Known as the breakthrough of the year in 2013, immuno-oncology utilises the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. The oncology drug market is set to be the biggest therapy area in 2022, and with the approval of new immuno-oncology drugs, and additional indications to existing drugs, immuno-oncology is set to drastically change the treatment of cancer.
To study how healthcare professionals (HCPs) discuss immuno-oncology, we tracked over 5,800 relevant posts from close to 1,300 healthcare professionals in the United States over the last year to January 2018. HCP posts were collected using CREATION Pinpoint.
HCPs engage with societies
In the therapy area, the two most discussed societies amongst US HCPs were the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC). Interaction with these societies occurred during conferences, as well as retweets of their posts. HCPs mentioned ASCO 210 times with 63 of these mentions occurring during their annual conference. Similarly, SITC had 24 mentions during their annual conference out of a total 155 mentions. HCPs also took advantage of retweeting posts of what these societies are saying, ASCO was retweeted 39 times and SITC 76 times. This level of interaction presents an opportunity for US pharmaceutical companies to engage offline and online with their HCPs at conferences such as these.
US HCPs also showed interest in a new immune specific conference. Launched by ASCO and SITC this conference, the Clinical Immuno-Oncology Symposium, had 80 mentions. This response to a new conference shows that US HCPs in the field of immuno-oncology are eager to engage with quality conferences.
— ASCO (@ASCO) January 8, 2017
Digital Opinion Leaders that promote immuno-oncology discussion
Two doctors emerged as key influencers in the immuno-oncology space online. Wafik El-Deiry was the most active author in the immuno-oncology discussion. El-Deiry posted 111 times within the therapy area. The majority of his posts were links to “The Cancer Plus Daily” where he curates interesting articles on immuno-oncology as well as other areas of cancer therapy.
— Wafik S. El-Deiry, MD, PhD, FACP (@weldeiry) August 8, 2017
Eric Topol was the most reposted author, his posts were shared 189 times by US HCPs. Eric Topol’s posts were educational, sharing immuno-oncology research findings.
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) February 10, 2017
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) May 5, 2017
HCP social media influencers, such as Wafik El-Deiry and Eric Topol, may be useful in helping companies understand what their HCPs are interested in and what their challenges are, this can then help inform effective campaigns.
Reinvigorating Lung and Breast cancer treatment with immuno-oncology drugs
Lung cancer and breast cancer, were discussed the most by US HCPs; in the immuno-oncology discussion there were 256 and 122 mentions respectively. Spikes in the conversation occurred during congress and when research findings around immuno-oncology treatments were released. HCPs actively shared these findings with each other.
Immuno-oncology treatments: Using the immune system to attack cancer smartly
Looking more broadly at current immuno-oncology treatments available, there are; monoclonal antibodies (mABs) which are antibodies designed to target a specific antigen, immune checkpoint inhibitors – drugs that target molecules on cancer cells to signal an immune response, Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy or immune cell therapy which changes an individual’s T-cells in the lab so that they can find and destroy cancer cells, and cancer vaccines that can either help to prevent cancers caused by viruses or help the immune system to mount an attack against cancer.
Within the oncology conversation, there were close to 700 mentions of immuno-oncology treatment types and over 2,500 mentions of drugs within mABs, checkpoint inhibitors and vaccine treatments. Two key areas discussed by US HCPs were mABs with just over 550 mentions and checkpoint inhibitors with over 2,300 mentions.
The most discussed mAB was Herceptin, with just over 230 mentions. US HCPs discussed Herceptin research in breast cancer, the biosimilars of Herceptin and its cost. General discussion around mABs was educational with posts explaining how antibodies function in cancer treatment, there were also mentions of various targets currently being researched. HCPs’ posts showed the complexity of this treatment and there seemed to be no dominant approach mentioned. However, US HCPs seem to be at the forefront of new results presented as seen from posts they shared about research. Scott R Brodeur shared this post from Frontiers Immunolgy:
Functionally Active Fc Mutant Antibodies Recognizing Cancer Antigens Generated Rapidly at High Yields: Kristina M.… https://t.co/09kVgpX0te
— Frontiers in Immunology (@FrontImmunol) October 17, 2017
Keytruda, the most discussed checkpoint inhibitor, was mentioned mainly in relation to the FDA approval for various indications. There were also mentions of research findings and cost of the drug; there were close to 850 mentions for Keytruda by US HCPs. In the general checkpoint inhibitor discussion HCPs discussed how to select patients for treatment and shared research findings, showing their need for clarification of treatment paradigms.
Genomics- and Transcriptomics-Based Patient Selection for Cancer Treatment With Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors https://t.co/yJz9ysYNPt
— JAMA Oncology (@JAMAOnc) December 28, 2017
New and innovative ways to activate the immune system: Neo-antigens
US HCPs seemed to show excitement in treatment with neoantigens, with close to 100 mentions in the immuno-oncology discussion. The content of these mentions show that HCPs are looking to understand the activity of neoantigens and where it fits in within immuno-oncology treatments. Interestingly, Eric Topol’s (most shared author) posts on neoantigens were shared amongst US HCPs. 19 HCPs shared 20 posts from Eric Topol, which focused mainly on the activity of neoantigens in treatment.
T cells and tumors: scoring neoantigens for #cancer immunotherapy & making better ones (summaries)https://t.co/ktsqOoDaCn @NatureNews https://t.co/dFy3JezPWA @NatureRevCancer pic.twitter.com/zLZOXTeGLc
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) November 25, 2017
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) February 1, 2017
These insights into immuno-oncology treatments show what US HCPs particular interests are, as well as what information may be lacking or questions HCPs have in these areas. This knowledge can be used to develop targeted interactions and messages to HCPs.
Immuno-oncology will impact how we treat cancer in the future
In the last year there have been considerable and exciting advancements in the field of immuno-oncology. In the initial neoantigen discussion, HCPs exhibited a great deal of interest, the development of the discussion of this novel treatment is therefore an area to watch. The discussion of breast and lung cancer showed that HCPs are keenly following research and drug advancements for future treatments. An opportunity presents itself in engaging US HCPs with information on treatment paradigms within these therapy areas.
We have seen that US HCPs often lead the way in using social media, and have identified 7 insights highlighting it. In the immuno-oncology space US healthcare professionals have been actively engaged in discussing products, sharing research findings and highlighting key advancements in the area. The immuno-oncology field is bursting with new research and ways to treat cancer now and in the future.