NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sales of cancer drugs will grow at nearly double the rate of the global pharmaceutical market and could reach $80 billion by 2012, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription drug sales.

Expensive new treatments, an increasing number of patients on chemotherapy in major markets and evidence that more people in emerging markets are gaining access to modern targeted therapies will contribute to sales of cancer drugs growing at a compound rate of 12 to 15 percent, IMS said.

In 2008, sales of oncology products will exceed $48 billion, contributing nearly 17 percent of global pharmaceutical sales growth this year, according to the IMS Global Oncology Forecast released on Thursday.

“Double-digit sales growth in oncology drugs will be fueled by increased use of targeted therapeutic agents introduced over the past 10 years, along with first-time innovations coming to the market and longer treatment periods for growing numbers of patients,” Titus Plattel, IMS vice president for oncology, said in a statement.

IMS expects growth to be fueled by the introduction of 25 to 30 new chemical entities between 2008 and 2012, as expensive new biotechnology drugs and the increasing use of combination therapies contribute to the exploding cost of treatment.

Data from clinical studies of many of the newest cancer drugs will be presented and discussed at the nation’s largest oncology meeting later this month in Chicago. Much of the data will be unveiled on Thursday ahead of the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.

Several factors could serve to moderate growth over the next five years, IMS said. They include financial constraints of payers, slowing growth of some current blockbuster therapies and patent expirations of four cancer drugs with annual sales exceeding $1 billion, including Eli Lilly’s Gemzar and Taxotere from Sanofi-Aventis.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; editing by Carol Bishopric)