Our response to cancer always starts with the science

Our ultimate vision is to prevent and provide cures for cancer in all its forms. As no single intervention is likely to achieve this, we seek to comprehensively understand the disease, its complexities and its impact on patients. By giving our researchers the freedom to explore the cutting edge of science and technology, we deepen our understanding of the biology and immunology of cancer to make this vision a reality sooner.

Cancer: from one disease to many

Historically, cancer was treated as a single disease, but we now know that there are more than 200 different types,1 each with different behaviours, rates of growth and stages of progression. This has triggered a shift away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment approach (e.g. chemotherapy) towards tailored therapy and personalised healthcare.2

Advances in molecular and genomic sciences have helped to break new ground in personalised healthcare for cancer,3 particularly in the development of new medicines and diagnostics.4 With technical innovations such as next-generation sequencing and liquid biopsy, we are pioneering a new era in cancer diagnostics to improve the lives of cancer patients across the care continuum. Combination therapies, which use a number of treatments at once (for example targeted therapies and immunotherapy), or one after another to attack and kill cancer cells in different ways, are also showing great promise for cancer patients.5

Continued R&D investment is needed to increase our understanding of cancer

We have made great strides in our understanding of cancer, but more needs to be done. It is estimated that from 2012 to 2035 there will be a 70% increase in the number of new cancer cases6 and a 75% increase in cancer-related deaths per year.

We will do all we can to help combat this by continuing to invest heavily in research, by focusing on unpicking the science behind cancer, by collaborating closely with all our partners, and by developing innovative diagnostics and medicines.

We invested nearly 10 billion CHF in R&D in 2016 and we aim to make this level of investment in R&D every year.
This level of investment is amongst the highest R&D spends in the world across all industries (ahead of the likes of Google), and approximately 50% of our R&D budget is invested in oncology.
The development of one drug requires approximately 7,001,000 hours of work and 6,500 experiments, performed by 400 researchers.
Since 2011, we have introduced nine new oncology medicines. Our portfolio of targeted cancer therapies has helped more than 10 million patients across the world; all of which have shifted the standard of care.

“We recognise the importance of this investment and we are the only major pharmaceutical company to spend more on R&D than marketing,” said Dietmar Berger, Global Head of Oncology Product Development. “The impact our work has had on society has been profound and we are committed to continuing our work until we have achieved our goal – helping society to overcome the challenge of cancer.”

To date, our cancer medicines have U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) breakthrough designations eight times, highlighting their potential importance.12

The future outlook; tackling the ever increasing burden of cancer

Several cancer types and subtypes remain stubbornly difficult to treat and major inequalities still exist in terms of outcomes.13 This, tied with our growing and ageing population, and new and emerging factors (diet, environment, exposure, etc.), constitute an ever-increasing burden on society.14

We have a R&D pipeline that we believe will make a significant difference to people with cancer and to the wider oncology landscape.

With our leading Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics businesses under one roof, we are better positioned to deliver personalised healthcare than any other company. An exchange of know-how and intellectual property, combined with our breadth of diagnostic technologies, allows us to identify patient subsets that are suitable for clinical trials, and predict and monitor treatment responses. Our diagnostic strength spans various cancers including breast, cervical, colon, lung, prostate, melanoma and ovarian.

We have more than 20 immunotherapy molecules in development, nine compounds currently being tested in clinical studies, and a comprehensive cancer immunotherapy programme with more than 40 trials underway in lung, kidney and breast cancer.
A robust research diagnostic test is essential to identify patient subsets for clinical trials. Once the targeted medicine is in the marketplace, diagnostic tests again play a key role in treatment selection, response prediction and therapeutic monitoring. Our diagnostic tests support across the spectrum of cancer care.
We have the broadest, most diverse pipeline in oncology, including dozens of new molecules in development across more than 50 indications.

Overcoming cancer’s destructive potential will require a mix of incremental progress and giant leaps forward, and we are proud to be leading the way.


1. Cancer Research UK. What is a rare cancer? Last accessed February 2017.

2. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. Progress in cancer . Last accessed February 2017.

3. Vucic E, et al. Genome Res. 2012;22(2):188-95.

4. Ciardiello F, et al. Ann Oncol. 2014;25(9):1673-78.

5. Li F, et al. Int J Cancer. 2014;134(6):1257-69.

6. World Health Organization. GLOBOCAN 2012 Predictions . Last accessed February 2017.

7. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. Roche 2016 Annual Report . Last accessed February 2017.

8. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. Roche outlines oncology partnering program . Last accessed February 2017.

9. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. From molecule to medicine . Last accessed February 2017.

10. F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd. Half year 2016 results presentation . Last accessed February 2017.

11. Data on file.

12. Friends of Cancer Research. Breakthrough therapies . Last accessed February 2017.

13. International Prevention Research Institute. The state of oncology 2013. Last accessed February 2017.

14. Jemal A, et al. CA Cancer J Clin. 2011;61(2):69-90.

15. F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. YTD September 2016 presentation . Last accessed February 2017.


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