At the forefront of finding cures for cancer

For more than 50 years, Roche has been at the forefront of developing medical solutions to fight cancer. In 1962, our first anticancer drug, 5 FU, which inhibited cell growth, was synthesised. 30 years ago our first biotech product Roferon-A was approved for the treatment of a previously fatal form of blood cancer.

Over the last 20 years, Roche has brought 14 new medicines to cancer patients. Long-term durable remissions and even cures are now possible in specific disease settings. However, there are more than 200 types of cancer and there is still significant progress needed to overcome the challenge of this disease. Our goal is to be at the forefront of finding cures for cancer, as demonstrated by the facts that we recently launched four new cancer medicines that significantly improve patient outcomes and currently have 40 molecules in clinical development in oncology.

The approvals of our monoclonal antibodies MabThera/Rituxan and Herceptin opened the door to a new cancer care landscape. Since then, our molecular insights have expanded exponentially. Not so long ago, cancer biopsies were tested for a single biomarker; we now have the capability to screen blood or tumour tissues for hundreds of genetic alterations and other parameters. We are seeing that mutations differ not only in patients diagnosed with the ‘same’ cancer, but also within an individual patient’s tumour. In addition, we now know tumour development and growth are intricately intertwined with the environment in which the tumour cells reside as well as the way the immune system responds to a cancer.

A major highlight in 2016 was the US launch of our first cancer immunotherapy medicine. Cancer immunotherapy is revolutionising the way cancer is treated, and we are proud to be among the leaders in this field. As our understanding of the immune system and tumour biology expands, so does our hope for developing treatments that may change people’s lives. In recent years progress has been made in developing cancer immunotherapies that target specific aspects of an individual’s tumour. We expect important data for as many as ten investigational cancer immunotherapy molecules, either in monotherapy or combination approaches, before the end of 2017.