By Xin (Cindy) Cheng, Director at Eisai
As we recognize National Women’s Health Week, I consider how far collectively academia, the clinical community and industry have come in advancing treatments for women’s cancers. Work to develop new cancer therapies, particularly those affecting women, has been a common thread throughout my career and remains close to my heart. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to the body of research that has led to the understanding and application of cancer biomarkers and cell signaling pathways, including HER2, which plays a significant role in breast cancer treatment today.
The American Cancer Society reports the overall cancer death rate dropped 31% from 1991 to 2018.i However, survival rates vary by cancer, cancer sub-type and the degree to which the cancer is localized or has metastasized. For example, the 5-year relative survival rate for a woman with breast cancer as reported by the National Cancer Institute (2011-2017) ranged from 100% for localized, HR+/HER2- breast cancer to only 12.2% for those with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer.ii
While progress has also been made in the treatment of ovarian cancer, the U.S. 5-year relative survival rate for 2011-2017 reached only 49.1%.iii
These statistics reflect the impact of truly important advances, but clearly there is still much work to be done to find more effective and safer treatment approaches that can change the course of disease progression and potentially even stop it in its tracks. Women who are seeking to overcome a cancer diagnosis are the inspiration for all of us at the Epochal Precision Anti-Cancer Therapeutics (EPAT) team at Eisai, where we’re working to advance the development of innovative therapies for breast and gynecologic cancers.
EPAT’s breakthrough research
For the treatment of certain types of cancer, Eisai has developed a proprietary agent from a natural substance found in a sea sponge, which is the only medicine discovered in its class of chemotherapy.iv,v This was a tremendous step forward for some cancer patients, but we are not stopping there.
I am proud to be part of the team that is researching and developing a proprietary approach, using investigational antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) in the hopes of more efficiently delivering this anticancer agent selectively to tumor cells and not to normal tissues.vi By attaching the anticancer agent to an ADC designed to “find” specific tumor cells, our research seeks to determine how ADCs help to target cancer cells, their effect on healthy cells and the impact on side effects.
Such advanced therapeutic approaches often come with complex and variable manufacturing processes. We have developed REsidue-SPEcific Conjugation Technology (RESPECT®) to reduce variability in the manufacturing process and ensure a consistently high-quality ADC therapeutic.vii This site-specific method to bring the ADC together with the anticancer agent is designed to ensure consistently high-quality ADC-based therapies, which is particularly important when scaling from small batches for research to large quantities for clinical use.
Our human health care mission
At Eisai, everything we do is guided by the simple principle that patients and their families come first, and we have a responsibility to listen to and learn from them. For the team at EPAT, we work to achieve our human health care (hhc) mission by relentlessly pushing the boundaries of science to discover, develop and deliver potentially life-changing therapies.
Motivated by Eisai’s hhc mission, our team is working to personalize cancer treatment to the individual patient by creating precision anti-cancer medicines that target tumor cells. Ultimately, our goal is to change the future for women with cancer.
During National Women’s Health Week, I am reminded of the patients we seek to help and the unmet needs we strive to fill.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Xin (Cindy) Cheng, Director at Eisai, works out of our Epochal Precision Anti-Cancer Therapeutics Center in Exton, PA, where the team is developing oncology drugs that utilize Eisai’s unique Antibody-Drug Conjugate technology, biospecifics and other emerging biologics. Cindy joined Eisai in 2008 and has over 15 years of experience in discovery research/development for antibodies, fusion proteins, peptides and antibody-drug conjugates.
iSiegel, RL, Miller, KD, Fuchs, H, , A. Cancer 2021. CA Cancer J Clin. 2021: 71: 7‐ 33. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21654
ii National Caner Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer Subtypes. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast-subtypes.html. Accessed May 3, 2021.
iii National Cancer Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Ovarian Cancer 2011–2017. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/ovary.html. Accessed April 29, 2021.
iv Jimeno, A. Eribulin: Rediscovering Tubulin as an Anticancer Target. Clin Cancer Res. June 15 2009 (15) (12) 3903-3905; DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-1023
v Eisai Inc. HALAVEN