B.C. Signs Agreement with Japanese Company to Beat Cancer

Date Posted: 

OSAKA, JPN – The BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Protate Centre announced a formal agreement with Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. for new drug treatments to fight breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.

The agreement is expected to bring almost $1 million in new cancer research funding to British Columbia.

“We have been able to attract this investment in cancer research to British Columbia because of the unique integration of world-class care and research being done by the BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre,” said Premier Gordon Campbell. “This international agreement holds the promise of greater collaboration between researchers at the BC Cancer Agency and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. to generate new knowledge and improve patient outcomes in British Columbia and around the world.”

“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to conduct joint research with a world-class oncology centre of excellence,” said Dr Hiroyuki Odaka, general manager of the pharmaceutical research division of Takeda. “We expect to explore new drug targets and to provide better pharmaceutical products for patients as a result of this collaboration as soon as possible.”

“While the BC Cancer Agency's mandate is to provide a comprehensive cancer-control program for British Columbia, cancer is a global concern and the agency is well-positioned because of its research and clinical programs to pursue collaborations with allies both at home and abroad in the fight against cancer,” said Dr. David Levy, president of the BC Cancer Agency. “This agreement helps confirm the worldwide reputation that agency researchers have built by working with partners around the world.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Canadian women and the second-leading cause of cancer death for women. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, and the third-leading cause of cancer death in men. Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cancer cause of death in Canadian women.

Takeda was interested in the BC Cancer Agency's unique collections of tissue samples from patients with breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Using the latest next-generation DNA sequencing technologies at the agency's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, British Columbian researchers have already sequenced dozens of archived breast, ovarian and prostate tumour genomes and identified gene mutations that may be involved in how these diseases develop and progress.

However, not all gene mutations in tumours are directly related to the development of cancer. They could be 'innocent bystanders', the results of aging or of DNA repair gone awry.

Researchers in both countries will seek patterns in the data that have already been mined to help identify key mutations that 'drive' tumour formation, and that can be targeted by new therapeutic drugs. They will jointly use bioinformatic methods to identify suitable candidates for drug development, and to develop biomarkers that can predict how individual patients will respond to particular treatments.

“We're searching for the Achilles' heel for breast, prostate and ovarian cancers by leveraging Takeda's world-class strengths in the development of new therapeutics with the BC Cancer Agency's expertise in genomic medicine,” said Dr. Samuel Aparicio, lead investigator for the collaboration. Aparicio is head of the department of molecular oncology at the BC Cancer Agency. He is also the Nan and Lorraine Robertson chair and professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at UBC.

The Vancouver Prostate Centre, under the leadership of Dr. Martin Gleave, will also focus on looking at key mutations in prostate cancer that have become resistant to conventional therapies.

“This partnership with a large multinational pharmaceutical company with an established presence in prostate cancer supports and accelerates one of our key areas of focus, which is to identify new targets for therapy and to use this information to develop new treatments that improve the quality and longevity of life for patients,” said Gleave, director, Vancouver Prostate Centre; distinguished professor in the department of urologic sciences, UBC faculty of medicine; and the Liber Ero BC leadership chair in prostate cancer research. “We are proud to work with Takeda and our colleagues at the BC Cancer Agency to continue to bring discoveries from the lab to our patient clinic and offer the best in cutting-edge treatment to British Columbians.”

“This unique partnership will focus Takeda's drug development capacity on specific abnormalities identified in ovarian cancers,” said Dr. David Huntsman, director of the ovarian cancer research program at the BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and professor, department of pathology and laboratory medicine, UBC. “We need new approaches to treat the many subtypes of ovarian cancer and we look forward to working with Takeda scientists to translate our genomic discoveries into better outcomes for women with this cancer.”

British Columbia already has some of the most favourable outcomes in North America, with British Columbian men and women having the lowest overall mortality rate for all cancers in Canada. British Columbian women have the second-lowest overall incidence rate of cancer in the country, while British Columbian men have the lowest overall incidence rate of cancer in Canada.

The BC Cancer Agency and the Vancouver Prostate Centre, a Centre of Excellence at UBC and VGH, are respectively programs of the Provincial Health Services Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

A World Class Centre

The Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC) has a track record of success that has earned it a reputation as one of the world’s most respected cancer facilities. It is a National Centre of Excellence and a designated Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research.


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