Eli Lilly, Merck (Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD)) and Pfizer have formed an independent, not-for-profit company Asian Cancer Research Group (ACRG) 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.
Initially, the ACRG will focus on lung and gastric cancers, two of the most common forms of cancer in Asia. As many as 40% 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.
Over the next two years, Lilly, Merck and Pfizer will create an extensive pharmacogenomic cancer database comprising of data from approximately 2,000 tissue samples from patients with lung and gastric cancers. The database 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 treatment.
ACRG 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.
Gary Gilliland, senior vice president and franchise head of oncology at Merck Research Laboratories, said: “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.”
Neil Gibson, chief scientific officer of oncology research unit at Pfizer, said: “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. 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.”