A Team Approach to Helping Fight Cancer

Merck and Eisai join forces to help tackle some of the most challenging types of cancers

What happens when you combine:


2 (ambitious cancer research teams)

1 (goal to help people with cancer)


It’s sometimes said that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That’s why Merck and Eisai joined together in 2018 to leverage each other’s unique strengths and diverse backgrounds to help advance cancer research.

“We are combining Merck’s expertise in immuno-oncology with Eisai’s strengths in small molecules to study a combination approach to try to help people living with cancer,” said Dr. Jonathan Cheng, Vice President, Oncology Clinical Development, Merck Research Laboratories. “

There is still an unmet need for many patients with cancer,” added Dr. Takashi Owa, Vice President, Chief Medicine Creation and Chief Discovery Officer, Oncology Business Group, Eisai. “These patients and their families are in need of more treatment options, and this remains at the forefront of our collaborative efforts.”

Together, Merck and Eisai are trying to drive cancer science forward to help these patients, and already, the companies’ shared vision has led to 14 joint clinical trials

“I’m proud that together we’ve been able to design and execute a robust portfolio of clinical trials across many different types of cancer,” said Dr. Cheng.

Dr. Owa is optimistic about the progress the two teams have made together. “We are about a year and a half into this collaboration, and we have already started to see achievements in our research studies,” he said. “Our goal is to help improve patient outcomes, and I’m hopeful we will achieve this.”

Moving forward, Dr. Cheng believes that collaborations are important to continuing to make strides in cancer research. “Oncology and drug development are aided by a team approach,” he said. “Joining forces with others who are driven by the same goals can be a significant part of progress. That’s why I’m excited about this collaboration as we all endeavor to help as many patients as possible.”

Why did you decide to go into oncology research?


Dr. Owa:

"My decision was very personal. At the age of six, my grandmother passed away from gastric cancer. I couldn’t fully process what had happened to her at that young age. It wasn’t until I entered junior high school that I began to understand the toll cancer had taken on her, which motivated me to learn about cancer and find my passion in cancer research." 


Dr. Cheng:

"From an early age, I’ve been motivated to try to reach out to people in need. At the same time, I’ve always enjoyed unraveling challenging and complex problems. I went into cancer research because I saw an opportunity to put my problem-solving skills to work to help people with cancer. As an oncologist, I see firsthand how my patients and their families struggle with cancer and how it upends their lives. That’s what motivates me to persevere in cancer research and why I keep striving to help find new options for patients and their loved ones."