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

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At AACR17 one of the fascinating topics that came up in several presentations was exosomes, what they are, and how the information they contain can be used to best effect.

One of the evangelists of exosomes, and their potential in cancer research is Theresa Whiteside, PhD who is a Professor of Pathology, Immunology and Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh.

At the recent 2017 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting, Dr Whiteside gave two fascinating talks in education symposia.  Afterwards, she kindly spoke to BSB about her research.

Love them or hate them, exosomes were a hot topic in Washington DC and something you should be aware of, if you aren’t already.

This post continues our volley of expert interviews from AACR17 and is the ninth in the series.

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Long time attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) know that there are usually interesting posters and sessions buried on the last day of the meeting.

This year was no exception, with a major symposium on CAR T Cell Cancer Immunotherapy chaired by Michael Jensen MD (pictured right).

BSB readers will recall we interviewed him at the 2016 BMT Tandem meeting in Honolulu (See post: Optimizing CD19 CAR T cell therapy).  Excerpts from this interview also featured in Episode 14 – Cell Therapy Pioneers of the Novel Targets Podcast.

The CAR T symposium on the last day of AACR was one of my highlights of the meeting. The three speakers were:

  • Michael Jensen, MD (Seattle Children’s) Engineering Next Generation CAR T cells using Synthetic Biology-Inspired Technologies
  • Terry J. Fry, MD (National Cancer Institute) Defining and overcoming limitations of CD19 CAR immunotherapy in pediatric ALL
  • Christine E. Brown, PhD (City of Hope) Progress and Challenge in CAR T Cell Therapy for Brain Tumors

Each of these presentations would merit a full blog post in their own right, but in this particular post we’re focusing on CAR T cell therapy targeting glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

GBM is the most common primary malignant brain tumor, and one with a dismal prognosis – the 5-year survival rate is only around 5%, so there is also a high unmet medical need for new effective treatment options. This devastating disease has proven to be a miserable graveyard for Pharma over the last decade, with many agents unfortunately ending up in dog drug heaven.

After her AACR17 presentation, Dr Brown kindly spoke to BSB.

This post is part of our series of thouight leader interviews from AACR17. It also continues our ongoing posts on the adoptive cellular therapy landscape, and in particular, CAR modified T cells.

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Dr Daniel Chen, Roche/Genentech at AACR17

Dr Daniel Chen in the Meet the Expert session at AACR17

At the recent annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR17) one of the 7am “Meet the Expert” sessions was with Dr Daniel Chen.

Chen is a medical oncologist and immunologist. He’s also Vice President, Global Head of Cancer Immunotherapy at Genentech and Roche.

He’s perhaps best known in the cancer immunotherapy field for his publication on the Cancer Immunity Cycle with fellow Genentech VP, Dr Ira Mellman. They have a new publication out on the Cancer-Immune Set Point that takes this forward. (See post: Understanding the Cancer-Immune Set Point).

If you missed it, do listen to Chen & Mellman on Episode 11 of the Novel Targets Podcast recorded in New Orleans during the 2016 AACR annual meeting.

At AACR17, Dr Chen kindly spoke to BSB about his vision for cancer immunotherapy. Anyone who has seen the film, “Jerry Maguire” starring Tom Cruise will remember the moment when Jerry drafts the memo on “The future of our business.”

What does the future of cancer immunotherapy look like from the perspective of a leading industry professional active in the field?

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Prof Peter Schmid

Prof Peter Schmid, Barts Cancer Institute

Peter Schmid FRCP, MD, PhD is Professor of Cancer Medicine at Barts Cancer Institute in London, where he is also Clinical Director of the St. Bartholomew’s Breast Cancer Centre and leads the cancer immunotherapy group.

One of my favourite interview quotes of all time comes from his fellow Barts cancer researcher, Professor Tom Powles who told BSB about the results he had seen with the anti PD-L1 monoclonal antibody, atezolizumab (Roche/Genentech) in urothelial bladder cancer:

“I have a cohort of men and women now, who had been told they have 6 months to live who are now two or three years down the line.”

This encapsulates the hope that cancer immunotherapy offers. (See post: Atezolizumab PDL1 Checkpoint Inhibitor will change Bladder Cancer Treatment).  You can also hear Prof Powles on the Novel Targets Podcast (Episode 7).

Barts Cancer Institute in the City of London is pioneering research into cancer immunotherapy in both the clinical and preclinical arenas.

Readers may recall we previously interviewed Professor Fran Balkwill last year about the work her research group is doing into modelling the tumour microenvironment. This is an exciting area that we can expect to hear more about. (See post: Modelling the Tumor Microenvironment).

So where are we with breast cancer immunotherapy in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC)?

It’s now two years since the first atezolizumab TNBC clinical trial data was presented by Dr Leisha Emens (Johns Hopkins) at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), how time flies!  (See post: Checkpoint Inhibitor Data Rocks AACR 2015)

As regular readers know, we like to follow stories over time and report on how the longitudinal data progresses.

Professor Peter Schmid kindly spoke to BSB at the 2017 AACR annual meeting in Washington DC where he presented more mature clinical trial data for the PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor, atezolizumab, as a single agent in TNBC.

What are the key take homes from this data, and the ongoing challenges and opportunities in TNBC?  Prof Schmid shared his unique perspective.

This is the first in a series of expert interviews from #AACR17.

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Washington DC – this is our final daily post from the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

Starting on Monday we’ll be writing up expert interviews and providing commentary and analysis around some of the sessions we went to and the data we heard.

Tuesday at AACR17 was a day when the Corvus Pharmaceuticals stock dropped 50% following presentation of preliminary clinical data for their A2A receptor antagonist CPI-444.

It’s hard not to be disappointed when you see the waterfall plots skewed to the left and above the X axis, but we really don’t have enough data yet to determine whether CPI-444 on it’s own or in combination with atezolizumab may offer benefit to some cancer patients and if so, which ones.

The company have expanded the renal (RCC) and lung cohorts (NSCLC) in their initial trial, and they’ve told us to expect more data at ASCO17 in a few weeks time. Small cap biotech stocks can be a roller coaster when it comes to data presentations at major medical/scientific meetings.

What else caught our attention in the sessions we attended on Tuesday at #AACR17?

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Washington DC – there was so much noteworthy science on display at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) on Monday that hard choices had to be made on what data to see in person.

Despite spending several hours in the poster sections of the exhibit hall, there was only the chance to see a small sample of the posters on display, each representing the culmination of months or years of work.

Poster Hall at AACR 2017 annual meeting

We will be writing our popular “Gems from the AACR Poster Hall” posts in due course.

It’s hard to convey how busy a meeting this is, unless you’ve been. Thousands of posters are shared, multiple sessions run in parallel, and that’s not to mention finding the time for 1:1 expert interviews. There is never much down time.

The challenge for many is that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know. From a media perspective there is no shortage of questions to ask or important topics to cover.

Yet what really makes this meeting exciting is that it provides a glimpse of the future and the hope that offers. The cancer drugs of the future are being talked about at this meeting.

Today’s BSB post offers commentary around on what caught our attention at an extremely busy Monday at #AACR17 in Washington DC.

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Dr Tom Gajewski (Chicago) and Dr Roberta Zappasodi (MSKCC) in plenary biomarker session

Today, the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) kicked into gear with multiple sessions from early morning until late into the evening (Twitter #AACR17)

Above all else the meeting showcases the value of scientific research, and how improving our knowledge of cancer biology is the foundation upon which new drugs and therapies are developed.

If you know or want to know why cancer can be cured in mice but not in humans, then the AACR annual meeting is the place for you.

In today’s post we’re again providing some end of the day topline commentary on the sessions we attended and the data we heard. We also did several expert interviews that we’ll be writing up in forthcoming weeks.

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Waiting in line for the White House Tour

The 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington DC (Twitter #AACR17) officially starts tomorrow, but today was a day full of educational sessions and workshops.

After a day of rain yesterday, it was good to have a dry day for the start of the world’s leading cancer science meeting.

In this post we offer some top-line commentary on those educational sessions we attended; the choice reflects personal interests or current fetishes.

By definition, there is far more excellent research at AACR than we can possibly cover on the blog; so we encourage you to check out the AACR webcasts if you have a specific interest or want to check out a particular session.

We’d also like to congratulate AACR for moving with the times and allowing personal photography and the sharing of content on social media, except where a slide or presentation says “Do Not Post.”

The few slides that I saw today that had “Do Not Post” showed unpublished data. Our longstanding unwritten policy has been not to tweet or share on social media data that clearly states it is unpublished, so this was not an unreasonable request and one we heartily concur with in principle.

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Following the recent approval of Clovis’s rucaparib (Rubraca) by FDA under priority review as monotherapy for the treatment of women with certain types of advanced ovarian cancer, then impressive SOLO-2 maintenance data after initial chemotherapy at SGO earlier this month, PARP inhibitors continue to be in the news.

There’s always more though!

This afternoon saw the approval of Tesaro’s PARP inhibitor niraparib (Zejula) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for maintenance treatment of women with ovarian cancer who are in a complete or partial response to platinum-based chemotherapy (Link to label).

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We’re continuing our coverage of highlights from the inaugural ASCO-SITC Clinical Immuno-Oncology Symposium with a look at a novel way to potentially improve the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors.

It’s not something we’ve previously written about, nor is it included in the recent Chen & Mellman Nature paper that discusses “factors that influence the cancer-immune set point.

So there’s a good chance it may not be on your radar either.

Given the commercial stakes at play in improving checkpoint efficacy, combination strategies that could have an impact are worth thinking about when it comes to designing clinical trials.

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