Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology & Hematology

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Aloha! It will soon be time to pack your Hawaiian shirts for the forthcoming BMT Tandem Meeting in Hawaii (Twitter #BMTTandem16 – what a long hashtag!!)

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Commonly known as “Tandem,” it’s the combined annual meetings of the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR) and the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT).

Hawaii is great location for a meeting in February, and one that I’m sure will generate a lot of envy for those who can’t attend and are stuck in the winter cold and chill. Who said we don’t go the “extra mile” for BSB subs?

One of the presentations I’m looking forward to hearing at Tandem is by Ann Leen, PhD, who is an Associate Professor at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr Leen will be talking about “Immunotherapy for Lymphoma using T cells Targeting Multiple Tumor-Associated Antigens.

At last December’s ASH annual meeting, Dr Leen presented preliminary data with this novel approach in patients with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). After her ASH presentation, she kindly spoke to BSB.

This post is part of our post-meeting ASH15 coverage, and our ongoing coverage of some of the exciting developments in immuno-oncology.  In case you missed it, do check out the ASH interview with Seattle Genetics CEO Clay Siegall, PhD.

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Streets of San FranciscoOne of the interesting immuno-oncology presentations at the recent ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium held in San Francisco from Jan 7 – 9, 2016 was presented by Dr Matt Galsky (Mount Sinai, New York).

Dr Galsky presented the results of a phase II trial of gemcitabine plus cisplatin plus ipilimumab in patients with metastatic urothelial cancer: HCRN GU-148 (Abstract 357).

The trial failed to reach its primary endpoint of showing a 20% increase in 1 year overall survival by the addition of ipilimumab compared to historical data for Gem + Cis in this patient population.

Many in the media don’t write up what is in essence “negative” data, but this trial is highly informative for those with an interest in urothelial cancer and in the optimal strategy for cancer immunotherapy. The GU16 discussant Dr Elizabeth Plimack (Fox Chase) raised many questions that merit consideration by those in the field.

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San Francisco Cable CarWe’re continuing our post-meeting coverage of the 2016 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium (ASCO GU) that took place earlier this month in San Francisco.

In this post we’re taking a look at the results of a clinical trial with a non-invasive liquid biopsy which in a cohort of patients with prostate cancer identified increased risk of death on abiraterone and enzalutamide, but not taxane chemotherapy.

What struck me listening to this presentation was the simple elegance of an approach, which the presenter likened to the equivalent of “facial recognition” of prostate cancer cells.

As the ASCO GU discussant noted, this could have an impact on clinical trial design, potentially leading to more rapid prostate cancer drug approvals.

Subscribers can login to read more about a biomarker approach, that if validated in a prospective trial, could help identify the optimal sequencing of prostate cancer drugs for patients.

Coit Tower San FranciscoAt the recent ASCO 2016 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium (ASCO GU) that took place in San Francisco the week before the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPM), one of the noteworthy presentations was on a novel target for men with advanced prostate cancer.

While JPM may have been a “dud” for many, several companies did take the opportunity to update and discuss their corporate strategy going into 2016, which gave a surprising amount to comment on in our 3 blog posts from the meeting: JPM Day 1, JPM Day 2, JPM Day 3.

In this post we look at the “take homes” from the ASCO GU presentation, and what looks like it could be a new race to market.

It’s good to see novel targets for men with advanced prostate cancer, and potential new treatment options on the horizon!

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San Francisco JPM16 Day 3It’s Day 3 of the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, and we hope that you’re enjoying our commentary and analysis around some of the presentations & news each day. If you’re reading this and aren’t a subscriber already, then why not become one?

We’re not offering a substitute for watching a company presentation yourself, they’re freely available by webcast and several companies have also put up their presentations up on their websites, but in a world awash with information competing for time and attention, we hope we’ve teased out a few of the noteworthy points.

Yesterday, on the Day 2 post we commented on $AMGN, $RHBBY, $BMY, $SGMO, $IMGN and more.

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San Francisco JPM16 Day 2It’s Tuesday at the 2016 JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco (Twitter #JPM16).

Each day of #JPM16 we’re doing a rolling blog post which we’re updating throughout the day with commentary and insights on the company presentations we’re covering.

While we’re not giving a blow-by-blow account, many companies have the slides readily available, we will be commenting on noteworthy news, and what we learn about corporate strategy going into 2016.

For those of you who like to catch up with the final summary of each day’s highlights, you can read yesterday’s Day 1 synopsis here and our interview with Seattle Genetics CEO, Clay Siegall here.

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San Francisco JPM16 Day 1It’s Day 1 of the annual pilgrimage to San Francisco for the JP Morgan Healthcare conference. In light of the success of the daily rolling blogs we’ve done around the conferences we cover, for the first time we’re doing a rolling blog for each day of #JPM16.

Throughout the day (schedule permitting) we’ll be updating the post with commentary around noteworthy news.

Company presentations mentioned in this post include: $PBYI, $CELG, $GILD, $INCY, $SGEN, $MDVN. There’s also commentary on several of the deals announced by Roche, Juno, Novartis, Sanofi, AstraZeneca & Merck.

If you want to follow along yourself, here’s the link to the JPM16 webcasts & conference agenda.

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Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is challenging disease to treat and quite distinctly different from its cousin, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).  The first is more common in adults, while the second is more prevalent in children.  Success rates with pediatric ALL have far outstripped what we have achieved with adults in AML to date, partly due to the elderly nature of the disease making for poorer outcomes with stem cell transplants (SCT), as well as increased clonal heterogeneity and cytogenetic complexity with age.

Quite a few FLT3 inhibitors have come and gone over the years – many keen observers will remember Cephalon’s (now Teva) TKI called CEP-701, which was tested in relapsed/refractory disease and Elderly AML, for example, and slid off largely unnoticed to dog drug heaven.

How much does clinical trial design impact a drug’s success or failure?

Sometimes quite a bit, as this story with midostaurin demonstrates; limited activity in advanced disease but much more dramatic results in the upfront setting.  Clearly, sometimes testing drugs in later disease does not predict their future performance elsewhere!

To put more colour on the data presented at ASH, we interviewed a thought leader in adult AML for his perspective on the FLT3 R&D developments.

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ASH Exhibit HallIn recent years, there’s been a lot of progress in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). New targeted therapies such as ibrutinib (Imbruvica) and idelalisib (Zydelig) have been approved and have helped extend the lives of patients with this disease further. However, there still remains a need for new treatment options.

Several new drugs are on the horizon for CLL.  At ASH there were a number of presentations for venetoclax, formerly known as ABT-199/GDC-0199, it’s a BCL-2 inhibitor, which is being co-developed by AbbVie and Genentech.  We’ve written extensively about it on the blog.  One of the challenges with venetoclax is the potential for Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS) – we heard at ASH that starting a patient on the drug needs to be carefully managed and monitored, with high risk patients hospitalized.

Other new drugs on the longer term horizon for CLL include acalabrutinib (Acerta) and BGB-3111 (BeiGene), both next generation BTK inhibitors and potential competitive threats to ibrutinib. The CLL market is becoming interesting again!

At ASH 2015, I spoke with Ian W. Flinn, MD, PhD. Director, Blood Cancer Research Program at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, TN. At ASH, Dr Flinn presented data for a CLL trial of venetoclax combined with obinutuzumab, a CD20 targeted monoclonal antibody; data was obtained in both the upfront and relapsed/refractory setting.

In a wide ranging conversation, we talked about some of the data of note in Orlando, what the future direction is in CLL, and what to look forward to at ASH 2016.

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ASH15 LBA Session

ASH 2015 LBA Session

The annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) has a few quirks compared to other meetings. One of these is that all the “Late Breakers” are presented together on the last morning of the meeting.

It’s a rather unfortunate time given many have already headed back to their busy clinics or left for SABCS in San Antonio and ‘late breakers’ by definition, often offer new data that’s really noteworthy.

The result can also be a bit of a hodgepodge session that you have sit to listen through to get to those presentations you really want to hear.

At ASH this year there were two late breakers on new treatment options for CLL patients with a 17p deletion (Del17p). This is a pretty challenging group to treat.  Although ibrutinib is indicated for this patient group, many sadly relapse. There’s an unmet medical need for new treatment options. At ASH we heard data for idelalisib (PI3K-delta) and venetoclax (Bcl2).

After the session, I briefly spoke with Dr Kanti Rai (New York) for his reaction to the data. Dr Rai (pictured below) received the 2014 Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology.

Dr Kanti Rai receives 2014 ASH Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr Kanti Rai receives 2014 ASH Lifetime Achievement Award

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