Drugs firm BTG aims to shake up IO can­cer ther­apy

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Iain Withers

FTSE 250-listed drug com­pany BTG is to plough new in­vest­ment into cut­tingedge can­cer ther­a­pies in a bid to shake up the fast grow­ing global im­munoon­col­ogy (IO) drugs mar­ket.

BTG’S play in IO – a mar­ket worth $8bn (£6.2bn) a year to­day and pro­jected to reach $50bn – is to de­velop med­i­cal de­vices that can de­liver the im­mune sys­tem-boost­ing drugs di­rectly to the can­cer-af­fected part of the body us­ing spe­cially-de­signed nee­dles, catheters or probes.

The Bri­tish firm hopes this ap­proach will prove more ef­fec­tive than the cur­rent method of in­gest­ing the drug and al­ter­ing the whole body’s im­mune sys­tem, which can lead to side ef­fects, such as an at­tack on healthy cells rather than just tu­mours.

BTG is un­der­stood to be in dis­cus­sions with larger phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal ri­vals about de­vel­op­ing po­ten­tial part­ner­ships on clin­i­cal trials.

It will trial meth­ods that in­clude pair­ing IO drugs with med­i­cal de­vices to freeze tu­mours, or in­ject­ing beads into the body car­ry­ing IO agents.

It has com­mit­ted £500,000 into an R&D com­pe­ti­tion, dou­bling an ini­tial fund­ing pot launched ear­lier this year.

BTG is prob­a­bly best known for its snake venom treat­ment, Penum­bra, which was a big seller in North Amer­ica. It also pro­duces treat­ments for can­cer, se­vere em­phy­sema, se­vere blood clots, and vari­cose veins, as well as an­ti­dotes that al­le­vi­ate tox­i­c­ity and treat rare con­di­tions.

IO ther­a­pies work by equip­ping the body’s im­mune sys­tem with the tools to kill can­cer cells.

A hand­ful have been ap­proved and are al­ready be­ing used to treat some types of can­cer, led by US giants Merck & Co and Bris­tol-my­ers Squibb with their re­spec­tive drugs Keytruda and Op­divo. Bri­tish firm As­trazeneca is one of the firms jock­ey­ing to catch up, but it faced a huge set­back last month when their trial of IO drug Imfinzi came out neg­a­tive for lung can­cer pa­tients in an ini­tial read­out.

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