Biosimilars and Cancer Care: An Expert Opinion

February 14, 2018
Greg Guthrie, ASCO staff

Biologic treatments for cancer, such as immunotherapy, are a growing field of drug research and development. These new treatments have had a remarkable effect on the lives of people with cancer, but they often come with high price tags. As the number of available medications has grown, so too has the desire to develop biologically similar drugs, called “biosimilars.”share on twitter

You may be familiar with generic drugs, which are identical copies of brand-name drugs and are often much cheaper. However, the manufacturing process for biologic treatments is so complex that it is not possible for a different manufacturer to make an identical copy. Biosimilars are an effort to create drugs that are very similar to existing biologic treatments.

Today, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has released a position statement on biosimilars in cancer treatment. This position statement aims to provide guidance on many issues surrounding biosimilars, including naming, labeling, safety, substitutions, value, and patient and provider education. Gary H. Lyman, MD, MPH, FASCO, FRCP, is the lead author of this ASCO statement, and in this podcast, he discusses several of the things patients should know about biosimilars. 

  • What are biosimilars? [2:33]

  • What is different about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval for biosimilars? [7:29]

  • What is pharmacovigilance? [12:00]

  • What is interchangeability, and how could it apply to biosimilars? [14:32]

Dr. Lyman is the Co-Director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and is Professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Pharmacy at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

This is a prerecorded audio podcast. It can be listened to online or downloaded to your computer. A transcript of this podcast is also available. For more information, visit the Cancer.Net podcast page.