Daiichi pens lung cancer pact with Dana-Farber, continuing oncology deal drive

Daiichi Sankyo has penned its third cancer pact of the past two weeks. The latest agreement adds a preclinical lung cancer collaboration with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to the Japanese drugmaker’s fast-growing list of oncology alliances.

Through the deal, Daiichi will gain access to animal and patient-derived xenograft models and lung cancer translational medicine know-how developed and accrued by Dr. Pasi Jänne has his colleagues. The plan is to use these resources and knowledge to build a translational pharmacology package that furthers Daiichi’s ambition to drive lung cancer care beyond the advances made by the generations of EGFR inhibitors.

“We are looking to better understand drivers of disease as well as initial and secondary resistance to established targeted treatments with the ultimate goal of identifying a potential new treatment for patients with lung cancer,” Antoine Yver, the head of oncology R&D at Daiichi, said in a statement.

In Jänne, Daiichi has gained an ally who is well versed in the genomics of lung cancer, particularly as it relates to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Jänne has played a central role in the testing of major EGFR inhibitors, including AstraZeneca’s ($AZN) third-generation tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) Tagrisso. The lab is working to figure out how tumors develop resistance to targeted therapies and what combinations of drugs can sidestep these defences.

Daiichi could do with the support. The Japanese drugmaker has swung at lung cancer and missed on more than one occasion in recent years. In 2014, Daiichi scrapped a Phase III trial of EGFR-inhibiting monoclonal antibody nimotuzumab amid safety concerns. Then, in May of this year, Daiichi canned another Phase III lung cancer trial early. That trial was looking at Daiichi’s HER3 inhibitor patritumab in combination with Roche’s ($RHHBY) EGFR veteran Tarceva.

In the face of those setbacks, Daiichi has continued trying to make progress in cancer. The past two weeks have been a particularly busy period on the dealmaking front. Daiichi began the flurry at the back end of September when it struck an immuno-oncology pact with bispecific antibody specialist Zymeworks. That deal gave Daiichi access to Zymeworks’ technology platforms. Daiichi followed up the deal by unveiling a preclinical immuno-oncology alliance with AgonOx at the start of October.