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

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View from ASCO annual meetingChicago – it’s “Plenary Sunday” at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Cancer immunotherapy has arrived at ASCO! Not so long ago cancer immunotherapy presentations were in small meeting rooms and had only a few attendees – at this meeting cancer immunotherapy data is being presented to thousands of attendees in large meetings rooms, including the B1 plenary hall. What a difference in the space of a few years!

Today at ASCO there are several noteworthy cancer immunotherapy presentations. We’ll be writing about them here on the blog during the day.

Part of the opportunity of coming to a meeting such as ASCO is the networking opportunities it affords.

While in Chicago I heard about a phase 3 trial from a global pharma company that failed to meet its primary endpoint last year, however, – to the best of my knowledge – there’s been no publication or presentation of the negative data that may help the field move forward. The investigators have been told “it’s a bust.”

Not to publish or present negative data is a disservice to the patients that enrolled on the trial. Many would have believed their participation would contribute to the advancement of science and medicine, and potentially benefit others.

Want to know what the trial is and the company involved? Subscribers can login to find more or you can purchase access below to read more, along with our coverage of Sunday at ASCO 2016.

Update 12.30pm. Occasionally we decide something we talk about needs to be “open access” so we’ve published a short post. It is freely available to all. Turns out the negative data from BMS was mentioned in a July 23, 2015 financial results press release. Almost a year later, the negative data has still not been presented or published.

Chicago RiverChicago – the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (Twitter #ASCO16) starts in earnest today, yesterday was primarily education sessions and a travel day for many.

Starting today and for tomorrow and Monday, we’ll be producing a daily rolling blog with top-line commentary around sessions we attend, experts we talk to and what captures our interest and attention at the meeting. It won’t be real-time, but schedule and wi-fi permitting, we’ll be providing updates throughout the day.

It really kills us to do a semi-live blog, but our subscribers love it – they tell us that even if they’re not at ASCO, they feel like they are with us following along remotely. We’ll of course be generating a series of posts with more in-depth coverage after the meeting when we’ve heard the data.

If you’d like to join an exclusive club of companies and individuals, you can purchase a subscription below.

As a special offer throughout ASCO 2016, if you buy a quarterly subscription and then want to upgrade to an annual subscription, all you have to do pay the difference before your quarter expires. Offer to new subscribers and new purchases only. Buying a quarter is a great way to check out what we do!

Aduro Biotech LogoWe’re almost at the end of our coverage of AACR 2016. Post number 30 (!!) is on Aduro Biotech ($ADRO) and their STING (Stimulator of interferon genes) agonist currently in development.

On the final day of AACR, in a packed session chaired by Tom Gajewski, MD PhD (Chicago), the meeting heard from Tom W. Dubensky, Jr, PhD Chief Scientific Officer of Aduro Biotech in a presentation (SY39-02) entitled:

“Direct activation of STING in the tumor microenvironment leads to potent and systemic tumor regression and immunity.”

Dr Tom Dubensky Aduro CSO

Dr Tom Dubensky, Aduro CSO

I spoke with Dr Dubensky (pictured) afterwards. In my interview recording you can hear Vice President Biden’s cavalcade arrive at the Ernest Morial convention center in New Orleans for his plenary presentation.

Since AACR 2016, Aduro announced that the first patient has been dosed with ADU-S100 (MIW815) in a May 12 press release.  This triggered a $35M milestone payment from Novartis, who are undertaking the clinical trial (NCT02675439).

In March 2015, Aduro entered a collaboration with Novartis that, according to the Aduro press release, led to an initial payment of $200M and an additional $50M in equity investment.

After the recent failure of their pancreatic cancer vaccine, announced in a May 16 press release, there is a lot riding on ADU-S100 for both Aduro and Novartis.

I had the privilege to interview Dr Gajewski last year at Immunity 2015, where we talked about his work on STING (see post: Tom Gajewski takes the STING out of cancer). You can hear a short excerpt from the interview on Episode 2 of the Novel Targets Podcast.

So a year later it’s a good time to return to the STING pathway and take a fresh look at what Aduro/Novartis are doing.

For this post, I’ve chosen to write this up as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of ADU-S100 based on what I learnt at AACR from talking with Dr Dubensky and other experts.

Your SWOT analysis of ADU-S100 may be different from mine, you may have access to other sources of information, an alternative opinion, or reach an entirely different conclusion. There is no right or wrong answer. We all view the world through our own individual bias and lens.

Before you read this post, I heartily encourage you to map out on the “back of an envelope” – or as I’d say in England, on the “back of a fag packet” – what your SWOT analysis looks like. That way you can compare yours to mine.

By definition, we’re dealing with a new product in early clinical development, where many questions remain unanswered. It’s always easier to see the picture after all the cards have been dealt……

Subscribers can login below or you can purchase access to our AACR 2016 coverage by clicking the blue button below. 

New Orleans Sign advertising Voodoo

New Orleans Sign Advertising Voodoo

What I learnt at the recent AACR annual meeting in New Orleans is that cancer immunotherapy studies are requiring industry to think differently about clinical trial design.

As we move into combination trials of novel/novel combinations, how do we efficiently work out not only that each drug is safe, but in what patients they are likely to be most effective?

Readers who listened to the recent Novel Targets Podcast, “Of Mice and Men” will hear about some of the challenges associated with mouse models and how decisions are made moving into the clinic.

What I learnt from the podcast (and I hope you did too) is that if you are doing an immunotherapy trial in patients, the type of mouse model can really matter when it comes to interpretation of the preclinical data.

In response to a subscriber request, today’s post is about some of the statistical challenges in designing combination immunotherapy trials. To many, statistics is like voodoo, so this post does not go into any maths!

Subscribers can login to read more or you can purchase access by clicking on the blue button below.

One of the (many) highlights for me at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) was a “Meet the Expert” session presented by Professor George Coukos.

Prof George Coukos AACR 2016

Prof George Coukos AACR 2016

Professor Coukos is Director of Oncology at the University Hospital of Lausanne and Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland.

Ovarian cancer is becoming a fascinating battleground for cancer immunotherapy, with multiple challenges that must be overcome before we see improvements in outcomes, especially for women advanced disease.

The interview with Prof Coukos is a follow-on to the one we did on advanced ovarian cancer and checkpoint blockade at ECCO 2015 in Vienna with Dr Nora Disis (Link).

If you missed it, you can still listen to highlights in Episode 7 of the Novel Targets Podcast (Link).

After his AACR presentation, Prof Coukos kindly spoke with BSB and in a wide ranging discussion, highlighted some of the innovative clinical trial strategies he is working on to move the cancer immunotherapy field forward in ovarian cancer.

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Dr Michel Sadelain AACR 2016

Dr Michel Sadelain at AACR 2016

Dr Michel Sadelain, Director of Cell Engineering at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York is a pioneer in the field of adoptive cell therapy.

Without his contribution, it is unlikely CAR T cell therapy would be where it is today.

He’s also President of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT), whose annual meeting is currently underway in Washington DC from May 4 to 7 (Twitter #ASGCT16).

Recently at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), Dr Sadelain gave an outstanding presentation on turbo-charged CAR T cells, and shared some of his ideas on how to move the field forward.

In New Orleans, he also kindly spoke to BSB, and discussed how he thinks cell therapy researchers may obtain the “holy grail” of getting CAR T cell therapies to work effectively in solid tumors.

Dr Sadelin is someone who wants to break the immunology rules!

Not surprisingly, Dr Sadelain is optimistic and doesn’t share the view expressed by Dr Steven Rosenberg on CAR T cell therapies being limited to mostly hematologic malignancies when we interviewed him a year ago at last year’s ASGCT meeting.  There’s nothing like a friendly controversy to spice the field up!

If you haven’t already done so, do listen to Dr Rosenberg on Episode 5 of the Novel Targets Podcast (@TargetsPodcast).

Subscribers can log-in or you can purchase access below to read more about what Dr Sadelain told BSB at AACR…

AACR 2016 PostersNew Orleans – Tuesday is the last full day of the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and the last day of our #AACR16 rolling blog posts.

What struck me at this meeting has been the explosion in cancer immunotherapy research. It’s worth remembering that where we are today is the result of pioneering work done over the last 15 years by researchers, many of whom struggled for funding and recognition as they laid the foundation for where we are today.

Tomorrow, the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, will fly in to address the closing plenary session of the meeting. Mr Biden’s remarks will be live streamed by AACR (link to information).

There’s a lot happening at AACR today and tomorrow; and as conference die-hards we’ll be here to the end in order to capture some really interesting data that’s on the program.

Subscribers can login to read our AACR Day 4 commentary or you can purchase access in the blue box below.

AACR16 RegistrationNew Orleans – it’s Day 3, Monday, at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Attending AACR for the first time can be a daunting prospect, with a full program of activities from dawn to dusk.

For those of who don’t regularly go to large medical meetings, it’s all too easy to forget the sheer scale of the event and how mach walking is involved up and down long corridors – it’s easy to clock up 15,000+ steps on your Fitbit!

Subscribers can log-in or you can purchase a subscription by clicking on the blue box below to learn more insights…

New Orleans AACR 2016New Orleans – here at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the emphasis has shifted from yesterday’s education program to the start of the scientific programme.

If you didn’t make it to the Cell Press/Nanostring, “What’s Next: Bit Topics in Cancer Immunology” event yesterday evening at the Bourbon Orleans hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, you missed a great unofficial AACR16 event that featured a panel of leading experts:

  • Aviv Regev, PhD (Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard)
  • Tom Gajewski, MD, PhD (University of Chicago)
  • Dan Chen, MD, PhD (Genentech)
  • Pam Sharma, MD, PhD (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center)
  • Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center)
  • Jerome Galon, PhD (INSERM)
  • Ira Mellman, PhD (Genentech)
  • Catherine Wu, MD (Dana Farber Cancer Institute)

Throughout the day, schedule permitting, we’ll be posting top-line commentary from the sessions we’ve been in.

You can also catch up with the commentary from the Day 1 Live Blog, which has several updates from yesterday (Link).

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New Orleans StreetCarNew Orleans – the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) starts in earnest today with a full program of educational sessions presented by leading experts in different fields.

There’s a lot going on at AACR, with many sessions in parallel, so always remember the “law of two feet” – if the session you are in isn’t interesting, what you expected or isn’t meeting your needs – get up and go to another one!

Starting today and through Tuesday will be posting a daily blog with commentary around the sessions we attend and the people we speak to. It won’t be real-time, but to the extent possible we’ll be providing updates during the day.

It kills us to do semi-live posts from conferences, but they’re popular with subscribers, many of whom enjoy reading top-line commentary during the meeting, then our in-depth pieces later.

If you’d like to join the club of readers who enjoy access to our content, much of which by definition is exclusive – we don’t think anybody else does what we do or talks to as many thought leaders….

The good news is that a quarterly subscription will also cover you for ASCO 2016 in Chicago.  If you’d like to support our conference coverage, you can purchase access below. Subscribers can login to read more.

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