GlobalData analysed the number of clinical trials examining checkpoint modulator trials with start dates between January 1, 2009 and October 20, 2019. Checkpoint modulators, also known as checkpoint inhibitors, are drugs that play a pivotal role in cancer immunotherapy. Specifically, they target particular immune checkpoint proteins and modulate their activity to induce a positive immune response toward cancer cells.

GlobalData looked into the top checkpoint modulators investigated in these clinical trials. Nivolumab had the most trials, followed by pembrolizumab and ipilimumab. For all drugs, the status of the majority of trials were Ongoing, with very few trials being Suspended. Cemiplimab had the fewest trials, and toripalimab had the second-fewest trials. Even though nivolumab and cemiplimab have the same target, programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), one reason for the difference in their number of trials could be their approval dates. Nivolumab and pembrolizumab were first approved in 2014, whereas cemiplimab and toripalimab were first approved in 2018. Therefore, more trials could have been conducted with drugs that were approved earlier.

The top indications for checkpoint modulator clinical trials by total count were non-small cell lung cancer, solid tumor, melanoma, triple-negative breast cancer, and hepatocellular carcinoma (Figure 2). Non-small cell lung cancer was the dominant indication, with approximately five times more trials than hepatocellular carcinoma. The majority of trials for each indication was in Phase II, with the exception of solid tumor where the majority of trials was in Phase I.