Bangalore-based biotechnology firm Biocon has joined hands with US-based pharma major Mylan to develop a new drug to treat metastatic breast cancer.
Claimed to be the world's first bio-similar version of Herceptin, a monoclonal antibody used to treat certain breast cancers, the Biocon drug (Canmab) offers an affordable option to patients in India.
"Breast cancer is the most prevalent malignancy among Indian women ahead of cervical cancer, as nearly 1.5 lakh new patients are diagnosed with it every year across the country," the company said in a statement here Sunday.
As a targetted therapy for treatment, the drug acts by interfering with Her2 (genes) protein production and stopping growth of cancer cells.
Though given intravenously once a week or in three weeks depending on the patient's condition, the drug can be stored for one month.
"We want to make a difference in treating Her2-positive breast cancer by giving access to affordable treatment with the drug, which offers same safety and efficacy as its reference product (Herceptin)," Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said in the statement.
Produced in the company's biologics facility here, the drug will be available in the market from early February at 25 percent cheaper than the reference product, sold at Rs.19,500 per vial, though lower than in developed markets.
"Developing a biosimilar monoclonal antibody requires skills, huge investment in clinical development, manufacturing and gestation period, leading to higher costs than common chemistry-based drugs," Shaw said.
With increased usage of targetted therapies like biologics as against cytotoxics, a drug used to directly kill tumour cells, the new trend is set to continue in view of the improved treatment outcomes.
Global sale of Herceptin was $6.4 billion in 2012, including $21 million in India.
As a leading oncology firm, Biocon has in the past delivered a novel biologic drug for head and neck cancer, benefitting about 5,500 patients across the country.
"Though standard treatment for breast cancer is surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapies, survival rate in the US has improved to about 90 percent after biologics was introduced with improved screening and other treatment enhancements," the statement added.