A Takeda Oncology Leader’s Passion Fuels A Patient-First Approach

Takeda Lobby
Takeda Lobby, Courtesy of Takeda

Early in 2023, Takeda continued the company’s commitment to serving oncology patients by entering an exclusive licensing agreement with HUTCHMED (China) Limited for the commercialization of the metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) candidate fruquintinib (FRUZAQLA®) outside of mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. In November 2023, the FDA approved FRUZAQLA® for adult patients with mCRC who have been previously treated with fluoropyrimidine-, oxaliplatin-, and irinotecan-based chemotherapy, an anti-VEGF therapy, and, if RAS wild-type and medically appropriate, an anti-EGFR therapy. “The therapy is the first targeted one approved for metastatic colorectal cancer regardless of biomarker status or prior types of therapies in more than a decade,” Annette Montandon, Head of Sales, US Oncology, told BioSpace.

Colorectal Cancer Predictions Highlight the Future Needs

Annette Montandon
Annette Montandon Head of Sales, US Oncology, Takeda

The American Cancer Society predicts that more than 2 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2024. Of these, an estimated 106,590 will be colon cancer cases and 46,220 will be rectal cancers, and an estimated total of 53,010 people will die from these two diseases. CRC is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths for the whole population; it is the third leading cause for men and the fourth leading cause for women. However, among people under 50, colorectal cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths in men and the second for women.

Patient First Means Education & Access

There has been a pressing need for new treatment options for mCRC patients. Takeda’s guiding principle is PTRB – Patient, Trust, Reputation, and Business.

“We always think about the patient first, and we recognized one of our main challenges would be ensuring that patients knew about this new treatment option.” Her strategy was a concerted effort among the sales, marketing, medical, patient advocacy, payer, access and customer experience teams to educate healthcare providers beginning on the first day of the approval. Additionally, she worked to train her team to be ready for the launch. FRUZAQLA® was available within 24 hours following FDA approval.

With the first prescription received the day after approval, it was obvious that Montandon’s strategy was a success. She noted, “Uptake has exceeded our expectations.” She emphasized that the strategy was only successful because it foregrounded patients. “As an organization, we prioritized reaching the medical and patient community as swiftly as possible after approval and launch so that they knew there was a potential new option for their advanced cancer.”   

A Culture Dedicated to Innovation, Diversity & Patients

Montandon joined Takeda because the company aligned with her personal values and aspirations within oncology. “Contributing to the delivery of innovative therapies in both hematological and solid cancers, which can potentially transform patients' lives, was a significant driving force.” A top priority of Takeda is to ensure patients have access to the medicines they need regardless of insurance or benefits. Understanding that some patients face challenges in affording their medicines, Takeda provides support programs for eligible patients.

She highlighted that the inclusive, collaborative culture is one of the elements she finds most enjoyable about Takeda. The company fosters an environment where diverse perspectives are valued and encouraged. “I work with more women in leadership at Takeda than I have ever worked with in my 27 years in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s pretty amazing!”

Reaffirming an Inclusive Culture

Montandon is passionate about promoting and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in her team. “I believe that diverse perspectives and experiences contribute to a more innovative and effective work environment.” As a mother of three children, including one daughter, she is deeply committed to empowering young professionals in their journey to leadership positions. She also shared that she has a son with special abilities. “So, when I think about inclusion, I feel it’s important to consider all diverse backgrounds beyond just gender and race.” 

To foster inclusion, Montandon insists on foraging diverse candidate pools. She also provides mentorship and professional development opportunities to those in her team who seek to pursue leadership positions.

Montandon noted that ensuring equity and inclusion is still a challenge that any organization faces. “However, by educating and developing managers to support and prioritize these efforts, we have been able to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all new and existing employees.”

It is refreshing and inspirational to work alongside such a talented and diverse group of individuals at Takeda, Montandon said. “I look forward to continuing to contribute to a work culture that values and supports diversity at the leadership level and throughout the organization.”

Annette Montandon has over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. Her expertise spans sales, marketing, market access, and account management leadership. She is a trusted partner, advisor, and leader dedicated to delivering exceptional leadership and transformative results.

The insights team analyzes and comments on industry trends and creates thought leadership content for BioSpace and clients. The head of insights, Lori Ellis, can be contacted via lori.ellis@biospace.com. Follow her on LinkedIn.

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