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

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King Kamehameha Statue Honolulu HI

King Kamehameha Statue, Honolulu HI

Honolulu: we’re continuing our coverage of the 2016 BMT Tandem meeting with a thought leader interview about a novel cancer immunotherapy approach that we’re excited about.

The cancer cell therapy landscape is still vastly uncharted territory in many respects.

The first CD19 targeted CAR T cell therapies expected to reach the market in 2017 are unlikely to be best-in-class, which leaves the commercial door open for other approaches that may be better, cheaper or more accessible.

If you are in the CAR T cell therapy space, there are plenty of competitive threats on the horizon, and the novel approach discussed in this post is one of them!

We’d heard a little about it, but hadn’t explored the concept in any detail, so were delighted to talk with a leading expert at the BMT Tandem meeting in Honolulu.

Subscribers can login or you can purchase access to read more about a cell therapy that could offer the benefits of a CAR without the need for genetic modification.

Honolulu: Yesterday we learnt the sad news that Dr Holbrook Kohrt (pictured) had died.

Dr Holbrook Kohrt He was a Stanford hematologist/oncologist and rising star in the cancer immunotherapy field. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

I had the privilege to interview him last May at the Immunology 2015 meeting in New Orleans. His voice lives on in Episode 6 of the Novel Targets Podcast. One area of Dr Kohrt’s research was in combination immunotherapies, and how we can optimize efficacy, while avoiding significant immune adverse events.

So are checkpoints playing with fire when given in combination?

That was one of the provocative questions to come out of a scientific session entitled, “Fast Cars and No Brakes: Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation as a platform for Novel Immunotherapies” at the BMT Tandem meeting in Hawaii last weekend. The session, chaired by Miguel-Angel Perales (@DrMiguelPerales) from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was both informative and interesting.

All the presentations were excellent, but one by Philippe Armand from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, “Checkpoint Blockade in SCT, Data & Hope, Promise & Peril” stood out for me. Dr Armand discussed checkpoint data pre and post stem cell transplantation and offered a perspective I had not heard before.

One of the provocative questions it raised was could checkpoints be playing with fire in some patients? Dr Armand kindly spoke with BSB after his talk.

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Honolulu: At the BMT Tandem meeting that ended yesterday in Hawaii, one of the hot topics was CAR T Cell Therapy. This should, perhaps, come as no surprise to readers given that bone marrow transplanters are not only the investigators doing the clinical trials, but will be the initial target market for this product.

Dr Micheal JensenOne of the pioneers in the development of adoptive cellular therapy is Michael Jensen (pictured) who is Director, Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute (SCRI) and the Sinegal Endowed Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Dr Jensen is also a scientific co-founder of Juno Therapeutics, Inc.

He’s been doing research in the field for over 20 years, and told me that not so long ago there would only be a handful of people in the room for a CAR T cell presentation!

In a plenary scientific session at the Tandem meeting, he presented to over 3,000 attendees on “CD19-Specific CAR T Cells as a Post-ALLO HSCT Relapse Salvage Therapy.”

After his presentation, he kindly spoke with BSB. This post describes some of the key take-homes from his talk.

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Dr David Porter, U Penn

Dr David Porter, U Penn

Honolulu: The BMT Tandem meeting kicked off yesterday with an excellent plenary session on “CAR T Cell Therapy: CD19 and Beyond.” The three presenters were:

  • David Porter (University of Pennsylvania) CAR T cells for Leukemia
  • Martin Pule (UCL) Building a CAR
  • Michael Jensen (Seattle Children’s) CD19-Specific CAR T Cells as a Post-Allo HSCT Relapse Salvage Therapy

Dr Porter (pictured) is Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the University of Pennsylvania. I spoke with him after his talk. This post gives a quick overview of some of the key points I took away.

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North Shore Surf Shop SignAloha! The BMT Tandem meeting (Twitter #BMTTandem16) is underway in Honolulu, and we’re looking forward to the scientific presentations that start tomorrow, Thursday.

This preview highlights some of the presentations that may be of interest to subscribers at the meeting over the next 5 days when they’re not surfing waves at the North Shore! The meeting ends on Monday Feb 22.

If you can’t make it to Hawaii, then I expect the BMT community will be sharing updates from the meeting via Twitter. Do follow: @DrMiguelPerales, @DrKomanduri, @sgiraltbmtdoc, @DrMvandenBrink, @BldCancerDoc, @MSKBMTTandem & others (this is not intended to be a definitive list, only a starting point).

We won’t be doing a daily blog, but will be generating some commentary and analysis, as the opportunity presents.

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Aloha! If you have plans to be in Honolulu next week for #BMTTandem16, then one of the “must do” sights is the walk to the top of Diamond Head. It towers over Waikiki and is a major landmark for anyone travelling in an easterly direction.

Waikiki from Diamond Head

One way to get there is to start early and take the #23 The Bus ($2.50 fare, exact change) from Ala Moana & Waikiki to the state park entrance. The path starts off deceptively easy, kicks in with some uneven surfaces and hits you with a pile of steps near the top. Sensible shoes, water and sunscreen recommended.

The spectacular views at the end are well worth it, especially if you catch the sunrise/early morning light and manage to avoid arriving at the summit at the same time as busloads of Japanese tourists with the same idea. It’s a popular attraction!

One of the reasons for going to the top of hills and mountains is to see the “big picture” of the landscape below. In writing and reporting on the latest innovations in biomedicine, we often focus on the results of one trial or news from one company; yet it’s also important to see how the pieces of the jigsaw fit together.

That’s why pharmaceutical marketers and new produce development specialists often commission custom reports that review the strategic landscape in a therapeutic area.

As part of our coverage of #BMTTandem16, we’re taking a look at some of the strategic trends and drivers in the Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD) space.

It’s an area of unmet medical need and market opportunity.

Anyone with an interest in allogeneic “off the shelf” CAR-T cell therapy should already appreciate the significance of GvHD as a potential complication. If you don’t, then you’ve not been reading BSB…

In case you missed it, do listen to Dr Marcel van den Brink talking about GvHD on the Novel Targets Podcast. (Episode 9: Targeting the Microbiome)

This post is not intended to be a substitute for a landscape report, but offers some top line thoughts on some of the strategic drivers to look out for.

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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!!)

ASBMT_2016WebBanner_b

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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