We are at the forefront of healthcare change and recognise the need for improved treatments for cancer. We are building a portfolio of pioneering therapies that are extending the lives of people living with cancer.
Astellas’ commitment to oncology
At Astellas, we are at the forefront of science, working hard to turn new discoveries into value for patients. Our oncology pipeline approach involves combining collaboration, cutting-edge technology and the latest discovery platforms to find new cancer treatments and novel pathways. We are focused on understanding the causes of cancer and looking for solutions that address the underlying pathology. Building on our heritage in scientific innovation, Astellas has made a long-term commitment to the research and development of therapies for cancer. Oncology is Astellas’ largest area of focus, with more treatments and ongoing areas of study than any other area. Currently, we have therapies licensed in Europe for advanced prostate cancer, acute myeloid leukaemia and advanced urothelial cancer, and a treatment for pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer is in development.
Oncology is the study of cancer; it includes a focus on prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Despite advances in oncology treatment and improved outcomes in many cases (especially early-stage cancer), some, cancers have low survival rates, including gastric cancer,1 acute myeloid leukaemia,2,3 advanced urothelial cancer4 and pancreatic cancer5, highlighting an urgent need for new medicines to help improve outcomes.
Our Commitment to Patients
Delivering for people with cancer
Astellas has made a long-term commitment to go beyond treatment with a promise to make each day better for those affected by cancer. Our vision is to support the development of health solutions through the lens of the patient using our intimate understanding of real-world patient needs. We strive to create authentic connections, build long-lasting relationships and apply unique insights from patients, caregivers and healthcare providers to our work.
We are committed to delivering a real difference to people living with cancer and their families through the pursuit of therapies for cancers for which few effective options exist. We engage with patients and learn about their unique experiences and real-world behaviours and collect evidence to transform the way we design and develop medicines to address these unmet needs.
Advanced prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is the third most common form of cancer among men worldwide.6 Fortunately, most people living with prostate cancer have successful treatment outcomes following initial therapy (also referred to as first-line treatment).7 In fact, the 5-year survival rate for men with prostate cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body is nearly 100%.8 However, for those whose cancer has spread, the 5-year survival rate drops to 50%.8
Acute myeloid leukaemia
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is one of the most common types of leukaemia in adults, but it’s still rare.2 The incidence of AML in Europe is around five cases per 100,000 people per year, and the incidence rate is higher among males than females.9 It is also more common for people aged over 60 to be diagnosed with AML.9 The 5-year survival rate for those aged over 60 ranges from 20% to 42%, depending on age and genetic risk factors.10 However, outcomes are particularly poor for people living with AML who do not respond well to initial chemotherapy (refractory) or whose disease returns (relapse).9
At Astellas, we’re dedicated to listening to people living with cancer to better understand their unmet needs to help improve their quality of life. Hear from Samantha on her treatment journey with AML.
Advanced urothelial cancer
In Europe, bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer.11 In 2020, an estimated 204,000 people were diagnosed with bladder cancer and more than 67,000 died as a result of the disease.12 The 5-year survival rate for people with bladder cancer in Europe is around 70%.13 Urothelial cancer is by far the most common type of bladder cancer, accounting for more than 90% of cases.14 However, current treatment options are limited.
New therapies are needed for people living with advanced bladder cancer whose disease has progressed despite chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Astellas is dedicated to advancing treatment options in the area of urothelial cancer and putting patients at the forefront of drug developments.
Watch this video of Laura, a survivor of urothelial cancer.
In Europe, stomach cancer is one of the 10 most common cancers.15 Each year in Europe, over 130,000 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer and nearly 100,000 die.16 In 2020, there were over 1 million new cases and 768,000 deaths estimated worldwide for cancers of the stomach.16
The majority of people living with gastric cancer are not diagnosed until they present with metastasis-related symptoms, such as weight loss, anorexia or nausea, or symptoms similar to gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD, also known as GERD) and peptic ulcer disease.17 In Europe in particular, gastric cancer is more likely to be diagnosed later in part due to a lack of screening programmes.18
It is important for those at risk of or facing the disease to understand how to recognise signs, support family members once diagnosed and understand some of the ongoing research in this disease.
Pancreatic cancer is the seventh most common cancer in Europe15 and fourth leading cause of death out of all cancers.19 Globally, there are nearly 500,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer a year.20 There are many risk factors to pancreatic cancer; however, tobacco smoking and excess body weight are responsible for 10–30% of cases.21 Pancreatic cancer is strongly age-dependent; therefore, an increasing ageing population may lead to an increase in the global burden of pancreatic cancer.21 By 2040, it is estimated that the total number of cases in the EU will increase by more than 30%; therefore, developing new treatment options for pancreatic cancer is critical.21
Focused on innovation
At Astellas, we recognise that bringing the most promising cancer medicines to patients requires collective thinking and exploration across the cancer community. We are accelerating our research into cancer treatments through a combination of in-house research and partnerships with some of the world’s most renowned institutions at the forefront of cancer research. In total, we have more than 100 ongoing collaborative research projects across the world.
Through intense focus on the most promising investigational therapies and technologies, we offer a strong oncology product portfolio with a rich pipeline of small molecules, monoclonal antibodies and truly novel immuno-oncology approaches, targeting some of the hardest-to-treat cancers that have very limited treatment options.
Advanced prostate cancer
For over a decade, we’ve been conducting ongoing clinical research to better understand the impact of advanced prostate cancer, and we’ve been working closely with partners to better understand the needs of people living with prostate cancer.
Advanced prostate cancer is cancer that has spread from the prostate (a walnut-sized gland located in men’s bodies underneath the bladder and surrounding the urethra) to other parts of the body or that no longer responds to treatment to lower testosterone levels.22,23
Working with patient groups across Europe, Astellas created the Let’s Talk Prostate Cancer Digital Atlas to outline statistics on prostate cancer and the key challenges people face with a prostate cancer diagnosis.
Acute myeloid leukaemia
Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of cancer that affects the bone marrow and blood.24 AML is deemed ‘acute’, meaning that this type of leukaemia can progress quickly and, if not treated, can be fatal within a few months.25,26
Astellas is committed to providing the best possible outcomes for people living with AML, with more than 10 ongoing clinical trials across the patient spectrum, trialling both monotherapies and combination therapies and including newly diagnosed and relapsed/refractory patients.
Advanced urothelial cancer
Urothelial carcinoma (UC), also known as transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), is the most common type of bladder cancer, accounting for approximately 90% of all cases.14 It begins in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder and other parts of the urinary tract.27
There are three categories of UC, and they include five stages of the disease28:
- Non-muscle-invasive (Stage 0–1)
- Muscle-invasive (Stages 2–3)
- Advanced and metastatic disease (Stages 4–5).
Advanced stages of the disease can be:
- Locally advanced – the tumour has grown through the bladder wall or has spread to the lymph nodes29
- Metastatic – cancer cells may have spread from where the cancer started to another part of the body.30 Bladder cancer can spread to organs close to the bladder or further away, such as the liver or lungs, or bones.31
While advances have been made in the management of advanced urothelial cancer, patients face significant unmet medical needs, and many progress after first-line treatment.
Astellas is dedicated to advancing treatment options in the area of urothelial cancer and putting patients at the forefront of drug developments. Find out more about this in the Astellas Facing Bladder Cancer report.
Gastric cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the lining of the stomach.32 Cancer can also develop where the food pipe (oesophagus) joins the stomach; this is known as gastro-oesophageal junction cancer.33 Age, diet and stomach disease can affect the risk of developing gastric cancer.32
The average 5-year survival rate for gastric cancer in Europe is 26%.34 Once diagnosed, the disease is often far along, aggressive and difficult to treat, but the treatment landscape is evolving with the identification of biomarkers.35 Biomarker testing looks for genes, proteins and other substances that can provide information about a person’s cancer. Some biomarkers affect how certain cancer treatments work.35
If caught early enough, surgery to remove the cancer typically offers the best chance of survival.36
While chemotherapy will continue to serve a very important role in the treatment of stomach cancer, the key advances over the past few years have been centred on our understanding of the disease and the tumour itself.36,37
Astellas’ commitment to collaboration
At Astellas, we recognise that bringing the most promising cancer medicines to patients requires collective thinking. Our expertise, science and technology make us a pharma company. Our open and progressive culture is what makes us Astellas.
At Astellas, we are committed to attracting and retaining the best people to build our in-house capabilities as we continue as leaders at the forefront of change and innovation in oncology. Patient centricity and supporting people living with cancer are at the centre of what we do.
We have employees across Europe dedicated to cancer care, and we are proud of the work happening in each of our regions. We will continue working towards our vision in oncology by building on our strong heritage and evolving pipeline, and we will continue to work in collaboration with scientific and patient communities to support people living with cancer and their families.
1 Lordick, F., et al. “Unmet Needs and Challenges in Gastric Cancer: The Way Forward.” Cancer Treatment Reviews, vol. 40, no. 6, July 2014, pp. 692–700.
2 Visser, O., et al. “Incidence, Survival and Prevalence of Myeloid Malignancies in Europe.” European Journal of Cancer, vol. 48, no. 17, Nov. 2012, pp. 3257–66.
3 Cancer Research UK. Survival for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Available from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/acute-myeloid-leukaemia-aml/survival#:~:text=Generally%20for%20all%20people%20with,or%20more%20after%20being%20diagnosed. Last accessed December 2022.
4 Cancer Research UK: Survival: Bladder Cancer statistics. Available from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/bladder-cancer#:~:text=Bladder%20cancer%20survival,more%20(2013%2D2017). Last accessed December 2022.
5 Pourshams, A., et al. “The Global, Regional, and National Burden of Pancreatic Cancer and Its Attributable Risk Factors in 195 Countries and Territories, 1990–2017: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017.” The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, vol. 4, no. 12, Dec. 2019, pp. 934–47.
6 GLOBOCAN 2020. Estimated number of new cases in 2020, worldwide, both sexes, all ages. Available from: https://gco.iarc.fr/today/online-analysis-pie?v=2020&mode=cancer&mode_population=continents&population=900&populations=900&key=total&sex=0&cancer=39&type=0&statistic=5&prevalence=0&population_group=0&ages_group%5B%5D=0&ages_group%5B%5D=17&nb_items=7&grou. Last accessed December 2022.
7 Crawford, E.D., et al. “Androgen-Targeted Therapy in Men with Prostate Cancer: Evolving Practice and Future Considerations.” Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, vol. 22, no. 1, Mar. 2019, pp. 24–38.
8 Cancer Research UK. Survival of prostate cancer. Available from: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/prostate-cancer/survival. Last accessed December 2022.
9 Heuser, M., et al. “Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in Adult Patients: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for Diagnosis, Treatment and Follow-Up.” Annals of Oncology, vol. 31, no. 6, June 2020, pp. 697–712.
10 Herold, T., et al. “Validation and Refinement of the Revised 2017 European LeukemiaNet Genetic Risk Stratification of Acute Myeloid Leukemia.” Leukemia, vol. 34, no. 12, Dec. 2020, pp. 3161–72.
11 Crocetti E. Epidemiology of bladder cancer in Europe. Centre for Parliamentary Studies; 2016. JRC101380.
12 GLOBOCAN 2020. Bladder Cancer Factsheet 2020. Available from: https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/cancers/30-Bladder-fact-sheet.pdf. Last accessed December 2022.
13 Richters, A., et al. “The Global Burden of Urinary Bladder Cancer: An Update.” World Journal of Urology, vol. 38, no. 8, Aug. 2020, pp. 1895–904.
14 Babjuk, M., et al. “European Association of Urology Guidelines on Non–Muscle-Invasive Bladder Cancer (Ta, T1, and Carcinoma in Situ).” European Urology, vol. 81, no. 1, Jan. 2022, pp. 75–94.
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20 GLOBOCAN 2020. Pancreas Cancer Factsheet 2020. Available from: https://gco.iarc.fr/today/data/factsheets/cancers/13-Pancreas-fact-sheet.pdf. Last accessed December 2022.
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ONC_2022_0101_UK. December 2022