ITOCHU Announces Support for Research on Next-Generation Cancer Treatment Method

June 4, 2019

ITOCHU Corporation (headquartered in Minato-ku, Tokyo; Yoshihisa Suzuki, President & COO; hereinafter “ITOCHU“) announced today that it and Nagoya University (located in Nagoya-shi, Aichi; Seiichi Matsuo, President) have agreed to establish an academic-corporate research course to conduct research on a cancer treatment method.

In Japan, more than 1.1 million patients have been diagnosed with cancer and the incidence rate of cancer for people under the age of 80 is considered to be as high as 29%*1. Under these circumstances, it has become an urgent social issue to save the lives of as many patients with cancer as possible and to alleviate the related pain. Moreover, in conventional anticancer agents, side effects may occur due to the attack on non-cancerous cells, thus many patients with cancer wish for the development of a revolutionary method of treatment with highly therapeutic effects and fewer side effects.
To solve these social issues, research and development has been advancing in molecular-targeted therapies in which only the target cells are selectively attacked. There is also potential medical demand from patients with cancer for which a therapy has yet to be found.

In the academic-corporate research course to be established, under the supervision and leadership of Dr. Fujishiro of Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, research on advanced gene therapy for cancer will be conducted for 40 months, from June 2019 to September 2022, focusing on the abnormality of control in the cell cycle*2 for which a relationship with the growth of cancer cells has been highlighted. The novelty of research on therapies targeting proteins related to the replication of DNA, which is the subject of the research to be conducted by the course, is high compared to conventional research and may result the discovery of innovative therapy for cancer.

ITOCHU has been exchanging opinions with Professor Fujishiro about the possibility of a next-generation therapy for cancer since he was an associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo, and decided to support the academic-corporate research course mentioned above when he became a professor at the Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine on January 1, 2019. When the new type of cancer therapy to be developed by the research in this course takes effect, ITOCHU will own the intellectual property licencses and support the development and establishment of businesses for pharmaceutical products for the new therapy with approval from the authorities by licensing the resulting products, making the therapy accessible to more patients in the future.

Under the Sustainability Action Plan of “Contribution to a Healthy and Abundant Life,” ITOCHU has been promoting support for efforts for living with cancer and has been implementing the support measure for balancing cancer care and work through which each of our employees with cancer are enabled to more actively take part in their jobs and exert their abilities. In fiscal year 2017, the initiative was highly evaluated and we received the award for excellence at the Awards Commending Companies that Implement Excellent Initiatives to Help Cancer Patients Balance Cancer Treatment and Work sponsored by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Our initiative announced in this release relates the above concept, and we consider it to be an academically, clinically and socially meaningful initiative, because it pursues the development of a novel therapy that will be available not only to our employees but also to cancer patients in general.
Moving forward, ITOCHU will continue to support patients with cancer by implementing this new initiative.

  • *1 Based on the statistics by the National Cancer Center Japan.
  • *2A cycle of activities for cells in the course of repeated cytokinesis.