Bringing new meaning to skin-deep: The potential benefits of treating cancers with subcutaneous immunotherapy
New options may reduce treatment burden and improve efficiencies in healthcare systems
Gina Fusaro, Ph.D., our vice president and global program lead, shares her excitement around the potential of offering subcutaneous administration as an option for cancer patients who are prescribed immunotherapy. She explains the time savings this option may provide to both patients and physicians, as well as the impact it could have on improving healthcare efficiencies.
Q: How are immunotherapies currently administered to patients diagnosed with cancer?
Dr. Fusaro: Immunotherapy has been transformative to patients’ lives in multiple tumor types. Currently, most immunotherapy is administered intravenously, which typically takes 30 to 60 minutes and must be done in an infusion clinic. There remains a need for additional administration options that may improve the patient experience, including reducing administration time and avoiding the need to go to an infusion center.
Q: What are the key differences between intravenous and subcutaneous administration?
Dr. Fusaro: Advances in technology allow the subcutaneous formulation to be administered to patients in a way that they may prefer over intravenous administration. Subcutaneous immunotherapy administration can be done outside the infusion center in less than five minutes with only a single injection, compared to a much more time-consuming intravenous infusion in a clinic. It also avoids the need for an infusion port, which is associated with complications for some patients.
We believe that subcutaneous administration is an important evolution in oncology care with meaningful potential benefits for both patients and healthcare providers.
Q: How might subcutaneous immunotherapy positively impact patients?
Dr. Fusaro: For patients, the time spent at treatment visits can be a challenge. If approved, subcutaneous administration may help reduce treatment burden and provide greater flexibility in receiving treatment.
There are many practical examples of the benefits to patients, such as less time receiving treatment overall, receiving treatment outside of infusion centers and therefore avoiding potential additional scheduling challenges, and avoiding the need for an infusion port. We hope that this translates to less time away from work or a reduction in childcare or eldercare costs due to less time away from home. Ultimately, it may mean more time for the activities that they enjoy with the people they love.
I think we have all been touched by cancer in different ways and what inspires me every day as a BMS employee is the ability to really make a difference in patients’ lives. With the work we are doing with subcutaneous immunotherapy, we’re helping to take that additional step to provide another option for patients.
Q: How may subcutaneous administration of immunotherapies help improve efficiencies in healthcare systems?
Dr. Fusaro: Our goal for subcutaneous delivery is that it may improve healthcare resource utilization by decreasing drug preparation and administration time, thus reducing the time patients spend waiting, allowing them to get home faster. It may lead to greater workflow efficiency and decongestion of facilities, which may allow more patients to be treated at each center.
If I could sum it up, I would say that subcutaneous delivery may free up space and time, allowing physicians and other healthcare providers to help even more patients in need. From our perspective, anything that may improve the patient experience is worth exploring.
Q: What do upcoming data to be presented at ASCO GU 2024 signify for patients?
Dr. Fusaro: We are excited about key data that are being presented at ASCO GU demonstrating advances in the field across multiple tumor types within the genitourinary space.
In particular, we are looking forward to presenting results for the very first time at ASCO GU 2024 comparing a subcutaneous formulation of one of our immunotherapies with intravenous administration in patients with advanced clear cell renal cell carcinoma. This is a key step in the evolution of cancer care and reducing treatment burden.
Q: What, if any, opportunity do you see for subcutaneous immunotherapy in other tumor types?
Dr. Fusaro: While the data we are presenting are in advanced clear cell renal cell carcinoma, we are looking at many other solid tumors for potential treatment with this subcutaneous formulation, and we are excited about data we have already seen across multiple tumor types to support the potential of subcutaneous administration. Our goal is to help even more patients with cancer by exploring the potential for a subcutaneous treatment option that may help improve the patient experience, and we are evaluating innovative formulations across our broad portfolio.
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