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New horizons in breast cancer care

Interview with Markus Kosch, Daiichi Sankyo head of Oncology Business Division in Europe

Recent progress in immunotherapy, targeted therapies, and genetic testing has allowed physicians to target and treat breast cancer more precisely, improving outcomes and quality of life for all cancer patients. Today, more women with breast cancer are able to live longer and better than ever before. Still, there remains a vast unmet need: Breast cancer remains the third most frequent cause of death and, among cancers, has the highest morbidity. In Europe alone, over 500,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2020, and approximately 140,000 women died from the disease.

During the recent pandemic, women have been prevented from attending breast cancer screenings, and more patients are diagnosed only at a later stage. So, the progression to metastatic disease that is to be expected in about one-third of all cases will occur earlier.

With this in mind, it’s important that we push to ensure that cancer care is put back on top of the priority list for societies. It deserves our full attention to collaborate as a united community to find solutions for patients. This remains one of the key visions we have – and one that I was proud to share when I joined the company back in September. We understand that no one can find a solution alone. That’s why we collaborate with professional bodies and companies where we can combine our expertise and bring much-needed treatments to patients as quickly as possible.

Emerging therapies harness innovative technology to better help patients

Although there is no cure for advanced cancer, innovative advancements in oncology have the potential to change the current trajectory in breast cancer and improve outcomes for patients. This is exactly what emerging treatments, such as CAR-T cell, gene therapies, and precision medicine aim to do. Targeted therapies have also demonstrated huge potential in recent years and have become standard treatments for many types of cancers.

Such treatments aim to try and strike a balance between minimising side effects and maximising the survival benefit of an agent. But we know there is more to do to master this balance. At Daiichi Sankyo, we value cutting edge science and technology and last year invested 20% of our yearly revenue into R&D. This is how we’ve become one of the leading companies in oncology over the past ten years.

Such new technologies may add benefit to a multitude of therapies for other cancer types, too. Clinical trials across a range of cancers of high unmet medical need, such as lung and gastric, have shown to also benefit from this targeted form of treatment.

Keeping patients at the heart of innovation

Improving the lives of patients cannot be accomplished overnight. It requires dedication and commitment in the long term. Understanding that every breast cancer journey is a unique and personal experience helps us to conduct our science and research with a truly patient-centric focus.

One way to proactively seek this understanding is to invest in clinical trials to bring scientific information from routine clinical practice to the medical community, helping to better understand oncological diseases and improve patient care.

We know that every cancer patient may also be a mother or father who want to see their children smile. A partner, a friend, a daughter, a son who long to kiss and hug their loved ones. It is with this knowledge that we conduct our science and cancer research to see another warm embrace, another smile or touch – we know how much they matter.

A bright future

There is no doubt that this is a very exciting time in the treatment space – we’ve seen a number of novel medicines being approved in recent years, both for early and late stages of breast cancer. We know that tumours differ from person to person and have harnessed this knowledge to deliver more targeted therapies that aim to extend survival and reduce treatment-related side effects as much as possible.

It will also be interesting to see how we can utilise precision medicine techniques to approach detection and screening more proactively, which will be key to reversing the harsh impact the pandemic had in cancer care.

Pharma companies, regulatory bodies and reimbursement institutions need to move at the speed in which the field innovates, accelerating decision-making and increasing agility to respond to the rapid changes we see in standards of care, treatment, and diagnosis patterns. By leveraging our world-class, innovative technologies, we hope to bring more novel treatments to women with breast cancer as quickly as possible.

About the author

Markus Kosch


Prof. Dr. Markus Kosch is the head of Oncology Europe at Daiichi Sankyo. In this role, he leads the Medical Affairs, Market Access and Commercial Organisation of Daiichi Sankyo in the European countries.

Kosch has worked in oncology for his entire career. Oncology has always been his preferred field in medicine, ever since those early days as a medical student. After studies that took him to Kings College London and the UCSF in San Francisco, he obtained his medical degree at the University of Münster, Germany. Kosch is a boarded expert in internal medicine and nephrology and practiced in internal medicine, intensive care and oncology at the University Hospital Münster until 2005.

He has over 15 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, starting in Medical Affairs at Wyeth Pharmaceutical introducing the first mTOR inhibitor in oncology therapy and later at Pfizer leading the European teams preparing launches in hematology and in personalized therapy in lung cancer with molecular-targeted medicines as well as introducing the first CDK4,6 inhibitor in metastatic breast cancer. In addition, Kosch has published many peer-reviewed papers, reviews and book chapters and still teaches as Professor of Internal Medicine at the Medical School Münster. He is also a founding member of the “Vision Zero” cancer prevention initiative and think tank.

Kosch also has a highly personal reason for wanting to make a difference in cancer care – his father died of colon cancer when he was just 21 years old. This has always given him extra motivation, whether when treating individual cancer patients as a physician or when trying to bring them improved outcomes on a broader scale in the pharmaceutical industry.

About Daiichi Sankyo Europe

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Daiichi Sankyo is dedicated to creating new modalities and innovative medicines by leveraging our world-class science and technology for our purpose “to contribute to the enrichment of quality of life around the world.” In addition to our current portfolio of medicines for cancer and cardiovascular disease, Daiichi Sankyo is primarily focused on developing novel therapies for people with cancer as well as other diseases with high unmet medical needs. With more than 100 years of scientific expertise and a presence in more than 20 countries, Daiichi Sankyo and its 16,000 employees around the world draw upon a rich legacy of innovation to realize our 2030 Vision to become an “Innovative Global Healthcare Company Contributing to the Sustainable Development of Society.” For more information, please visit www.daiichi-sankyo.eu

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