, betting on monoclonals for developing advanced lymphoma therapeutics, are targeting CD20 antigen that may be found on normal, as well as abnormal B cells. In addition, other antigens such as CD4, CD22, and CD30 are being targeted.