Asian cancer genomic research initiative

15 March 2010

A new partnership between major global pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer is to create a non-profit Asian Cancer Research Group (ACRG) to investigate the most common cancers in Asia such as lung and gastric (stomach) cancers.
The aim is to create a publicly available genomic and pharmacogenomic database in Singapore, initially using data from around 2,000 lung and gastric cancer tissue samples linked to clinical information; these are two of the most common forms of cancer in Asia. It is hoped that collaborative partnerships will support creation of the database, and that it will be used to analyse genomic features of the cancers and identify opportunities for new drugs and other therapeutics to treat them.
The venture highlights the need for population-specific research and therapeutics for some diseases; for example, gastric cancer is relatively rare in the West but a major cause of death in Asia. Similarly, a significant proportion of Asian lung cancer patients possess an EGFR mutation rare among Western patients but whcih can result in poor responsiveness to standard drug treatments. Neil Gibson, Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer’s oncology research unit 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”, noting that such cancers represent a major health burden in this part of the world (see press release).

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