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International Partnerships for Clinical Cancer Research

June 3, 2015, by Ann Chao

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2015 International Symposium on Cancer Clinical Trials participants pose for a group photo at the residence of the British Ambassador in Tokyo, Japan.

NCI CGH was privileged to co-sponsor the 2015 International Symposium on Cancer Clinical Trials and related meetings held in partnership with the Japanese National Cancer Center (JNCC) and Embassies of France, Korea, United Kingdom (UK), and United States (US) in Tokyo on May 14 - 15, 2015.

On May14, 2015, Drs. Atsushi Ohtsu and Seiichiro Yamamoto of JNCC hosted an Experts’ Meeting that highlighted exciting research by Japanese and UK scientists.  Dr. Takayuki Yoshino (JNCC) and Dr. Naoko Takebe (US NCI) introduced new precision medicine initiatives, and Drs. Timothy Yap, Hiroyoshi Nishikawa, and Samantha Turnbull presented their work on phase I trials and immunotherapy.  This was followed by a meeting with cancer patient advocates hosted by Drs. Fumihiko Wakao and Seiichiro Yamamoto of JNCC.  Here, Japanese patient advocates shared the need for more information and patient access to clinical trials, patient advocate training, and opportunities to provide input on clinical research.  Drs. Ted Trimble, Matt Seymour, and François Sigaux presented on ways that patient advocates play an important role in cancer research in the US, UK, and France, respectively.  This session was informative for everyone as participants heard examples for patient involvement that could be adopted in their own country.

On May 15, 2015, British Ambassador to Japan, Tim Hitchens, hosted the International Symposium at the beautiful British Embassy, giving opening remarks.  He was followed by Mr. Jason Hyland, US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires ad interim; Dr. Hyang Sun, of the Korean Embassy; Mr. Jacques Maleval, Counsellor for Science and Technology of the French Embassy; and Dr. Tomomitsu Hotta, JNCC President.

Symposium participants learned about the mission and organization of the newly established Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development (A-MED) during the keynote speech by Dr. Makato Suematsu, President of A-MED.  Participants appreciated the opportunity to ask questions and comment on the government-supported research enterprise, including grant review mechanisms; the need for research results tracking; patient advocate involvement; longer-term research infrastructure and project investments; basic and translational research; suggestions for multi-institution cooperation; and the need for the inclusion of biostatistics expertise, from study design through study analysis, for high quality research.

Dr. Matt Seymour of the UK National Clinical Research Network spoke on the evolution of the UK government-funded national cancer research network, established to develop better cancer treatments.  He described the importance of building local research networks, and documenting the positive impact of research to gain government support for research. 

Dr. Yung-Jue Bang of Seoul National University Hospital introduced the Korean clinical trial network, beginning with discussions among academia, regulatory agencies, and industry on the need for globalization of clinical research.  He described the establishment of regional clinical trials centers, the system of investigator-initiated and industry-supported trials, and change-over time in Korean patients’ perception of clinical trials.  In closing, Dr. Yung-Jue Bang emphasized the need for greater government support for academic trials, and reimbursement for clinical trials.

Dr. Yasuhiro Suzuki, Assistant Minister for Technical Affairs, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, presented on the history of cancer research planning in Japan.  He noted current challenges surrounding clinical trials, development of ethical guidelines and regulations, and new Japanese government initiatives to develop innovative medical products.

Dr. François Sigaux, Director of Research and Innovation of the French National Cancer Institute, introduced four government-supported initiatives.  These include the establishment of early-phase clinical trial centers, nationwide molecular diagnostic testing platforms, international collaborations, and initiatives focused on the design of new clinical trials to accelerate access to innovative cancer drugs.

Dr. Kunihiko Takeyama, Head of Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit of Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, reviewed the drug development environment in the context of personalized medicine and biomarker-driven clinical trials.  He noted the need for well-defined protocol design, initiatives from investigators, and government support.

Dr. Ted Trimble, NCI, CGH Director, presented on patient empowerment in cancer research.  He reviewed the history and purpose of the US National Clinical Trials Network, types of partnerships needed, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recommendations regarding non-commercial trials.  Dr. Trimble highlighted the history of the International Symposia, held in Tokyo in 2008, 2010, and 2015, to exchange information and encourage national and international clinical trial networks, patient involvement, and government support for academic trials.  Dr. Trimble’s talk was followed by discussion among panelists from government, industry, academia, and patient advocate groups.

Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Chairman of the Health and Global Policy Institute, gave thought provoking closing remarks on the new paradigm in which we live, the role of technology in connecting the globe, and empowering the individual.  Dr. Kurokawa noted that nations are becoming borderless and citizens more global.  He closed the Symposium by challenging participants not to ask what our governments can do for us; but to ask what we can do as global citizens, wherever we are.

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