According to the latest data from FirstWord's proprietary FirstView Biosimilar Index – click HERE  for further details, there are 71 separate biosimilar developments underway targeting Roche's three key cancer antibody drugs – Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin.
The non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) therapy Rituxan remains the most targeted antibody product within the biosimilars sector, with 35 projects in development, while Herceptin (HER2-positive breast cancer) and Avastin (various solid tumours) have attracted the interest of 21 and 15 known biosimilar developments, respectively.
By setting the industry's benchmark in monoclonal antibody (MAb) development, Roche has somewhat become a victim of its own success with regards to attracting the attention of biosimilar developers. However, by the same rationale, the Swiss company is also best positioned to insulate and expand its MAb-derived revenue streams via a process of innovation.
Roche is already well on the way to achieving this in the HER2-positive breast cancer market, where successful launch of the Perjeta and Kadcyla brands has raised the standard of available care and is poised to relegate Herceptin from first-line usage. The company has initiated a similar strategy in the haematological cancer setting with the launch of Gazyva in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), which Roche also hopes will ultimately replace Rituxan as the first-line antibody therapy of choice in the larger indication of NHL – see 2013 In Review – Roche's biosimilar defence strategy gains momentum .
In reality, the race to develop biosimilar antibody products is spread across a relatively small number of target products. In addition to Roche's three cancer franchises, it is the anti-TNFs that have also garnered much attention with Amgen and Pfizer's Enbrel the 'subject' of 27 global biosimilar developments, followed by Remicade (14) and Humira (13).
Duncan Emerton – senior director of FirstView – postulates that in contrast to rapid evolution of the branded MAb market, uptake for biosimilar anti-TNFs may benefit from slower rate of innovation in the market for biologic inflammatory products. Rapid volume share gains for Celltrion and Hospira's biosimilar Remicade product in Norway provide encouragement for biosimilar developers – see ViewPoints: Biosimilar Remicade makes rapid volume share gains in Norwegian market – is Europe watching?