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University hospitals prepare data sharing system for genetic cancer treatment

  • February 27, 2017
  • , Nikkei evening edition , p. 1 (Lead)
  • JMH Translation

Six university hospitals will start providing individualized cancer treatment for patients, in which each patient’s genetic data provides the basis for choosing the optimal treatment method. The individualized treatment, sometimes called an “order-made medicine” in Japan, is scheduled to launch in FY 2019. The participating hospitals hope to be able to achieve accurate diagnoses and select effective treatment methods by accumulating and analyzing databases that consist of information concerning changes in more than 200 types of cancer-related genes, prescription records, and effectiveness of each treatment regimen.


The data will be collected nationwide and will include all types of cancers. Drugs that are being used abroad will be analyzed as well.


Active players in the field of genetic analysis, such as Kyoto University and Hokkaido University, will cooperate in the effort to accumulate data. Other participants include hospitals affiliated to Okayama University, Chiba University, Saga University, and Tokyo Medical and Dental University. By the end of FY 2018, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development will have provided the funding totaling around 550 million yen.


In general, a cancer treatment drug is specific to the location of the cancer, such as lungs or stomach. When the cancer gene transforms, however, the original drug will lose its efficacy. On the other hand, a drug that had been developed for another type of cancer may become effective. Knowledge and experience is crucial in deciding which drug is going to be effective against the transformed cancer gene at that particular stage of treatment.


The universities will be able to share the necessary knowledge and information on the cancer gene transformation through the new database, which is designed to help doctors find out which treatment regimen offers the best prognosis among options that include drugs used overseas.


The knowledge accumulated in the database is also expected to introduce doctors to new drug combinations available.


[Starting in FY2019], the genes of patients who are willing to participate will be analyzed and an individualized treatment regimen will be designed based on the database, which will have been developed by FY 2018. Eligible for participation will be patients who had previously failed to obtain favorable results from standard drug treatments, as well as those with rare cancers that do not have established methods of treatment.


The initiative is unique because the aim of ongoing data accumulation efforts by the National Cancer Center is to encourage participation in new drug development plans; its database covers a limited number of cancers only, including lung and colon cancers. (Abridged)

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