GlobalData analysed the number of clinical trials examining checkpoint modulator trials with start dates between 1 January 2009 and 20 October 2019.

Checkpoint modulators, also known as checkpoint inhibitors, are drugs that play a pivotal role in cancer immunotherapy. These drug candidates help block the binding of specific immune checkpoint targets, such as PD1 or CTLA4, which prevent T-cell activation.


The activation or inactivation of certain pathways allows for the termination of cancerous cells. When these targets are blocked, T-cell activation becomes more efficient in targeting cancer cells. Research from pre-clinical and clinical studies has shown that checkpoint inhibition can be a crucial aspect of tumour immune evasion and systemic immune suppression.

Bristol-Myers Squibb had the highest number of trials for an Industry sponsor, followed by Merck & Co., F. Hoffmann-La Roche, AstraZeneca, and Novartis AG. Of trials by Bristol-Myers Squibb, 15.9% were in Phase II, while 10.7% were in Phase III (Figure 1).

Increased funding and research into immuno-oncology have allowed more drug entities to be submitted for approval, thereby increasing trial initiation rates over the past five years. The US had the highest percentage of trial initiation rates, with 51.3% of global trials, followed by Spain with 13.6%.