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Radiotherapy blasts forward

Who's doing what in next-generation targeted radiotherapies for cancer

High-wattage takeouts and commercial launches have revived interest in radiopharmaceuticals for cancer. The challenge for the new wave of candidates is to achieve enough differentiation to justify the logistical hurdles of manufacturing and delivering products that rapidly decay.

The excess nuclear energy released by radioisotopes as they decay to a more stable state can be harnessed to detect in vivo signals, or to kill pathogenic cells by inducing DNA damage.

While radiotracers are ubiquitous as diagnostic tools and external radiation therapy is a routine part of cancer treatment, systemic radiotherapies have lagged because they are more challenging to produce and deliver, and the first approved products lost out to more convenient alternatives.

The field quietly picked up steam, however, via improvements in supply chain infrastructure and tumor-targeting technologies, along with promising proof-of-concept signals from small compassionate use trials.

That progress paid off when Bayer AG (Xetra:BAYN) and Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN) each spent billions of dollars to acquire radiotherapies developed by small European biotechs.

Bayer bought Norwegian biotech Algeta ASA for $2.9 billion in 2013, gaining the radium 223-based Xofigo. The drug is approved to treat castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) patients with symptomatic bone metastases and no known visceral metastatic disease.

Novartis acquired French company Advanced Accelerator Applications S.A. (AAA) for $3.9 billion in 2017, gaining the lutetium

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