Project for Development of Onnovative Research on Cancer Therapeutics
On the Inauguration
of the Program / Program Leader Tetsuo Noda / Director of the Cancer Institute
of Japanese Foundation for
Cancer Research

LINK

MEXT

Japan Science and Technology Agency

Summary of the Program

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Japan. In recognition of this fact, the Japanese government has promoted various approaches designed to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality. As a result, the government established the following laws and programs: the 3rd-term Comprehensive 10-year Strategy for Cancer Control (July, 2003); the Cancer Control Act (April, 2007); and the Basic Plan to Promote Cancer Control Programs.

Based on these continuing efforts, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) organized a working group for Strategic Cancer Research in the Life Science Committee in July, 2009 to explore how to comprehensively strengthen cancer research in Japan. A year later, the working group issued a report that outlined how to promote future cancer-related research.

This report stated that one of the most pressing emerging issues of cancer research in Japan is to construct an innovative research system, in which results from basic research can be effectively developed as promising seeds that can be further promoted to products in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

The report highlighted some specific proposals, including:

Following these proposals, the MEXT initiated its program in 2011 in order to accelerate clinical application of promising results from basic research. The goal is to create innovative next-generation cancer diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

In FY2014, this program was positioned within the “Japan Cancer Research Project,” under the Headquarters for Healthcare Policy, and was promoted accordingly. Accompanying this change in status, new research themes were selected.

This program will be transferred from MEXT to the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) after this agency has been established.

The research and development of the program has been carried out by three groups.

Group for Development of Innovative Cancer Therapeutic Seeds

This group develops innovative seeds to a level where they can be handed over to the pharmaceutical companies. A specific framework is required to accelerate the clinical application of research results in molecular-targeted therapy, diagnosis, and predictive prognosis, and such a framework does not sufficiently function in Japan compared to Europe and the United States. In particular, Japan lacks a supporting system focused on the prompt application of basic research to clinical areas-although Japan has achieved excellent results in basic research. This group is intended to promote the development of innovative cancer therapies based on the results of ground-breaking basic research. Within the highly diverse world of cancer research, seven areas have been selected, and a team leader (TL) was appointed for each area to direct the research.

Group for Development of Cancer Clinical Seeds

This group develops the clinical seeds-candidate molecular targets or bio-markers derived from the analytic results of clinical samples-to create novel cancer therapies and diagnostics. Previously, multiple studies have yielded unique findings in the mechanism of cancer cell growth using in vitro culture cells and experimental animal models. These findings have led to the development of new molecular-targeted drugs. Clinical trials of these drugs are now in progress to establish their optimal use. By analyzing patient-derived samples with state-of-the-art technologies, this group aims to accelerate research for cancer diagnosis and therapy by focusing on seven research areas. In five of these areas – strategic therapy design, intractable cancers, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, familial cancers, and pediatric or rare cancers – researchers perform comprehensive genomic-epigenomic analyses to provide clues to clinically relevant questions. For example, the researchers examine genetic-epigenetic mutations that define the therapeutic efficacy of a given therapeutic regimen. The other two areas similarly focus on analyzing patient-derived materials from unique viewpoints. Each research area is directed by a team leader (TL), and genomic-epigenomic analyses are performed by the technical supporting facilities under this research group.

Group for Development of Drug Discovery Promoting Technologies

Innovative, widely applicable drug discovery infrastructure and combined technologies have a tremendously important role in ensuring the prompt application of results from basic cancer research to diagnosis and treatment. This group aims to nurture innovative technologies that are expected both to have applications in cancer treatment and to speed up the clinical application of drug development seeds. This group focuses on developing innovative technologies and its research themes include research and development of drug delivery systems (DDSs) that will allow drugs administered to cancer patients to be specifically delivered to the tumor, research and development of molecular imaging techniques that will speed up the process of drug development and bring the cost down, and research and development combining advanced technologies, such as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell and regenerative medicine technologies. This group also aims for rapid application and development of these technologies by transferring them to the corporate sector and initiating clinical research. This group has established three research area teams to implement research and development on the basis of technology and infrastructure characteristics. Each research area is directed by a team leader (TL).

P-DIRECT

P-DIRECT / Japanese Foundation For Cancer Research
 3-8-31, Ariake, Koto, Tokyo 135-8550, Japan