By Teresa Bitetti
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn on February 04, 2021
“Together, all our actions matter.” This is the theme for this year’s World Cancer Day, an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control, and it speaks to the importance and power of collective action in our quest to outsmart cancer.
With the global cancer burden expected to grow to 27.5 million new cancer cases per year by 2040,1 the need for innovation through collaboration has never been greater. At Takeda, we believe that we won’t defeat cancer alone. Only by leveraging partnerships that bring the brightest minds together with the most advanced technologies and platforms, will we be able to provide patients with faster access to life-transforming medicines.
So, what will it take to beat this clever enemy?
The Power of Partnerships
Working together with partners across academia, biotech and pharma that share our goals and complement our expertise has enabled us to create an early development program comprised of diverse cutting-edge platforms. For example, in partnership with Turnstone Biologics, we are developing a novel form of oncolytic immunotherapy that utilizes viruses, specifically the vaccinia virus in our collaboration, to infect and destroy cancer cells. We’re also working with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to discover and develop novel CAR-T products for the treatment of hematological and solid tumor indications.
This “better together” mindset also applies to our work with patients and colleagues. We pride ourselves on connectedness within our organization – such as seamless integration between commercial and R&D – as well as the strength of our relationships with patients and caregivers, who are at the heart of our every action.
The Need for Novel Approaches
Cancer is constantly finding new ways to surprise us as it dodges the immune system, mutates, multiplies and wreaks havoc on lives. But cancer has its weaknesses – and we will find new ways to attack it.
The science behind oncology innovation has always fascinated me, particularly when it harnesses the immune system to fight cancer from the inside. For instance, we’re proud to be building upon our deep understanding of hematology to develop new ways to harness specific cells within the immune system known as innate immune cells. The innate immune system serves as the body’s first defense mechanism against disease. It has the power to deploy a broad arsenal of cell types and mechanisms that may help to overcome cancer’s ability to evade immune recognition.2 By leveraging innate immunity, we strive to enhance the breadth and depth of responses to cancer therapy for patients across the globe.
Making a Meaningful Difference
Driving cutting-edge science is only part of the solution. To make a difference, we must extend our focus beyond R&D, acting as true partners to patients, helping ensure they can easily find and enroll in clinical trials, that they can be accurately diagnosed and tested for mutations and biomarkers, and that they are well prepared to navigate treatment discussions. Further, we must provide patients with meaningful help to afford treatment.
This World Cancer Day, I am encouraging my colleagues to think about how we can each be the best partners possible, so that we can continue to accelerate life-transforming innovation for patients everywhere. Because we truly are better together, and only by collaborating and leveraging our collective strengths and passions can we accelerate innovation and create a world without cancer.
1American Cancer Society. Global Cancer Facts & Figures. https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/global.html. Accessed January 2021.
2Cornen, S., Daëron, M., Demaria , O., et al., Harnessing innate immunity in cancer therapy, Nature 2019;574:45-46