Cancer immunotherapy is a rapidly growing field in oncology. One attractive feature of cancer immunotherapy is the purported combination of minimal toxicity and durable responses. However such treatments are often very expensive. Given the wide-spread concern over rising health care costs, it is important for all stakeholders to be well-informed on the cost and cost-effectiveness of cancer immunotherapies. We performed a comprehensive literature review of cost and cost-effectiveness research on therapeutic cancer vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, to better understand the economic impacts of these treatments. We summarized our literature searches into three tables by types of papers: systematic review of economic studies of a specific agent, cost and cost-effectiveness analysis. Our review showed that out of the sixteen immunotherapy agents approved, nine had relevant published economic studies. Five out of the nine studied immunotherapy agents had been covered in systematic reviews. Among those, only one (rituximab for non-Hodgkin lymphoma) was found to be cost-effective. Of the four immunotherapy drugs not covered in systematic reviews (alemtuzumab, ipilimumab, sipuleucel-T, ofatumumab), high incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was reported for each. Many immunotherapies have not had economic evaluations, and those that have been studied show high ICERs or frank lack of cost-effectiveness. One major hurdle in improving the cost-effectiveness of cancer immunotherapies is to identify predictive biomarkers for selecting appropriate patients as recipients of these expensive therapies. We discuss the implications surrounding the economic factors involved in cancer immunotherapies and suggest that further research on cost and cost-effectiveness of newer cancer vaccines and immunotherapies are warranted as this is a rapidly growing field with many new drugs on the horizon.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy