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SITC Day 3 Highlights

There were a couple of late breakers presented in the oral session yesterday that are worth discussing for several reasons, not least the controversy surrounding the stock action afterwards.

Dr Tara Gangadhar (U Penn) presented epacadostat, Incyte’s IDO1 inhibitor, in combination with pembrolizumab, Merck’s anti-PD1 inhibitor in a phase 1/2 trial with selected solid tumours.

Will combining these agents lead to better responses and outcomes than with pembrolizumab alone?

Dr Naiyer Rizvi (Moffitt) presented the combination data of AstraZeneca’s anti-PDL1 (durvalumab) plus anti-CTLA4 (tremelimumab) in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Neither of these agents have yet been approved in any indication, so the only relative comparators we have here are nivolumab and pembrolizumab as single agents in NSCLC and ipilimumab plus nivolumab in metastatic melanoma. There are no data approved for the BMS combo in lung cancer.

This review looks at both trials, in terms of the controversial data presented, and also in a broader context of the ever-changing landscape.

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Downtown Disney Orlando

Downtown Disney, Orlando

It’s an exciting week for cancer drug development with the AACR-NCI-EORTC molecular targets meeting in Boston (Twitter: #Targets15) and the 2015 annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) at National Harbor, MD (Twitter: #SITC2015)

However, today’s news is the much anticipated release of the abstracts (apart from the late breakers and press program) for the 2015 American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting (Twitter: #ASH15) that takes place in Orlando from December 5-8th. We’ll at the meeting for the blog.

There is so much great science at ASH, it’s really hard to do it justice – we’ve been known to spend most of the meeting in the poster halls…and until you see the data it’s impossible to provide detailed commentary or analysis.

However, there’s so much interest in the abstracts that for the benefit of our subs, I’ve highlighted several that caught my attention in what is a fast, real-time, top-line review while at SITC this morning.

This initial review covers two hot topics in cancer immunotherapy – CAR T cells and Checkpoint inhibitors.

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National Harbor, MD – the 2015 annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) kicked off today with a series of workshops, and mini-symposia before the main meeting starts on Friday.

It is currently glorious weather for Maryland in November, almost too nice to be indoors, which probably means it’s going to be a cold winter for those who live up North!

National Harbor MD

Of note this afternoon/evening at SITC 2015 was an International Symposium on Cancer Immunotherapy entitled “Today’s Innovators, Tomorrow’s Leaders.”

Organized in collaboration with the World Immunotherapy Council (WIC), the symposium showcased up and coming researchers, each of whom had an expenses paid trip to SITC to present their work before an audience that included many of the “great and good” in cancer immunotherapy.  It was useful learn from the questions being asked from the floor too, further adding to the value of the session.

Dr Bernard Fox SITC 2015

@BernardAFox introduces the International Cancer Symposium and acknowledges the vision behind it.

Dr Bernard A Fox (@BernardAFox), a past President of SITC, in his introduction acknowledged the vision behind it, and in particular, the contribution of Dr Nora Disis (@DrNDisis). Those of you who listen to Novel Targets Podcast heard her in the most recent show.

SITC WIC International SymposiumToday’s daily highlights post offers a few of my “take homes” from this afternoon. It doesn’t discuss unpublished data but some of the presenters went into more detail about posters they are presenting later this week which was interesting.

The symposium was highly enjoyable and well worth attending. Hopefully, it will be repeated at next year’s SITC annual meeting.

Tomorrow here in National Harbor, I’m looking forward to the workshop on new perspective for target antigens in the changing immunotherapy landscape. That will be the subject of tomorrow’s daily digest. Stay tuned!

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The 30th anniversary meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (Twitter #SITC2015) starts today at National Harbor, MD just outside of Washington DC.

Congratulations to SITC on 30 years of Advancing Cancer Immunotherapy Worldwide!

National Harbor MD SITC

It’s an unusually packed conference season this month with the AACR-NCI-EORTC Molecular Targets (#Targets15) meeting in Boston unfortunately clashing with SITC 2015.  In previous years, the Triple meeting has been held in late October, something we hope it will return to in future.

Many of the leading cancer immunologists are at National Harbor…

In our latest conference preview post, we’ve taken a quick look at some of the late breaker and poster abstracts of note and will cover the main oral presentations at the end of each day, so do check back daily for more news and views.

As subscribers already know, we generally provide most of our commentary and analysis after a meeting when we’ve had a chance to hear the data, “kick the tyres” and talk to researchers. However, for those who can’t be at SITC, we will be writing a “top-line”post at the end of each day to give you a flavor of what’s hot at SITC 2015 and our initial impressions of the data we heard.

We typically generate a separate page for each conference we cover, so you can find the SITC 2015 coverage here; it includes some additional posts that make for background reading.

Wednesday’s program at National Harbor starts off with a Global Regulatory Summit (which we’ll miss due to travel) and an International Symposium on Cancer Immunotherapy later in the afternoon.

The weather looks like it’s going to be quite delightful at National Harbor – hopefully the meeting room won’t be as frigid as last year – and in addition to the great science, we’re look forward to meeting up with those of our subs who are here too!

If you’re not already a subscriber (and if you’re reading this you probably should be) then you can purchase access below. Stay tuned for more!

There are now several CD40 agonist antibodies in early clinical development from several different companies, including:

  • Roche – RO7009789
  • Apexigen – APX005M
  • Seattle Genetics – SEA-CD40
  • Alligator Bioscience – ADC–1013

This post is the last in our cancer immunotherapy coverage from the European Cancer Congress in Vienna. It features excerpts from an interview with Dr Christian Rommel, head of oncology discovery at Roche in Basle, Switzerland in which he talks about the development of their CD40 monoclonal antibody. Readers may recall we wrote about this from SITC 2014 last year: “Targeting CD40 in Cancer Immunotherapy.

This post is also a new primer on CD40 as we start our coverage of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) 2015 annual meeting. We’re informed by SITC it’s a sell out conference with 600 more people than last year’s record breaking number. Cancer Immunotherapy is indeed the hottest topic in cancer drug development.

If you have plans to be at National Harbor this week, we hope to see you there!

One thing has become very clear in the oncology space over the last year… checkpoint inhibitors are insufficient on their own for the vast majority of tumour types and patients that they have been explored in to date.  There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is lack of T cells in the tumour, which enable an effective immune response to be mounted.

This begs the question – how can we address that issue and manipulate the tumour microenvironment in our favour, thereby making subsequent checkpoint blockade more effective?

There are a number of different ways to do this.

In the past, we’ve discussed several methods including innate immunotherapies such as Aduro’s STING or Biothera’s immunotherapeutic, Imprime PGG.  Other approaches include vaccines, which we have discussed in detail, t-cell receptors (TCR) or even monoclonal antibodies, such as AdaptImmune’s approach with their ImmTac technology.

There are other novel strategies currently being investigated by numerous companies too.

In this article – and also the second part of the latest miniseries – which will post tomorrow, we straddle our final reviews of interesting data from the European Cancer Conference (ECC) in Vienna with the upcoming one from the Society of Immunotherapy for Cancer (SITC) being held in National Harbor, Maryland.

Today’s post explores the concept of immunocytokines, engineered antibodies that are designed to boost the immune system, so that subsequent therapies will be more effective.

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Back Bay BostonNext week the Cancer Conference circuit moves on to a double-header with the AACR-NCI-EORTC Molecular Targets & Cancer Therapeutics meeting (Twitter #Targets15) taking place in Boston from November 5 – 9th, and the annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) taking place in National Harbor, MD from November 4 – 8th.

It is unfortunate that the two meetings clash, Molecular Targets is slightly later in the year than it was in 2013 when it was last in Boston. Both focus on the hottest topic in cancer drug development, which will come as no surprise… cancer immunotherapy.

In addition, in Boston there are some posters of note on other novel targets and approaches. Talking of which, Episode 7 of our Novel Targets podcast from the European Cancer Congress is now live. Do listen!

For this preview of #Targets15, we’ve taken a look at the abstracts that were published online yesterday afternoon (the late breakers and those in the press program are not available yet), and highlighted a few of interest, together with a few sessions of note.  If you have plans to be in Boston for the conference, this post will be of interest to you.

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As a heads-up, we will be at the forthcoming American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in Orlando (Twitter #ASH15), so if you have been sitting on the fence about buying a quarterly subscription, now is a great time to take the leap and join all those folks who want the “real edge” in cancer research.

You’ll obtain all the coverage we have planned over the next 3 months… Check it out!

With the recent approvals of nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) in advanced lung cancer as well as new checkpoint inhibitor data presented on atezolizumab at the European Cancer Conference in Vienna, there are several new lung cancer immunotherapy controversies to consider such as…

  • How do we choose between docetaxel chemotherapy versus anti-PD1/PD-L1 immunotherapy?
  • Which checkpoint should we choose?
  • Is the PD-L1 biomarker useful and important?
  • Do the company assays differ?
Dr Jack West

Dr Jack West

Dr Jack West (Seattle) got the ball rolling on some of these issues earlier this month, generating quite a spirited and useful debate on Twitter, demonstrating that clinical decisions in this area are not as cut and dried as many might think.

In addition, we spoke to a number of lung cancer experts in Vienna for their perspectives on the data, the biomarkers, treatment paradigms and other critical issues.

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For some time now there has been much debate about finding a predictive biomarker of response for EGFR monoclonal antibodies used in the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.  These include cetuximab (Erbitux) and panitumumab (Vectibix).

After all, we know that they tend to work in wild type disease (as shown in the US label below) and that KRAS and NRAS mutations on codon 12 and 13 on exon 2, as well as others on exon 3 and 4 tend to portend resistance to therapy, but beyond that not much is known.

Cetuximab v2

At the European Cancer Conference in Vienna last month I was intrigued to see some new data emerge that may help researchers better understand and predict which people with metastatic colon cancer are more likely to respond in the future.

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At the European Cancer Conference (ECC 2015) held in Vienna recently, a number of promising targets emerged along with new drugs in development in several different tumour types.  Not all of them were from big Pharma – some were from up and coming young biotechs that will be worth watching out for.

Austria SchnappsIn this first part of our ‘New Drugs on the Horizon’ mini series, we chose four interesting and largely positive studies to highlight and discuss in-depth.

In the past, there were many negative trials to pick over and ponder why they didn’t quite pan out.  After all, it’s relatively easy to be an armchair critic and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Picking only four from the many promising choices of trials presented this year available turned out to be quite hard given there were many that caught our attention – a bit like choosing only one of four out of the many schnaps to sample locally!

Today’s review looks at four very different drugs and approaches in early development from Pfizer, Stemcentrx and Ignyta – they include encouraging early data on both small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs), as well as antibody drug conjugates (ADCs).

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