Recent research conducted by Observant suggests that practicing oncologists outside of thought-leader circles tend to be pessimistic about the potential for new agents and therapeutic vaccines in particular. As part of our in-house research and development program, Observant recently completed 20 in-depth interviews with medical oncologists to assess their perspectives on emerging therapies and unmet needs across the treatment landscape of breast, lung, and colorectal cancer.
To ensure that we spoke to practitioners and not thought leaders, potential respondents were prescreened to exclude those associated with the pharmaceutical industry in any advisory or consultative role as well as those involved in clinical trials.
In general, we found that medical oncologists in the trenches recognize the importance of advances in treatment offered by drugs such as tamoxifen, Herceptin®, Avastin®, and Erbitux®. In patients diagnosed early, these oncologists are beginning to think of breast cancer as a chronic disease in light of the therapeutic success of new agents and other novel therapeutic approaches.
This positive regard for recent advances, however, may be superficial and mask a deeper pessimistic world view with regard to current and future treatment options, regardless of their focus. Additionally, this overarching pessimism can translate into a perception that patients and caregivers are unrealistic in their hopes for effective cancer therapies.
This pessimism reinforces a wait-and-see perspective on the potential of vaccine therapies. Our respondents recognize that vaccine technology could, in theory, be leveraged to develop effective therapies, especially for more easily targetable cancers like certain types of skin and colon cancers or cancers that are slower in developing such as prostate cancer. The lack of any apparent tangible progress to date in bringing a therapeutic vaccine to market reinforces a pessimism that for some borders on cynicism.
These attitudes are probably driven to some degree by the sheer volume of emerging positive early-stage information about potential new vaccines and other treatment modalities. This wave of information may be too large for practicing physicians to process or simply not relevant enough as it does not spring from later-stage clinical trials.
Among those oncologists who do see a potential for therapeutic vaccines, they tend to see them having a limited role by patient type or stage of disease, and they do not anticipate anything entering the market soon.