Lilly, Merck, and Pfizer co-operate to accelerate cancer research in Asia
23 February 2010
Eli Lilly and Company, Merck and Pfizer Inc. have announced
the formation of the Asian Cancer Research Group, Inc., (ACRG), an
independent, not-for-profit company established to accelerate research
and ultimately improve treatment for patients affected with the most
commonly-diagnosed cancers in Asia.
The goal of the ACRG is to improve the knowledge of cancers
prevalent in Asia and to accelerate drug discovery efforts by freely
sharing the resulting data with the scientific community.
The ACRG’s formation represents a prime example of a growing
trend in pre-competitive collaboration in which large pharmaceutical
companies combine their resources and expertise to rapidly increase
knowledge of disease and disease processes.
“Through its work and the subsequent sharing of information, the
ACRG hopes to empower researchers, foster innovation and improve the
prognosis and treatment of patients with cancer,” said Gary
Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president and franchise head,
Oncology, Merck Research Laboratories.
Initially, the ACRG will focus on lung and gastric cancers, two
of the most common forms of cancer in Asia. As many as 40 percent of
patients with lung cancer in Asia demonstrate a mutation that is
relatively rare in Western patients (EGFR mutation) . This
mutation has resulted in differences in response to some types of
agents, suggesting that a different research approach is needed for
developing treatments for certain patient populations.
Gastric cancer has reached near epidemic proportions in some
countries in Asia. Despite its relatively low incidence in the West,
gastric cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death in the
world, killing more than 630,000 patients per year, more people than
all cancers combined in the United States .
“Environmental and genetic factors are believed to underlie the
dramatic differences in the molecular subtypes and incidence of
cancers in Asia and other parts of the world,” said Neil Gibson,
Ph.D., chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s Oncology Research Unit.
“Although some progress has been achieved in the last few years in
understanding and treating these cancers, they remain a huge unmet
need and a disproportionate health burden to Asian patients.”
Over the next two years, Lilly, Merck and Pfizer have committed
to create one of the most extensive pharmacogenomic cancer databases
known to date. This database will be composed of data from
approximately 2,000 tissue samples from patients with lung and
gastric cancer that will be made publicly available to researchers
and, over time, further populated with clinical data from a
longitudinal analysis of patients. Comparison of the contrasting
genomic signatures of these cancers could inform new approaches to
Today’s announcement marks the formation of the ACRG. The company
is currently focused on establishing collaborative relationships
throughout Asia to collect the tissue samples and data. All tissue
samples and data will be collected and shared in accordance with
good medical practices and local laws.
Lilly has assumed responsibility for ultimately providing the
data to the research public through an open-source concept managed
by Lilly’s Singapore research site. Moreover, Lilly, Merck and
Pfizer will each provide technical and intellectual expertise.
“The ACRG is about sharing information for the common good,” said
Kerry Blanchard, M.D., Ph.D., vice president and leader of drug
development in China for Lilly and who represented Lilly in the
ACRG’s formation. “This company will aid researchers around the
world to develop diagnostics, tailor current treatments and develop
novel therapies to improve outcomes for affected patients with lung,
gastric and perhaps other forms of cancer.”
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