Pfizer fleshes out oncology strategy, targeting 8 blockbuster cancer drugs by 2030

In what CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., called an update to a top priority at Pfizer, the company on Thursday systemically laid out its new oncology strategy following the $43 billion acquisition of antibody-drug conjugate specialist Seagen.

The company aims to have at least eight blockbuster cancer drugs by 2030, Pfizer’s newly minted chief oncology officer, Chris Boshoff, Ph.D., said during an investor event Thursday as he unveiled the strategic priorities. By then, Pfizer hopes to double the number of patients treated with its innovative cancer medicines from about 2.3 million in 2023.

The new plan also sees Pfizer focusing on four main cancer types—breast cancer, genitourinary cancer, blood cancer and thoracic cancers—all of which the company already has commercial products in.

“Within these areas, we’re initiating parallel earlier-line trials where the addressable population is the greatest, aiming to both accelerate a new wave of breakthroughs and move approved medicines into earlier lines of treatment,” Boshoff said.

Pfizer bought Seagen and devised a new oncology blueprint as top-selling cancer drug Ibrance declines, and as its collaboration revenue from Astellas-partnered Xtandi runs flat. Both drugs are expected to lose market exclusivity in 2027. And the addition of Seagen brings Pfizer to what Boshoff called an inflection point in its position in the oncology field.

Pfizer on Thursday stopped short of providing a specific sales projection for the oncology franchise by 2030. The company anticipates “continued strong sales and profit growth in oncology through the end of this decade,” oncology commercial chief Suneet Varma said. By then, about two-thirds of the risk-adjusted oncology revenue will be coming from new molecular entities and new indications from existing products, he added.

Before the Seagen deal, Pfizer’s top three cancer drugs—Ibrance, Xtandi and Inlyta—were all small molecules. Now, the New York pharma aims to increase the proportion of biologics in its revenue mix from 6% to 65% by 2030.

Touting Pfizer’s ability to boost the former Seagen portfolio, Boshoff pointed to Pfizer’s 10 manufacturing sites that are churning out oncology drugs on three continents, versus one for Seagen, plus six times the capacity for vial volume for antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) production than Seagen alone. Pfizer has commercial presence in over 100 countries, and the combined customer-facing commercial team is triple the size of Seagen’s own, he noted.

In breast cancer, Seagen brings over HER2-targeted ADC disitamab vedotin and the tyrosine kinase inhibitor Tukysa. And to carry on Ibrance’s legacy, Pfizer is working on a CDK4 inhibitor called aitrmociclib, which is already in phase 3 development in second-line HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer, with a first-line trial planned to start in the second half of this year.

Despite growth potential from the new drugs, the Ibrance patent cliff will be so steep that Pfizer expects breast cancer’s contribution to total oncology sales will drop to about 10% by 2030 from about 40% in 2023, Varma told investors during Thursday’s event. 

Instead, genitourinary cancer is expected to become Pfizer’s largest oncology franchise, with about 35% contribution. In this area, the combination of Pfizer’s Astellas-partnered Padcev and Merck’s Keytruda is becoming a new standard of care in front-line bladder cancer. And disitamab vedotin, which is already sold in China by RemeGen, is also being tested alongside Keytruda in a phase 3 trial in previously untreated, HER2-expressing bladder cancer.

What’s more, Pfizer is also counting on a longer follow-up of overall survival data from the phase 3 TALAPRO-2 trial later this year to potentially expand the combination of its PARP inhibitor Talzenna and Xtandi to a broader prostate cancer population. Besides, the company is looking to launch two phase 3 trials this year in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer for mevrometostat.

Pfizer recently started a push into blood cancers with the FDA’s approval for Elrexfio, a BCMA-targeted bispecific drug. Again, multiple phase 3 trials are ongoing for the multiple myeloma therapy, including two trials in newly diagnosed patients either as a post-transplant maintenance treatment or for transplant-ineligible patients. Plus, Seagen comes with Adcetris, an established blockbuster for classical Hodgkin lymphoma.

As for thoracic cancer, Pfizer has a relatively small presence there today. In lung cancer, Pfizer is working to establish its third-generation ALK inhibitor Lorbrena as the new standard of care in the field. The integrin beta-6-directed ADC sigvotatug vedotin recently entered phase 3 testing in pretreated nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer, and a readout is expected around 2026 or 2027.

In 2023, Pfizer’s oncology sales dropped 3% at constant exchange rates to $11.6 billion, despite a small contribution from the Seagen products in the last few days of 2023. Declines from Ibrance and Xtandi collaboration revenue drove the overall decrease.