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Part I of a Syneos Health Series on New Oncology Commercialization Strategies

The global COVID-19 crisis has magnified the challenges of caring for people with cancer. It has stalled important oncology research programs, diverted resources within health systems and interrupted treatment regimens on which cancer patients depend. But even before the pandemic began, commercial teams in charge of oncology products were grappling with upheavals in regulatory, clinical and marketing environments.


  • Regulators and product innovators share a desire to speed up drug development. But as timelines contract, the runway to launch has shrunk. That leaves less time for market assessment and outreach to key opinion leaders— just when the task of explaining new products has grown more urgent.
  • With the advent of complex treatment regimens such as cell therapies and cancer vaccines, traditional smallmolecule products have morphed into elaborate therapeutic processes, profoundly disrupting both clinical and administrative care channels.
  • Commercial teams—just like their research colleagues— must now engage with new scientific toolkits and lexicons, including next-generation sequencing (NGS) at the heart of hyper-targeted drug development.
  • Many novel cancer therapeutics target orphan indications with higher price points, leading to greater reimbursement uncertainty. In oncology, the implementation of alternative payment models such as Oncology Care First adds layers of complexity.
  • For commercial teams and service providers, it’s difficult to get critical information into the hands of oncologists—a problem greatly magnified by COVID-19. Without physicians’ support, no product dossier is likely to meet a payer’s definition of value.


This report is the first in a series that will explore commercialization challenges specific to cancer therapeutics on the frontiers of biological sciences. COVID-19 is an important element in this many-faceted puzzle. Upcoming articles will take up other aspects, including how companies can best prioritize indications in an oncology pipeline, how community oncology practices (COPs) can respond to escalating pressures, and the extent to which emerging Chinese biopharma companies will reshape the global competitive environment.