Letters from the Lab: AstraZeneca's Oncology Research

Letters from the Lab: AstraZeneca's Oncology Research

06.26.12 | By Jennifer Wall

Over the last several weeks, we've been fortunate to feature many blog posts on the Catalyst from prominent oncology researchers working for biopharmaceutical research companies. Many of these researchers have been active participants at various oncology conferences and events, such as the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, throughout the month of June. As these events wind down, we at PhRMA continue to reflect on progress that has been made in the war against cancer.

While we reflect, researchers at our member companies are moving forward in their pursuit of new, innovative treatments for the millions of patients battling cancer. This is where Dr. Kevin Webster, Vice President of Oncology Innovative Science at AstraZeneca, comes into the picture.

Dr. Webster kindly wrote to us about his team's commitment to oncology research and discovery, with a particular focus on personalized medicines. Kicking off our featured guest blog post is Susan Galbraith, Head of Oncology iMed, Innovative Medicines, AstraZeneca.

I also urge you to check out AstraZeneca's series "Oncology: letters from the lab," for more insight into what scientists are saying about their research around cancer.

Susan Galbraith, Head of Oncology iMed, Innovative Medicines, AstraZeneca

[caption id="attachment_2672" align="alignleft" width="173" caption="Susan Galbraith"]Susan Galbraith[/caption]

ASCO's annual conference recently took place in Chicago, and it was a great opportunity to collaborate with others on the latest oncology research. Cancer is still one of the world's biggest healthcare challenges, claiming more than seven million lives every year, and the numbers continue to rise. Having said that, the way cancer is being treated has changed in recent years. The diagnosis of cancer is increasingly seen as a chronic disease that, while not always "curable," can often be successfully managed with appropriate treatment.

At AstraZeneca, some of our oncology scientists have been sharing insights into their research with "letters from the lab." Below you can read about our progress in Waltham, Mass. from Dr. Kevin Webster, Vice President of Oncology Innovative Science.

Dr. Kevin R. Webster - Vice President of Oncology Innovative Science: The latest from Waltham's oncology progress

Cancer still represents an area of high unmet medical need. Although more than thirty new medicines have been approved since 2005, most patients with common cancers still die from their disease. In addition, global cancer incidence will increase 27 percent by 2020, with significant growth in Asia from aging populations, the smoking epidemic and unhealthy lifestyles. Our ambition is to redefine the cancer problem, discover new therapeutic solutions based on expanding disease knowledge and make a meaningful difference to patients.

Today, we are fortunate to be working in a period of transformation in oncology research and drug development. Over the past decade, the academic, clinical and industrial sectors have delivered significant technological advances. These are enabling a new strategic focus on targeting the molecular drivers of disease. We are shifting our focus from the classic definition of the disease (cancer histology) to an understanding of the molecular characteristics. Large public initiatives have laid the foundation to enable genomic classification of patient's tumors in real time, influencing treatment decisions and driving the discovery of new drug targets. At its core, our strategy is patient-driven drug discovery and development. Our new drug targets, preclinical disease models and, ultimately, our clinical trial design are all driven by a molecular understanding of our patients.

AstraZeneca oncology is focusing on five disease areas including lung, breast, gastrointestinal, urology and hematology. Where I am based in Waltham, Mass., we have assembled a great team of scientists. Their research is directed toward the hematological cancers, breast and lung cancers with an emphasis on novel genetic drivers of disease. The wealth of patient genetic data presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to discover medicines that deliver a step change in the treatment of disease and ultimately save patients' lives.

>> Read the full set of Oncology: letters from the lab.

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