Five years ago U.S. drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb won approval from the Food and Drug Administration for Yervoy, its new prescription medicine used to treat certain types of melanoma, or skin cancer.
It was a turning point in the fight against cancer. Yervoy was the first successful example of cancer immunotherapy, a type of drug that harnesses the body’s immune defenses to fight tumors.
Medical experts say the field of drugs promises the greatest progress in cancer therapy in decades — and analysts expect it to boost the pharmaceutical industry’s already flourishing oncology business.
Since Yervoy was approved, three more cancer drugs based on immunotherapy have hit the market. With combined sales of about $2.6 billion (€2.3 billion), they still play only a minor role in the $90 billion cancer drug market, but their potential is considered enormous.