- Since May 2013, Japan-based Astellas has focused on finding partners to pursue pre-clinical R&D development.
- Recently, Astellas partnered with Roche to develop Tarceva (erlotinib), which is used to treat both lung and pancreatic cancers.
- Developing treatments for pancreatic cancer has been a frustrating endeavor for pharma companies and the disease has remained deadly and difficult to treat.
Pancreatic cancer is a killer. Only 1% to 3% of those diagnosed live for more than five years, mainly because it is symptomless. Since 1990, more than 30 phase III trials have failed to lead to regulatory approval for pancreatic cancer drugs in Europe and elsewhere.
Developing effective treatments for the disease not only provides critically needed treatment options, but also has the potential to be lucrative. In January, Abraxane (paclitaxel) from Celgene was approved in the EU for treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer and is expected to become a blockbuster drug based on this additional indication.
The focus of the Astellas/CRT research will involve blocking autophagy pathways in pancreatic cells. Astellas has an exclusive license to develop the best candidates, and CRT will be paid accordingly.