EpCAM stands for epithelial cell adhesion molecule which is a cell surface protein (antigen) and is highly expressed in major cancer types such as breast, prostate, colon, ovarian, gastric, lung and pancreatic cancer. It is thus considered as a well established marker for cancer of epithelial origin and an ideal therapeutic target. It is not only limited to epithelial carcinomas but can also be expressed in various other epithelial tissues, progenitor and stem cells. EpCAM is not found in non-epithelial cells or in cancer without epithelial origin.
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EpCAM plays significant role during cell adhesion, proliferation, cell signaling, migration and differentiation. Over expression of EpCAM has been shown to promote the proliferation in primary breast carcinomas (PBCs) and other cancer types. EpCAM is usually expressed in embryonic epithelia in human and mouse; however the levels typically go down as cells attain terminal differentiation. Catumaxomab and edrecolomab are major antibodies which are designed to bind with epithelial cell adhesion molecules. Catumaxomab, a hybrid monoclonal antibody of rat-mouse is marketed under the brand name Removab. Catumaxomab, developed by Fresenius Biotech and Trion Pharma GmbH, is used to treat malignant ascites in patient with metastasizing tumor by binding against antigens EpCAM and CD3. Edrecolomab which is a mouse derived antibody is currently being marketed by Johnson and Johnson under the brand name Panorex for treating colorectal cancer.
Neovii Biotech, Europe based biopharmaceutical company is conducting a trial on catumaxomab to treat a cancer of epithelial origin by targeting EpCAM. Johns Hopkins University has also begun a study under the official title “The Cancer of the Pancreas Screening-5 CAPS5) Study”. Amgen, Inc., an American biotechnology company has AMG 110, an anti-EpCAM antibody in its clinical trial portfolio for investigating its efficacy against various cancer types. Continuous development in the area of epithelial cell adhesion molecule antagonists indicates a favorable growth for the EpCAM antagonists market in the coming future. Worldwide increasing prevalence of various cancer types is also expected to trigger the EpCAM antagonist development process.
American Cancer Society states that breast cancer is the most common cancer type among American women and predicts that one in every eight women in the U.S. is likely to develop breast cancer during their life time. During 2014, approximately 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be reported in the United States Colorectal cancer is considered as the third most common cancer among American including male and female both as per the sources from American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society further states that in 2014, around 96,830 new cases of colon cancer and nearly 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer expected to be diagnosed. Such high prevalence of various cancer types is expected to drive the growth of EpCAM antagonists market. Continuous development in the area of recombinant DNA technology is also propelling the market growth as it is widely employed in order to enhance the efficacy of the EpCAM antagonists. Governmental funding in order to support research activities in the area of epithelial cell adhesion molecule antagonists is also expected to propel the market growth.
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Some of the major companies and academic research institutes actively engaged in the development and marketing of EpCAM antagonists include Amgen, Inc., Johnson and Johnson, Fresenius Biotech, Trion Pharma GmbH, The University of Hong Kong and American Association for Cancer Research.