Genomic screening project aims to foster trials of new cancer drugs

Takeda Pharmaceutical is participating in a joint project in Japan to develop new genomic cancer treatments.

TOKYO - Drugmakers in Japan, US and Europe are teaming up to discover new drugs based on human genetic data. Led by the National Cancer Center of Japan, the joint research by private companies and academic institutions will collect genetic information from cancer patients to build a database for clinical trials.

The genomic screening project, called Scrum-Japan, involves 13 drugmakers including Takeda Pharmaceutical and Astellas Pharma from Japan and US drug company Pfizer.

Japanese drugmakers have lagged their Western counterparts when it comes to genomic medicine. The project is expected to foster clinical trials, which would help Japanese companies bring new treatments to market.

The genomes -- that is, the complete set of genetic information - of patients suffering lung, gastrointestinal and other types of cancer are collected for screening, free-of-charge, to identify possible cancer-fighting agents for individual patients. The patients will then be given drugs that incorporate those agents. The project has tested 400 patients so far. By 2017, researchers hope to reach 4,500 people.

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