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Posts Tagged ‘Merck & Co.’


Moderna Therapeutics Deal with Merck: Are Personalized Vaccines here?

Curator & Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Take aways:

  • RNA based vaccines are a cost-effective method of developing and manufacturing a personalized cancer vaccine strategy; traditional vaccine methodology has not been met with much success as a cancer therapeutic
  • Most of the older RNA vaccine technology depended on isolated dendritic cells or T cell populations and ex-vivo treatment with RNA vaccine, HOWEVER, Moderna has developed a technology that circumvents the need for ex-vivo vaccination
  • There are multiple companies involved in this new RNA strategy (Moderna, Caperna {now Moderna}, CureVac, Biontech)

From BusinessWire at http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160629005446/en/Merck-Moderna-Announce-Strategic-Collaboration-Advance-mRNA-Based

Merck and Moderna Announce Strategic Collaboration to Advance Novel mRNA-Based Personalized Cancer Vaccines with KEYTRUDA®(pembrolizumab) for the Treatment of Multiple Types of Cancer

Collaboration Combines Merck’s Leadership in Immuno-Oncology with Moderna’s Pioneering mRNA Vaccine Technology and Rapid Cycle Time, Small-Batch GMP Manufacturing Capabilities

KENILWORTH, N.J. & CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Moderna Therapeutics today announced a strategic collaboration and license agreement to develop and commercialize novel messenger RNA (mRNA)-based personalized cancer vaccines. The collaboration will combine Merck’s established leadership in immuno-oncology with Moderna’s pioneering mRNA vaccine technology and GMP manufacturing capabilities to advance individually tailored cancer vaccines for patients across a spectrum of cancers.

“Combining immunotherapy with vaccine technology may be a new path toward improving outcomes for patients”

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Moderna and Merck will develop personalized cancer vaccines that utilize Moderna’s mRNA vaccine technology to encode a patient’s specific neoantigens, unique mutations present in that specific patient’s tumor. When injected into a patient, the vaccine will be designed to elicit a specific immune response that will recognize and destroy cancer cells. The companies believe that the mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines’ ability to specifically activate an individual patient’s immune system has the potential to be synergistic with checkpoint inhibitor therapies, including Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab). In addition, Moderna has developed a rapid cycle time, small-batch manufacturing technique that will uniquely allow the company to supply vaccines tailored to individual patients within weeks.

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will make an upfront cash payment to Moderna of $200 million, which Moderna will use to lead all research and development efforts through proof of concept. The development program will entail multiple studies in several types of cancer and include the evaluation of mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines in combination with Merck’s KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab). Moderna will also utilize the upfront payment to fund a portion of the build-out of a GMP manufacturing facility in suburban Boston for the purpose of personalized cancer vaccine manufacturing.

Following human proof of concept studies, Merck has the right to elect to make an additional undisclosed payment to Moderna. If exercised, the two companies will then equally share cost and profits under a worldwide collaboration for the development of personalized cancer vaccines. Moderna will have the right to elect to co-promote the personalized cancer vaccines in the U.S. The agreement entails exclusivity around combinations with KEYTRUDA. Moderna and Merck will each have the ability to combine mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines with other (non-PD-1) agents.

Combining immunotherapy with vaccine technology may be a new path toward improving outcomes for patients,” said Dr. Roger Perlmutter, President, Merck Research Laboratories. “While the area of personalized cancer vaccine research has faced challenges in the past, there have been many recent advances, and we believe that working with Moderna to combine an immuno-oncology approach, using KEYTRUDA, with mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines may have the potential to transform the treatment of cancer.”

“Our team has made significant progress since beginning our work in personalized cancer vaccines just last year. Through this collaboration with Merck, we are now well-positioned to accelerate research and development with a goal of entering the clinic in 2017, as well as to apply our unique GMP manufacturing capabilities to support the rapid production of these highly individualized vaccines,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna. “We value our continued collaboration with Merck, and we look forward to working together to harness the potential of personalized cancer vaccines and immuno-oncology to bring a new treatment paradigm to patients.”

Merck and Moderna have an existing collaboration and license agreement focused on the discovery and development of mRNA-based infectious disease vaccines and passive immunity treatments. Moderna is also advancing its own pipeline of infectious disease vaccine candidates and currently has two phase 1 studies underway in Europe and the U.S.

About Moderna Therapeutics

Moderna is a clinical stage pioneer of messenger RNA Therapeutics™, an entirely new in vivo drug technology that produces human proteins, antibodies and entirely novel protein constructs inside patient cells, which are in turn secreted or active intracellularly. This breakthrough platform addresses currently undruggable targets and offers a potentially superior alternative to existing drug modalities for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Moderna is developing and plans to commercialize its innovative mRNA drugs through its own ventures and its strategic relationships with established pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Its current ventures are:

  • Onkaido, focused on oncology,
  • Valera, focused on infectious diseases,
  • Elpidera, focused on rare diseases, and
  • Caperna, focused on personalized cancer vaccines.

Cambridge-based Moderna is privately held and currently has strategic agreements with AstraZeneca, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Merck. To learn more, visit www.modernatx.com.

From the Moderna Therapeutics Website

Our mRNA Platform

At Moderna, we are pioneering the development of a new class of drugs made of messenger RNA (mRNA). This novel drug platform builds on the discovery that modified mRNA can direct the body’s cellular machinery to produce nearly any protein of interest, from native proteins to antibodies and other entirely novel protein constructs that can have therapeutic activity inside and outside of cells.

Our efforts are helping Moderna and the industry to flatten the mRNA learning curve across the full breadth of competencies needed to drive the platform forward, including chemistry, mRNA biology, formulation, process development, automation and high-throughput production, quality, and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) manufacturing.

Drug Modalities

Building from our mRNA core expression platform, we have created a new scale of drug discovery and development that enables a series of new drug modalities. Each modality represents a distinct approach to using the mRNA platform to encode proteins that achieve a therapeutic benefit, enabling us to develop numerous drug candidates across a wide array of therapeutic areas.

Vaccines

Vaccines are substances that teach the immune system to rapidly recognize and destroy invading pathogens such as bacteria or viruses, preparing the body’s adaptive immunity for future exposure to the pathogen. Historically, vaccines have introduced immune-activating markers from pathogens into the body. Conversely, Moderna is developing mRNA-based vaccines that enable the body to produce and present immunogenic proteins to the immune system.

Moderna is also developing mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines to prime the immune system to recognize cancer cells and mount a strong, tailored response to each individual patient’s cancer. Moderna’s technology allows for a rapid turn-around time in production of these unique mRNA vaccines.

Intracellular/Transmembrane

Many diseases are caused by defects in proteins that function inside cells. Existing methods of protein-based therapy do not allow for proteins to reach the intracellular space, and as such are unable to replace the defective, disease-causing proteins within cells. Moderna’s platform allows for the development of mRNA therapies that can stimulate production of intracellular proteins as well as transmembrane proteins. This could potentially lead to a novel approach to treating a vast array of rare genetic and other diseases caused by intracellular protein defects.

Intratumoral

Many targets for the treatment of cancer have been identified but their therapeutic potential has been limited by either the inability to access these targets, or by systemic toxicities. Moderna’s platform allows for localized expression of therapeutic proteins within the tumor microenvironment.

Secreted antibodies

Antibodies are secreted proteins that bind to and inhibit specific targets. Moderna’s platform has the potential to stimulate the body’s own cells to produce specific antibodies that can bind to cellular targets.

Secreted proteins

Proteins are large, complex molecules that have many critical functions both inside and outside of cells. Moderna’s platform stimulates cells to produce and secrete proteins that can have a therapeutic benefit through systemic exposure.

Moderna is comprised of four smaller companies, the following three are involved in their personalized immunotherapy and cancer vaccine strategy

Caperna LLC

Caperna

Caperna LLC is the fourth Moderna venture company — formed, funded and wholly-owned by Moderna — and focused exclusively on the advancement of personalized cancer vaccines.

Caperna will apply Moderna’s mRNA vaccine technology to the field of cancer vaccines, building on advances in recent years in cancer immunotherapy. Utilizing Moderna’s demonstrated engineering and process capability to synthesize over 1,000 unique novel mRNA’s per month in Moderna’s, automated, in-house productions systems. This provides the basis for a vision of rapid turnaround times that will allow Caperna’s personalized cancer vaccine, customized after tumor biopsy and sequencing to code for specific neoantigens in patients’ tumors, to be used to treat patients with aggressive tumors and high unmet need (rather than those with less aggressive tumors which can’t wait for prolonged turnaround times). Caperna will develop its personalized cancer vaccines in combination with checkpoint inhibitors that unleash the immune system and other cancer immunotherapies.

Corporate Facts

  • President: Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Head of Research: Nicholas Valiante, Ph.D.
  • Head of Operations: Ted Ashburn, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Headquarters: 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Phone: 617-714-6500
  • Website: Caperna.com

 

Onkaido

Onkaido

Onkaido Therapeutics is the first Moderna venture company – formed, funded and wholly-owned by Moderna. Onkaido is focused exclusively on developing mRNA-based oncology treatments for currently undruggable targets or as a superior alternative to existing drug modalities. Onkaido is leveraging all of the tools and modalities developed at Moderna, with plans to rapidly turn mRNA science into truly novel cancer therapies that can make a real difference for patients.

Onkaido is currently focused on three therapeutic areas of oncology drug discovery and development: immuno-oncology, hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) and myeloid malignancies – with programs investigating multiple targets and therapies simultaneously. Onkaido scientists are also exploring the power of mRNA technology in precision cancer pharmacology – researching areas such as tumor biology, targeting and gene silencing, driving the science toward the delivery of truly personalized cancer treatment.

Corporate Facts

  • President: Stephen Kelsey, M.D.
  • Headquarters: 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Phone: 617-714-6500
  • Website: Onkaido.com

 

Valera

Valera

Valera LLC is the second Moderna venture company — formed, funded and wholly-owned by Moderna — and focused exclusively on the advancement of vaccines and therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of viral, bacterial and parasitic infectious diseases.

The vaccines work of Valera builds on a body of preclinical research at Moderna showing the ability of modified mRNA to express viral antigens in vivo and to induce robust immune responses. Valera’s therapeutic passive immunity programs will expand on Moderna’s research using mRNA to express antibodies that bind to viral and other targets. The robust data from these programs across a range of preclinical infectious disease models, together with the inherent, rapid turn-around time in creating novel mRNA constructs, provide Valera with a potentially powerful and versatile new platform for the creation of a broad array of vaccines and passive immunity therapies.

Corporate Facts

  • President: Michael Watson, MB ChB, MRCP, AFPM
  • Chief Scientific OfficerGiuseppe Ciaramella, Ph.D.
  • Interim Chief Medical OfficerTal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Headquarters: 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Phone: 617-714-6500
  • Website: Valeratx.com

And from http://endpts.com/neoantigens-beckon-merck-into-a-200m-cancer-collaboration-with-moderna/

Neoantigens beckon Merck into a $200M cancer collaboration with Moderna


Now that Galena has added fresh evidence that first-gen cancer vaccines make for a poor R&D program, Merck is betting $200 million upfront that the next-gen neoantigen approach to personalized cancer vaccines can succeed where all else has failed.

Merck is tying up with the mRNA specialists at Cambridge, MA-based Moderna, which has inked a long lineup of marquee partnerships. The big idea here is that each person’s cancer cells present unique “neoantigens” that can be used to tailor a cancer vaccine for each patient.

That’s a radical idea that has gained considerable steam in recent months, with Gritstone and Neon Therapeutics — paired now with Bristol-Myers on Opdivo — rounding up significant venture cash. Biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has also jumped into the game, including it in its growing slate of cancer R&D work in a group of startups.

Moderna says it has already set up a manufacturing system that can be used to create these personalized vaccines in a matter of weeks. And Merck will use the partnership to advance new combination therapies that include its checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda.

The way the deal works, Moderna notes in its statement, is that Merck can step up after it sees some evidence in humans that the tech is working as planned. After human proof-of-concept, if Merck wants to opt in they can pay a significant milestone and then both companies can share the cost on Phase III and commercializations, profiting equally.Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel says they can jump into the clinic next year.

The deal marks another rare pact by Merck R&D chief Roger Perlmutter, who’s been carefully focused on making Keytruda a foundation franchise that can sustain the company for years to come. While Merck has been a couple of steps behind Bristol-Myers in gaining market share, Perlmutter’s not settling for a second place finish.

“Combining immunotherapy with vaccine technology may be a new path toward improving outcomes for patients,” said Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “While the area of personalized cancer vaccine research has faced challenges in the past, there have been many recent advances, and we believe that working with Moderna to combine an immuno-oncology approach, using KEYTRUDA, with mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines may have the potential to transform the treatment of cancer.”

From FierceBiotech on failure of Galena’s breast cancer vaccine trial

Galena plummets into microcap territory on Phase III breast cancer vaccine trial halt

Immunother Cancer. 2015; 3: 26.
Published online 2015 Jun 16. doi:  10.1186/s40425-015-0068-y
PMCID: PMC4468959

Self-adjuvanted mRNA vaccination in advanced prostate cancer patients: a first-in-man phase I/IIa study

Klinikum rechts der Isar der Technischen Universität München, Munich, Germany
CureVac GmbH, Paul-Ehrlich-Str. 15, Tuebingen, 72076 Germany
Charité University Hospital Berlin, Berlin, Germany
University Hospital Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
Universitäty Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany
San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy
University Hospital of the Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz, Mainz, Germany
Ortenau Klinikum Offenburg-Gengenbach, Offenburg, Germany
University Hospital Göttingen, Göttingen/University Hospital Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany
University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein Campus Luebeck, Luebeck, Germany
Rippin-Consulting, Solingen, Germany
University Hospital Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany
Hubert Kübler, ed.nehcneum-ut.zrl@relbeuK.H.
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
#Contributed equally.

Abstract

Background

CV9103 is a prostate-cancer vaccine containing self-adjuvanted mRNA (RNActive®) encoding the antigens PSA, PSCA, PSMA, and STEAP1. This phase I/IIa study evaluated safety and immunogenicity of CV9103 in patients with advanced castration-resistant prostate-cancer.

Methods

44 Patients received up to 5 intra-dermal vaccinations. Three dose levels of total mRNA were tested in Phase I in cohorts of 3–6 patients to determine a recommended dose. In phase II, 32 additional patients were treated at the recommended dose. The primary endpoint was safety and tolerability, the secondary endpoint was induction of antigen specific immune responses monitored at baseline and at weeks 5, 9 and 17.

Results

The most frequent adverse events were grade 1/2 injection site erythema, injection site reactions, fatigue, pyrexia, chills and influenza-like illness. Possibly treatment related urinary retention occurred in 3 patients. The recommended dose was 1280 μg. A total of 26/33 evaluable patients treated at 1280 μg developed an immune response, directed against multiple antigens in 15 out of 33 patients. One patient showed a confirmed PSA response. In the subgroup of 36 metastatic patients, the Kaplan-Meier estimate of median overall survival was 31.4 months [95 % CI: 21.2; n.a].

Conclusions

The self-adjuvanted RNActive® vaccine CV9103 was well tolerated and immunogenic.

The technology is a versatile, fast and cost-effective platform allowing for creation of vaccines. The follow-up vaccine CV9104 including the additional antigens prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) and Muc1 is currently being tested in a randomized phase IIb trial to assess the clinical benefit induced by this new vaccination approach.

SOURCE

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4468959/

Other articles in the Open Access Journal on Cancer Vaccines Include:

Cancer Vaccines: Targeting Cancer Genes for Immunotherapy – A Conference by Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology

AACR2016 – Cancer immunotherapy

Aduro Biotech Phase II Pancreatic Cancer Trial CRS-207 plus cancer vaccine GVAX Fails

Cases in Biotech Entrepreneurship: Selective Start Ups in 2016

at #JPM16 – Moderna Therapeutics turns away an extra $200 million: with AstraZeneca (collaboration) & with Merck ($100 million investment)

 

Read Full Post »


Keynote Address Speaker and Panel Updates Announced

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Scientific innovation is at the core of Big Pharma‘s business model, but continuous transformation critical to R&D momentum has been an ongoing, multi-year challenge. Big Pharma has struggled to manage costs while delivering on productivity. Unmet medical need remains a compelling scientific and business opportunity, as is development of truly differentiated medicines and orphan drugs.

 

R&D: Balancing Austerity and Innovation at the 23rd Annual PSA: The Pharmaceutical Strategy Conference, being held September 23-25, 2013 at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City. Successful R&D leaders discuss their strategies for maintaining excellence and adaptability in the face of internal and external hurdles.

 

Matthias Evers, PhD (Moderator), Partner, McKinsey & Company 

George Yancopoulos, MD, PhD, President & CSO, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

Rupert Vessey, SVP, R&D Strategy, Merck & Co., Inc.

JC Gutierrez-Ramos, SVP & Head of Biotherapeutics R&D, Pfizer

 

Keynote Address: Applying the Lessons of Philanthropy

Tadataka “Tachi” Yamada

Chief Medical and Scientific Officer

Takeda Pharmaceuticals

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Reporters: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN and Pnina Abir-Am, PhD
Jeffrey L. Sturchio

Senior Partner, Rabin Martin

Jeffrey L. Sturchio is senior partner at Rabin Martin, a global health strategy firm in New York. Prior to joining the firm, he served as president and CEO of the Global Health Council. Before joining the Council, Dr. Sturchio was vice president of Corporate Responsibility at Merck & Co. Inc., president of the Merck Company Foundation and chairman of the U. S. Corporate Council on Africa, whose 150 member companies represent some 85 percent of total US private sector investment in Africa. He is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Applied Economics and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He received an AB in history from Princeton University and a PhD in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania.

World Cancer Day: Treatment Should Not Be a Luxury
Posted: 02/04/2013 10:20 am
Huffington Post IMPACT
Author: Jeffrey L. Sturchio, Senior Partner, Rabin Martin

co-authored by Cary Adams.

All of us have been touched by cancer, whether personally or through the experience of our families and friends. For those of us living in the developed world, many types of cancer have ceased to be the “dread disease” they once were: Given the remarkable advances in basic science and oncology, it’s more a question of what the best course of treatment is, rather than one of availability or affordability. But for most of the world, access to cancer screening, detection, diagnosis and oncology care is still an unattainable luxury. Considering that nearly half of cancer cases — and 55 percent of the deaths — occur in less developed countries, we need to make progress now.

If left unchecked, the annual economic burden of cancer will be an estimated $458 billion by 2030, according to a study by the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health. But the human cost of 21.4 million new cases per year by 2030 is, quite simply, unacceptable. In commemoration of World Cancer Day (Today, February 4), we call for the global community to step-up its efforts to address cancer and other NCDs.

Cancers, along with other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, upper respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease, are the leading causes of mortality around the world. Indeed, the number of cancer deaths alone surpasses those attributed to AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Once considered illnesses of the wealthy, 80 percent of the estimated 36 million NCD-related deaths actually occur in low- to middle- income countries, according to the World Health Organization. And while a global movement for action on NCDs has been gathering momentum in recent years, much remains to be done.

The Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University recently released a set of policy briefs that present recommendations for Addressing the Gaps in Global Policy and Research for Non-Communicable Disease. The publication compiles the findings of a Working Group of leading experts in the field and offers a road map of actionable recommendations for reducing the global burden of these diseases.

The report echoes many of the themes put forth by the global cancer community for achieving the goals articulated in the World Cancer Declaration. For starters, there needs to be a multi-sectoral approach to cancer. Governments, civil society, academe and the private sector must work together to leverage strengths and efficiencies to advance efforts to reduce the burden of cancer.

Greater participation by the private sector in a transparent and open way will improve efforts against the disease in coming years. Certainly, private-public partnerships to tackle cancer exist, but greater collaboration among stakeholders is needed. One suggestion may be to develop a knowledge exchange network for oncology researchers in industry and academe to accelerate the rate of progress in discovering and developing new vaccines, personalized medicines, pharmaceuticals and other essential medical technologies. While their most significant role is — and will continue to be — in R&D, the private sector can also lend considerable expertise in systems efficiencies, human resource development and supply chain management, to name just a few areas in which their capabilities can improve the global response to cancer.

Governments need to play a more active role in actively reducing and raising awareness about risk factors for cancer and other NCDs. They need to work with civil society and industry to reduce tobacco and excessive alcohol use, while promoting healthier diets and physical activity at the national and community levels. Again the private sector can play a lead role in improving the health impacts of their products to reduce the global growth in NCDs.

Countries need to make greater investments in building the capacity of local health workers so they are more capable of educating patients about reducing their cancer risk through behavior modification as well as immunization against human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B (HBV) infections (which can lead to cervical cancer and primary liver cancer, respectively). Health workers are the first line of defense, detecting hallmarks of disease and providing cancer screening, treatment and, when necessary, long-term care. Moreover, countries need to re-evaluate how they can retain health workers who are trained in cancer care. Without them, all interventions become impossible.

Finally, there needs to be greater focus on providing equitable access to screening, early diagnosis and treatment. Self-exams and visual inspection with acetic acid for breast cancer and cervical cancer screening respectively, are two excellent examples of effective, inexpensive, life-saving innovations that can be implemented even in low-resource settings. Integrating these methods into existing primary, reproductive and maternal health service models would help reduce the 750,000 deaths from cervical and breast cancer each year.

It’s a lot of work, but for many of us, cancer hits very close to home. By working together to combat cancer, each doing our part, we can begin to make a difference in the lives of millions — making cancer care and treatment not a luxury, but a reality.

Cary Adams is CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), which helps the global health community accelerate the fight against cancer. Its growing membership of over 700 organisations in 155 countries features the world’s major cancer societies, ministries of health and patient groups and includes influential policy makers, researchers and experts in cancer prevention and control. Adams and his team focus on global advocacy to deliver the World Cancer Declaration targets by 2020, running global programs that address key cancer issues and use their membership reach to bring about the exchange of best practice globally. He recently became Chair of the NCD Alliance, a coalition of around 2,000 NGOs working on non-communicable diseases.

 SOURCE:
Jeffrey L. Sturchio
Doug Ulman

The Global Burden of Cancer

Posted: 02/04/2011 11:44 am
Most of us in developed countries have dwelled in the shadow of cancer. We’ve anxiously awaited a test result, become intimate with chemotherapy for ourselves or a loved one or held vigil at a bedside.

During those intense and often tragic periods, we usually have options — education, treatment, pain relief and sometimes, blessedly, remission and recovery — that is, if we happen to reside in a wealthy country. Not so for millions of others, adults and children alike, in poorer countries where more than 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur yet five percent or less of cancer resources are allocated to the people living there, despite the growing cancer burden.

Cancer is a growing cause of death worldwide. The cancer burden in low- and middle-income countries is increasingly disproportionate. Globally in 2009, there were an estimated 12.9 million cases of cancer, a number expected to double by 2020, with 60 percent of new cases occurring in low- and middle-income countries.

Not only do these countries carry more than half the disease burden, they lack the resources for cancer awareness and prevention, early detection, treatment or palliative options to relieve the staggering pain and human suffering if the disease is untreated — an unthinkable outcome for people who have cancer in rich nations.

Cancer also has the most devastating economic impact of any cause of death in the world, according to the recent landmark report, “The Global Economic Cost of Cancer,” released by the American Cancer Society and Livestrong. Premature deaths and disability from cancer cost the global economy nearly 1 trillion dollars a year. The data from this study provides compelling evidence that balancing the world’s global health agenda to address cancer more effectively will save not only millions of lives, but also billions of dollars.

By making cancer a global priority, as with many other non-communicable diseases, cancer deaths can be prevented an estimated 40 percent or more. This goal is a particular focus of this year’s World Cancer Day(today, February 4). But prevention can only be achieved through investments in awareness and education. Neglect of prevention leads to unaffordable treatment.

Even though tobacco use is the most preventable cause of cancer, lung cancer still kills more people worldwide than any other — a trend likely to surge unless efforts for global tobacco control are greatly accelerated. Tobacco use is responsible for 1.8 million cancer deaths per year, 60 percent in low- and middle-income nations, thanks to the tobacco industry’s unrelenting country-by-country approach to marketing their addictive product, including to youth. Last year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation won a Global Health Council Excellence in Media Award for its hard-hitting and poignant exposé of tobacco marketing in Indonesia, “80 Million a Day: Big Tobacco’s New Frontier.” We need to cast more light on this invisible killer.

Other preventable risk factors for all cancers are unhealthy lifestyles (including alcohol abuse, inadequate diet and physical inactivity), exposure to occupational (e.g., asbestos) or environmental carcinogens (e.g., indoor air pollution), radiation (e.g., ultraviolet and ionizing radiation) and infections.

Cancers due to infectious diseases account for 8-10 percent of cases in high income countries, but 20-26 percent in developing countries. The human-to-human spread of viruses and bacteria can lead to liver and stomach cancers, lymphomas and leukemia. In addition to infections, many reproductive health diseases are linked to cancer. Strengthening the health systems of developing countries will pave the way for improved vaccine delivery and wider coverage of immunizations that will save lives and protect people’s health.

The Global Health Council and Livestrong call on global partners, allies, donors, policymakers, communities and individuals to work collaboratively to address the treatment expenditure gap and change the trajectory of this tidal wave of cancer. We have a choice – invest now or pay later with significant government spending and the loss of millions of lives and lessened productivity.

Capacity building is essential. Ministries of health, education and finance need to be engaged in developing and supporting plans that include both training of personnel to diagnose and treat cancer patients and strategies to reduce costs and strengthen health systems.

We need to focus on cancer surveillance to set standards to understand better the burden of cancer and the impacts of interventions. We need to implement relevant interventions at scale, including those that draw on successful models that address other diseases. We must rapidly expand information and awareness campaigns on a global scale to reach deeply into affected communities of developing countries. And we need continued investments in research and development for improved knowledge of the science of cancer and better drugs, vaccines and new tools for cancer prevention and control.

Starting today, advocates, governments, non-profits and the private sector must drive new and effective policies, programs and investments. Patients and survivors around the world cannot wait a moment longer for us to advance the global fight against cancer. Failing to act is indefensible — the human and economic costs are too high.

See more information at “Cancer in Developing Countries,” Global Health Council.

 SOURCE:

Around the globe, from Cape Town to Kathmandu, from Manila to Mexico City, millions will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8 — a day to honor the achievements made by and for women. Looking at this milestone through a global health lens, we see an increasingly positive picture, but the view is far from perfect. In fact, we stand at a crossroads.

Globally, we’ve seen a notable decline in maternal deaths from half a million women to 342,000 annually. This is still far too many, but it is an important step in the right direction. Yet this progress is at risk, with mounting efforts underway to deny access to one of the best investments in women’s health: family planning.

In Bangladesh, just last month, a national survey showed a 40 percent drop in maternal deaths during the last decade. One of the contributing factors? Family planning. That is an unprecedented step forward.

Tanzania achieved a 21.5 percent drop in maternal deaths during the last five years, precipitated in part by increased access to and enthusiastic use of modern contraception. Another step forward.

In places like Ghana and Ethiopia, women every day have access to more contraceptive options — another step forward — as they endeavor to plan their families and define their futures. Women like Ayera Kabele, an ambitious 30-year old in Addis Ababa. She married in her early 20s and had a child soon thereafter. But she was also a student who wanted to finish college — a dream achieved because she was able to delay having another child by using an IUD. Four years later, degree in hand, Ayera and her husband were ready for their second child — another dream achieved. Yet another step forward.

This scenario between couples plays out every day around the world — including here in the United States. These are universal conversations about when to start a family and how many children to have. Anyone who has been a party to one can appreciate how vital they are to the health and well-being not only of women, but also of their families as well.

Why is that? In addition to saving women from death and injury during pregnancy or childbirth, saving mothers’ lives saves babies’ lives. Family planning also boosts women’s economic empowerment and creates an environment where children have a better chance not only to survive, but also to thrive. Strong and healthy families lead to stronger and more stable communities, in a virtuous cycle toward prosperity for nations.

We know that up to one-third of maternal deaths could be prevented if every woman who wanted to use contraception to limit or space her births was able to do so. In part, this is due to fewer unwanted pregnancies — especially when women have no other options — and thus to fewer women seeking abortion to end them. Mostly, though, it’s because every pregnancy and childbirth poses risks, especially where medical care is inadequate, if it exists at all. This is how family planning saves lives — and more.

Yet flying in the face of mounting evidence, there is a real risk that the United States foreign assistance budget will include drastic cuts to international family planning — the catalyst to so much good in countless communities worldwide. Indeed, at a moment when every budget dollar must be used as efficiently and effectively as possible, few investments pay better long-term dividends than family planning.

Just four years remain until the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations. A report released last year rated access to reproductive health care as low or moderate in 70 percent of the regions surveyed. This is not acceptable.

There have been strong policy and funding commitments made in the United States’ Global Health Initiative as well as at the United Nations (U.N.) to bolster access to and support for family planning as vital investments to improve the lives of women and families worldwide. The year 2010 also saw the launch of the first-ever U.N.’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health and ongoing efforts by the State Department’s Office on Global Women’s Issues to link foreign policy with women’s rights. There is much reason for optimism.

As we mark the centennial of International Women’s Day, supporters of women’s health worldwide must continue to advocate for family planning and reproductive health services, which have done so much for women and girls in the U.S. and in so many countries around the world.

See the Global Health Council position paper on Maternal, Newborn, Child and Reproductive Health.

 Follow Jeffrey L. Sturchio on Twitter: www.twitter.com/globalhealthorg
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