Dr Kamlakar Patol
Head of Histopathology,
Reference Lab. SRL Diagnostics

Immunohistochemistry – Trends, challenges, and opportunity

The global immunohistochemistry (IHC) market size was valued at USD 1.6 billion in 2017, and this was projected to expand at a CAGR of 8.8 percent in terms of revenue.

Based on data generated by population-based cancer registries (PBCRs) at Bangalore, Barshi, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai for the years 2001 to 2005, the total cancer cases are likely to increase from 979,786 in 2010 to 1,148,757 in 2020 in India, an increase of 17.24 percent.

Product insights

Various products are there in the market, which are divided into antibodies, reagents, kits, and equipment. Antibodies is the dominant product segment among them, which include monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies and antibody fragments. Fc-fusion proteins and antibody drug conjugates are the other products. Besides this, targeted antibody therapy (immunotherapy) is likely to increase the demand for the antibodies. This includes not only the oncology field, but also chronic non-cancer diseases and autoimmune conditions. Equipment (semi-automated and fully automated) holds a significant market share in terms of revenue. There is introduction of IHC autostainers, whole-slide scanner, and the entire realm of digital pathology and microwave systems for heat retrieval of the antigens.

Application-wise trend

IHC is utilized not only in cancer diagnostics but also in (a) diagnostics in nephrological diseases, (b) infectious diseases, (c) autoimmune diseases, (d) diabetes, and (e) cardiovascular diseases. No doubt, cancer diagnostics takes the major share of the business. This business is on the increase and it will continue to maintain the lead position. IHC is also used in the prognostics and therapeutic field, which is a rapidly emerging field due to the advancements in the associated fields like molecular biology, genetics, and pharmacology.

A major thrust is being generated in the processes of drug testing and measuring the drug efficacy, thanks to the philosophy of targeted therapy with highest efficiency and minimum adverse effect, a major shift in the therapeutic paradigm. With the population-based studies giving an estimate of 17.24 percent increase in cancer cases in India by 2020, the application of IHC is likely to go up by the similar percentage.

IHC user-wise trend

IHC is an ancillary technique used in the histopathology laboratories; main users among them are hospital-based laboratories, diagnostic laboratories, and research institutes.

The share by the first two categories is commensurate with the cancer cases dealt with by them. However, the share of the research institutes is likely to go up for the obvious reason of the promise of profitability it holds.

Region-wise trend

On account of better logistics, the remote as well as village-dwelling population is getting the benefit of modern technologies like IHC, hitherto available only to the elite urban cities.

Challenges and opportunities

Challenges: Providing the IHC services in the rural areas/remote areas is a logistic challenge on two accounts:

  • Getting the patient samples from these areas and transporting them to the testing laboratories.
  • Providing antibodies and reagents to the testing laboratories situated in these areas as well as providing supporting services to these laboratories including expert/skilled manpower.

With the challenges, opportunities are also equally good for the logistics industry, transport industry, cold chain maintenance industry with tracking devices as well as the vendor companies and skilled manpower, which is ready to explore these new opportunities for personal benefit as well as in the greater interest of the healthcare industry of our country at large.

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