This compelling photo-realistic collage visually narrates the innovative process of TIL therapy in cancer treatment. It begins with the extraction of immune cells from a tumor, depicted on the left with a detailed image of a cancerous mass. The focus then shifts to the center, where a laboratory environment is shown, symbolizing the critical phase of cell expansion. Finally, on the right, the reinfusion of these cells into a patient is portrayed, completing the therapeutic cycle. Each step is vividly illustrated, providing a comprehensive understanding of TIL therapy's potential to transform cancer care. This image serves as an educational and engaging visual aid for professionals and enthusiasts in the fields of oncology, immunotherapy, and medical research.

In the dynamic and ever-evolving field of oncology, Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) represent the latest in innovation and hope. This blog post captures how TIL Therapy is doing in the Japanese Biopharma ecosystem. We are looking at Japan’s pharmaceutical and biopharma industries, highlighting the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment. TILs must be seen through the lens of immunotherapy and personalized medicine. Japan, known for its strong and forward-thinking scientific body, means that there is a fertile ground for developing and applying advanced therapies.

Understanding TILs

TILs represent a new treatment pathway in cancer immunotherapy. It utilizes the body’s immune cells to target and destroy cancer cells. This approach is rooted in the body’s natural defence mechanisms and rests on the findings that immune cells actually infiltrate tumours. The therapy works like this in three “simple” steps:

  1. Extract the tumor-infiltrating cells from the patient
  2. Amplify them safely in a GMP lab
  3. Reinfuse them safely into the patient

…and Bob’s your uncle!

Of course, there’s much more to it than that, but these are the main steps. TIL therapy is an extremely personalized approach to combat cancer. Each treatment will be unique. This treatment method is at the forefront of modern medicine. It’s based on the human race’s significant strides in understanding how the immune system interacts with cancer cells and how it can be mobilized to combat malignancies.

The Mechanism of TILs

When TILs are extracted from the tumour, this requires precision and expertise in a surgical setting. When amplifying the TILs in the laboratory, they are cultivated to increase in number and thus enhancing their ability to fight the particular cancer they were extracted from. Finally, these augmented cells are reinfused into the patient, marking a critical step where the body’s enhanced immune cells are employed to target the cancer effectively. Collected understanding of other similar therapies (CAR-T etc) has shown that the reintroduction of immune cells can create all kinds of adverse events in some patients.

Artistic impression of a microscopic view of Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) engaging in combat with cancer cells, showcasing the immune response in cancer therapy.

The Battle at the Microscopic Level: TILs in Action Against Cancer Cells. Artistic impression by an AI.

The Evolution of TIL Therapy

TIL therapy evolved from a nascent idea to a promising cancer treatment. This comes to show the advancements in oncological research. TILs were first explored for treating advanced malignant melanoma. Today, the scope of TIL therapy has broadened to include many other forms of cancer, including cervical cancer. This demonstrates versatility and applicability.

From Lab Research to Clinical Application

Translating TIL therapy from lab research to clinical application involves intricate processes and rigorous testing. In the lab, the right lymphocytes are identified and extracted from the tumour tissues. The extracted lymphocytes are then meticulously cultured and expanded under cGMP conditions to increase their numbers. This expansion phase is critical, transforming the TILs into a potent therapeutic tool.

Clinical Trials and Approvals

Bringing TIL therapy in Japan to clinical use demands extensive clinical trials. The therapy’s efficacy and safety need to be fully understood before they are rolled out as standard treatments. Japan’s regulatory framework plays a significant role in overseeing these trials. The PMDA ensures that each therapy meets the high safety and efficacy standards required to maintain people’s trust in new therapies. This good intention, of course, carries with it a terrible truth: before being approved for clinical use, many patients will die. Many preventable deaths will not have been prevented…

Something very Exciting is Happening

In a groundbreaking initiative, REPROCELL entered into a joint research agreement with Keio University. REPROCELL is a pioneering company established in 2003 with a profound focus on regenerative medicine. Keio University is one of Japan’s most revered academic institutions. This collaboration has set out to develop and refine TIL therapy for treating cervical cancer. REPROCELL, headquartered in Yokohama, was founded by a visionary group of scientists. The company has carved a niche for itself, especially in neurodegenerative diseases. The company is now strategically also exploring avenues towards cancer immunotherapy.

REPROCELL currently has two clinical pipelines under research and development

  • Stemchymal: A stem cell product for spinocerebellar ataxia.
  • iPSC-derived neuroglial cells: Investigated for ALS.
  • REPROCELL is introducing a third clinical pipeline: TIL therapy in Japan for cervical cancer.

REPROCELL’s collaboration with Keio University School of Medicine

  • In June 2023, REPROCELL entered into an agreement with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Keio University School of Medicine.
  • The collaboration aims to develop a new pipeline for TIL therapy in Advanced Medical Treatment B (Tier II clinical trial).
  • The trial involves short-term cultured anti-tumor lymphocyte infusion therapy using non-destructive bone marrow pre-treatment and low-dose IL-2.
  • REPROCELL acts as the cell processing partner for the clinical trial.

The link to REPROCELL’s press release can be found here.

This venture signifies REPROCELL’s versatility and foresight in adapting to and massively contributing to various therapeutic domains. It underlines a deep dedication to tackling diverse healthcare challenges with innovative and cutting-edge solutions. This partnership is working on adopting and implementing the TIL manufacturing method. Needless to say, it’s a highly sophisticated process. This puts REPROCELL in the spotlight as a strong player in TIL therapy aimed at cervical cancer. The firm’s proficiency in cell processing and manufacturing emphasizes the high level of technical skill and innovation that is prevalent in the rapidly evolving field of cancer immunotherapy.

REPROCELL’s strategic shift towards cancer immunotherapy mirrors broader trends in the biopharmaceutical industry. The trend is clear that industry players increasingly focus on personalized medicine and advanced therapeutic approaches. TILs contribute to the expanding array of cancer treatment options and offer new hope for a cure to the many patients fighting cancer.


An artistic representation of scientists from REPROCELL and Keio University collaborating in a state-of-the-art laboratory, working on TIL therapy research.

Uniting Forces in Science: REPROCELL and Keio University’s Collaborative Research from an Artistic AI Perspective.

Clinical Trials and Market Potential

The start of REPROCELL’s TIL clinical trial was in January 2021. It then represented a significant leap forward for TIL therapy. The Advanced Medical Council of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare approved the trial. It shows off Japan’s proactive stance in supporting innovative treatments in the field of regenerative medicine. The start of this trial was a significant event in bringing cutting-edge medical research to patients. Ageing populations and a global increase in the prevalence of cancer drive TIL Therapies’ substantial market potential. This underscores the need for regulatory support for innovative treatment options.

The success of TIL therapy could open up numerous avenues for treating various types of cancers, revolutionizing the oncology sector.

TILs in the Global Context

Globally, TIL therapy is gaining traction as a promising cancer treatment pathway. Increasing recognition through clinical trials brings a growing acceptance in the medical community. Successful clinical trials will position TIL Therapy as a key treatment pathway in the future of oncology. Harnessed immunotherapy is clearly a growing trend in cancer treatment.

TIL Therapy in Japan’s Biopharma Landscape’s Role in the Global TIL Therapy Market

Japan’s role in the global narrative of TIL therapy is of considerable significance. The country’s commitment to advanced research, exemplified by collaborations like the REPROCELL-Keio University partnership, is advancing TIL therapy within Japan and contributing to its global development. This positions Japan as a key influencer in the field of cancer treatment, potentially shaping the future of oncology worldwide. Japan’s meticulous approach to TIL therapy establishes a thorough benchmark in global healthcare. This underscores Japan’s unique position in contributing to medical advancement. The country’s inherent focus on precision, safety, and efficacy is a model for other nations to follow.


Are you looking to explore opportunities within Japan’s dynamic pharmaceutical industry? Contact Stefan Sandstrom at Our expertise in market entry, business intelligence, and commercialization strategies are designed to support you in navigate Japan’s pharmaceutical ecosystem, from Pharma and Biopharma to Diagnostics and Combination Products. Let us connect for an exploratory dialogue.

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