Japan’s National Cancer Center will establish a system for cooperating on the development of cancer drugs with four medical institutions in South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong. The scheme aims to expedite the approval of new drugs.
Under the new system, researchers will cooperate on early-stage clinical testing of drugs on patients, through which pharmaceutical companies survey the efficacy and safety of new medicines. The envisaged system aims to provide new drugs to patients in Asia around the same time as their release in the United States and Europe, where drugs are often first sold.
The Tokyo-based center will conclude an agreement with its prospective partners this autumn. After pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical tests of new drugs, they are screened by the government before receiving final approval. The pace of screenings has accelerated in Japan in recent years, reducing the lag in release with the United States.
The center will cooperate on drug development with hospitals run by Seoul National University, National Taiwan University, the National Cancer Centre Singapore and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The Japanese center will ask pharmaceutical companies to start clinical trials on cancer drugs at these hospitals when American and European testing begins. It will also outline a strategy for Asian nations to approve drugs at the same time as the United States and Europe. The Japanese center will facilitate interactions between Japanese and overseas pharmaceutical companies.
Pharmaceutical companies often forgo the development of drugs for rare cancers, due to the small number of patients. However, the new institutional partnerships will allow for more patients to participate in clinical trials, likely accelerating the testing process. During the initial stages of clinical testing, doctors encounter unexpected side effects. Medical institutions therefore require highly reliable medical technologies to carry out tests. The five participating hospitals all possess advanced clinical capabilities and have had success with clinical trials.