Shakespeare’s observation on names: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”—is being taken to heart by Takeda Pharmaceutical, which said today it has rebranded its global oncology business unit from Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company.

The new Takeda Oncology, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, reflects what its parent company says is its long-standing entrepreneurial approach to oncology research and development while expanding its global commercial network and resources.

Takeda said its renamed oncology Business unit will stay closely aligned with its global oncology R&D function, the Oncology Therapeutic Area Unit, and Takeda’s Oncology Drug Discovery Unit. Together, the units will advance the company’s portfolio of products while expanding new product launches short- and long-term, the company asserted.

The cancer unit’s former name originated from Takeda’s nearly $8 billion acquisition of Millennium Pharmaceuticals in 2008. Takeda transformed Millennium into a subsidiary focused on cancer; by 2012, the parent company had shifted to Millennium prospective cancer treatments overseen by Takeda’s South San Francisco unit, which was shut down and consolidated in San Diego.

Takeda’s cancer portfolio is led by Velcade (bortezomib) for multiple myeloma, which enjoyed a 13.3% jump in product sales during the first six months of the company’s 2014 fiscal year (April-September), to ¥72.8 billion ($602.7 million). Close behind in sales is Leuprorelin (leuprolide acetate, also marketed as Prostap), which is indicated for prostate cancer, breast cancer, and endometriosis. Leuproreliln racked up ¥61.3 billion ($507.6 million) in April-September 2014, down 6% from a year earlier.

Takeda’s cancer portfolio also includes two investigational compounds. One is Alisertib (MLN8237) an oral, selective, inhibitor of Aurora A kinase, which has been shown to be overexpressed in a variety of cancers. Alisertib is being explored for a wide range of blood malignancies and solid tumors, including relapsed or refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), recurrent ovarian cancer, and small cell lung cancer.

The other compound is Ixazomib (MLN9708), now under study in multiple myeloma (MM), systemic light-chain (AL) amyloidosis, and other malignancies.

Just last week, Ixazomib won Breakthrough Therapy status from the FDA for the systemic light-chain (AL) amyloidosis indication. Data used to support the designation is being presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting set for December 6-9 in San Francisco.

The first oral proteasome inhibitor to enter Phase III clinical trials, Ixazomib is being assessed in four ongoing pivotal studies:

  • TOURMALINE-MM1, investigating ixazomib vs. placebo in combination with lenalidomide and dexamethasone in relapsed and/or refractory MM;


  • TOURMALINE-AL1, investigating ixazomib plus dexamethasone in patients with relapsed or refractory AL amyloidosis;


  • TOURMALINE-MM2, investigating ixazomib vs. placebo in combination with lenalidomide and dexamethasone in patients with newly diagnosed MM;


  • TOURMALINE-MM3, investigating ixazomib vs. placebo as maintenance therapy in patients with newly diagnosed MM following induction therapy and autologous stem cell transplant


In June, Takeda’s cancer effort suffered a setback when the company ended development of orteronel, following disappointing results from two Phase III trials that showed the prostate cancer drug candidate missed their primary endpoints of overall survival (OS).

“Takeda remains committed to oncology and to the treatment of prostate cancer,” the company declared at the time.

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