Top 8 Deadliest Cancers and their Potential Cures

With more than 200 types of cancer, the possibility of developing a Universal Cure is in reality, a myth. However, the fight against the World’s Deadliest Cancers is far from being lost…and there lies hope in the Biotech Industry.

Simply by having a quick look through our articles, we can easily confirm that cancer is one of the World’s main concerns in terms of health. You can read our reviews on how Biotech differs in its approach to tackling these cancers compared to chemotherapy, and how CAR-T is the Immuno-Oncology Revolution.

Deals, partnerships, fundraising, successful (or not-so-successful) clinical trials with cancer as the common denominator invade our summary almost every week.

So what are some of the deadliest, and who in Biotech is working against them?

1. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)


Non-Small Cell Cancer is one of the Biggest Killers, estimated to have a Mortality total of 1.5 Million in 2012 (© Nerthuz / BigStock ID67144555)

Adaptimmune (UK) is in the early stages of the process, developing immunotherapy products based on T-cell receptors and launched last November a phase I/II safety and tolerability study. OSE Pharma (France) is another, starting its Phase III with its potential blockbuster (Tedopi) has also shown to help NSCLC patients with brain metastases. Then there is Abcam (UK) with their proprietary tool Rabbit antibodies (‘RabMabs’), and of course Immunocore (also UK) with their TCR (‘ImmTac’) technology (which GSK is also partnered on).

You also have Big Shots, like Bristol-Myers Squibb, with a PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor ‘Nivolumab’ (granted EU market authorization last July), followed closely by MSD’s Keytruda. Roche (Switzerland) also has Atezolizumab, which inhibits the checkpoint PD-L1 and unlike its competitors, is undergoing phase II clinical trial.

2. Hepatocellular Carcinoma


Sick Human Liver With Cancer (© Eranicle / BigStock ID110083895)

Transgene (France) stocks jumped 50% this month after announcing a phase III for its oncolytic viral therapy, Pexa-Vec, for Advanced HCC. Then there is German Bayer‘s partnership with an Amgen-subsidiary, Onyx Pharma (US) which produce the kinase inhibitor Nexavar for primary liver cancer.

HCC is globally the sixth most frequent cancer, but the 2nd leading cause of cancer death. Although there are some chemotherapy drugs such as Cisplatin, it is still a relatively blank sheet for the biotech industry…

3. Colorectal Cancer


Colorectal – or Bowel – Cancer is estimated to have killed 694,000 in 2012 (Can Stock Photo / CSPID2265326)

As of 2012, Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in women (9.2% of diagnoses) and the third most common in men (10.0%).

Nanobiotix (France) is focused mainly on prostate cancer, however the NBTXR3 candidate is also being run in a phase I/II trial for colorectal cancer. Cetuximab (Erbitux) is an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor used for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer, and the commercial rights are distributed among Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly.

Phase I clinical trials of enadenotucirev from PsiOxus (UK) have shown that selective infection of tumour cells by the drug leads to the infiltration of immune cells (T-cells) into colorectal tumors.

4. Breast cancer


Dividing Breast Cancer Cells (© / BigStock ID93129902)

Breast cancer also affects men, although in a smaller proportion. As others of the most common cancers, breast cancer has high cure rates when detected early, which is underlined the importance of screening tests such as mammography screening.

Roche’s (Switzerland) blockbuster Herceptin (Trastuzumab) is one of the top treatments own by Genentech a monoclonal antibody with a great efficiency; partly thank to the use of a biomarker (HER2) to better segment the population of breast cancer patients.

Myelo Therapeutics (Germany) the 3-year-old Berlin biotech launched last month the phase II clinical trial for its main candidate, a small molecule being investigated as a treatment for Chemotherapy-Induced Neutropenia. Even if its trajectory is remarkable, Myelo’s plan is far from being a complete success and Novartis, Amgen and Cinfa (Germany) already have their own blockbusters targeting the same disorder.

5. Pancreatic Cancer


Pancreatic Cancer killed around 330,000 worldwide – and that was now 3 years ago! (© Krishnacreations / BigStock ID54709022)

Erytech (France) is using blood cells to carry its FDA approved ERY-ASP drug. Then Targovax (Norway) has a pancreatic drug (TG01), which is currently undergoing Phase II.

Then Threshold Pharmaceuticals (US) partnered with Merck (Germany) on a phase III hypoxia-mediated drug (Evofosfamide) which has been evaluated for first-line treatment of advanced pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Unfortunately though, it failed in its primary endpoint, and lost its partnership with Merck.

6. Prostate Cancer


Estimated to have killed 307,000 Men Worldwide in 2012, Prostate Cancer is also one of the Deadliest (©Digitalista / BigStock ID95172368)

TROD Medical (Belgium) is a MedTech company developing medical tools for focal ablation, and last week announced that it has received CE Mark Approval for its Encage device. Then you have the phase I/II ‘Nano-Xray’ tech company NanoBiotix (France), to enhance radiotherapies against the prostate cancer cells.

CureVac (Germany), the mRNA specialist also published promising phase IIa results for its CV9103 immunotherapy in July. Then there is a phase I bi-specific anti-PSMA/anti-CD3 antibody against metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer by MorphoSys (Germany), being held in the US/Australia.

7. Leukemia


All the subtypes of Leukemia combined kill up to 265,000 Worldwide each year (© Jezper /

There are 4 main sub-types of Leukemia (CML, ALL, AML, CLL), and the list of those working on them is extensive. Therefore here are just a few we’ve come across recently:

An obvious one to mention is Cellectis (France) which is working on the world first Universal CAR-T treatment (UCART19) used to cure a baby in the UK very recently. Then you have Erytech (France) again, also using ERY-ASP to starve cancer cells in ALL.

Genmab (Denmark) co-developed an antibody (Arzerra) with Novartis to fight relapsed CLL. Then you have Amgen‘s Blincyto, a bispecific mAb to fight a rare type of ALL, granted FDA Orphan Drug Designation and MOR208 by MorphoSys (Germany) for several types. There are also some smaller players, such as Saerum (UK) fighting ALL, Hybrigenics (France) combining a pipeline of AML drugs, including a Vitamin D inhibitor, and Kiadis Pharma (Netherlands) which has a candidate in phase II trials for AML and ALL.

8. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma


Non-Hodkin’s Lymphoma comprises many rare subtypes, yet it is still a huge Cancer Killer in the World (© animaxx3d / BigStock ID68894674)

Teva (Israel) has a rapid liquid infusion drug for indolent B-cell NHL, as well as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Onxeo (France) is an orphan-drug specialist who has a phase I clinical trial for Belinostat, originally developed by TopoTarget (Denmark). Belinostat combined with chemo for relapses in non-Hodgkin Lymphomas, which has shown an 89% response rate.

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is one of the rarest of the NHLs. Janssen’s (Belgium) Imbruvica is a kinase inhibitor approved for MCL, as well as a type of Leukemia. Another such BTK Inhibitor comes from Acerta Pharma (Netherlands), with many indications including leukemias and NSCLC.

Acerta is really worth mentioning though after they scored the Biggest Biotech deal of 2015 ($7Bn!) with UK Giant Astra Zeneca.

Cancer remains in the Top 3 Major Killer Diseases in the World (according to the WHO). Of course this is not an extensive list of everyone working in Oncology, but just a sample of European biotechs and partnerships giving hope to patients.

So who else in Europe is working on these indications? I’m particularly interested to hear more on research drugs for Liver cancer.

Feature Image Credit:  © tashatuvango  (BigStock ID69282754)
Statistics Source: Estimated Worldwide Mortality Rate for Set Cancers in 2012 (Cancer Research UK)
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  • Thanks for the article and the interesting angle… Here are a few things you left out, though:

    In liver cancer (advanced HCC) you forgot to mention Onxeo’s Livatag, which is currently in a large international Phase 3 trial with results poised to be released in early 2017 (second line treatment in patients refractory to Nexavar).

    Here is the link to the trial’s page:

    Moreover, Onxeo’s Beleodaq (belinostat) is already approved in the U.S. (partnered with Spectrum) to treat PTCL in second-line treatment, and the biotech recently released very good Phase 1b data in first-line treatment with CHOP (89% ORR as mentioned in your article); belinostat is a HDAC inhibitor which has shown a promising safety and efficacy profile in both monotherapy and combination treatment for many blood and solid cancers, including NSCLC, AML, MDS and malignant thymoma.

    More info on Onxeo, Livatag and Beleodaq can be found in my Seeking Alpha article on the subject:

  • rys


    J’apprécie beaucoup vos informations

    Je suis surpris que Mxdhealth ne sois pas citée, cette société semble cependant mériter d’être retenue. Son approche du cancer de la prostate et du colon , paraît être une voie valide
    Mais je ne suis pas médecin…….

    Bien cordialement

    • Thanks Rys for your comment. It would have been even better in English, as our audience won’t understand you otherwise. To answer your question, we could have cited many more companies working on Cancer but we had to make a selection.

    • Hi rys,

      FYI, MDxHealth is a molecular diagnostics company, working on testing tools to detect and confirm potential cancers (prostate and bladder at the moment). It does not produce nor develop any treatment for those indications, though.

      (Pour info, MDxHealth est une société spécialisée dans le diagnostique moléculaire, qui développe et distribue des tests pour détecter et confirmer de potentiels cancers (prostate et vessie pour l’instant). Par contre, la société ne produit pas ni ne développe de traitement pour ces indications.)

  • You should have a “Like” button. Always enjoying the articles but not being able to show it =P

    Good work! 😉