Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Berlin Wall Museum

Preserved section of the Berlin Wall

I have a personal interest in Alzheimers Disease, my mother Audrey died from it three years ago back in 2014.

Since then, I’ve watched with fascination and excitement the progress made in using the body’s own immune system against cancer. There’s still a long way to go, but a revolution in treating cancer is underway, as we’ve been documenting on this blog and the Novel Targets Podcast.

In recent years in the United States we’ve also seen grand initiatives targeting cancer such as Vice President Biden’s Moonshot, as well as large philanthropic support e.g. the creation of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

Sadly, we’ve not seen the same level of interest in targeting dementia or funding research into new treatments for Alzheimers disease.

In the United States, the media doesn’t talk much about Alzheimers (compared to cancer), unlike for example, in the United Kingdom where any promising data is heralded with headlines that frequently deliver “hype over hope.”

Alzheimers is an insidious disease that removes the ability of the person to advocate and care for themselves, instead placing the burden on families and caregivers, often for extended periods of time. Ultimately many people end up in supported living or nursing homes.

As we debate healthcare insurance in the United States, who is going to pay for the cost of dementia care as the population grows older? Caring for dementia is arguably the greatest public health challenge that the western world faces.

Which is why I was excited to talk with a researcher who is thinking outside of the box and leading the way in how we could use our immune system against Alzheimers.

Subscribers can login to read more or you can purchase access below…

In our latest thought leader interview we explore the intersection between epigenetic therapy and immunotherapy.

Gems from the ASCO17 poster hall

Much of the IO focus to date has been on monotherapies rather than combos, although that situation is slowly changing.

What we can also expect to see are the emergence of regimens, long the bedrock of traditional cancer therapy approaches.

As we learn how to bucket more discrete populations based on the underlying biology of the tumour microenvironment, so we will see a more IFTTT (If this then that) approach evolve in order to fix or improve a situation before or after attempting the core therapy. It might require a focus on changing the immunosuppressive or inhibitory factors, for example, or addressing factors that induce primary resistance upfront. The possibilities are endless.

Obviously, there are a number of ways to do this from chemotherapy and radiotherapy to epigenetic agents to targeted therapies – these traditional treatments are not going to go away, but I can see a future where we see more integration based on a patient’s underlying immune status. It won’t be the zero sum game many analysts seem to think it might be.

In the past, we have covered chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapies and looked at how they might be employed with immunotherapies in various guises. In this latest thought leader interview, we look at a different approach, epigenetic therapy and other novel immunotherapies.

Here, we combine two popular types of posts – Gems from the Poster Halls with an Expert Interview  – for detailed look at one particular area of research that is beginning to look quite intriguing.

To learn more insights on this intriguing topic, subscribers can log-in or you can sign up via the blue box below…

Back in January this year, we posted an early look on what to expect from the evolving 1L NSCLC landscape following the controversial FDA submission of Merck’s pembrolizumab with chemotherapy. This lead to subsequent approval in May.

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin July 2017

At that time, quite a few people were shocked and surprised that the phase 2 KEYNOTE–021 Cohort G data presented ESMO was neatly parlayed into accelerated approval in the US.

Since then, a lot has happened and now many readers are on tenterhooks as we await the next round of lung cancer trial results in the upfront setting.

First up is AstraZeneca’s MYSTIC trial exploring an IO-IO combination with durvalumab plus tremelimumab. Merck’s confirmatory trial for pembrolizumab plus chemo is also expected in the fall – will it support the accelarated approval – or not? Meanwhile, we also await Roche/Genentech’s IMpower150 study evaluating their checkpoint inhibitor, atezolizumab, in combination with chemotherapy by the year end.

These are quite different strategies with diverse endpoints so following them closely will be key to understanding what happens next.  Based on what we’ve seen in lung cancer to date, the roller coaster looks set to continue.  The C-suite shenanigans have only added to the intrigue and mystique – do they mean anything?  Who knows, but we’re focusing on the hard data i.e. science and the clinical clues that are available.

It’s all to play for and many readers wrote in asking for an update on the landscape and what to expect now that we’re much nearer to the shoes actually dropping.

To learn more about our insights and predictions in 1L NSCLC, subscribers can log-in or you can sign up via the blue box below…

Paris, France – Last week I had the pleasure of attending a two day Immuno-Oncology Summit, an industry sponsored CME event organized by the European Academy of Tumor Immunology (EATI) and Miltenyi Biotec.

The summit was held at the Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers (CRC) in the quartier Latin on the historic left bank of Paris, a short walk away from Notre Dame cathedral.

Paris Immuno-Oncology Summit 2017

Most of the attendees were French researchers so this opportunity afforded them a chance to hear from leading researchers at the forefront of cancer immunology, including several who travelled from the United States to speak at the event.

CRC Courtyard Statue

I have yet to attend a cancer immunotherapy meeting where I didn’t come away with new insights into what is a fast moving field, where it’s important to see “connections” beyond a tumor type or target.

This post offers top-line commentary highlights on five key presentations at the summit. There were two parallel tracks and a lot of interesting speakers at what was an enjoyable meeting, so think of this like a postcard from Paris.

Subscribers can login to read more or you can purchase access below…

La Tour Eiffel par nuit

Paris, France:  It’s the dog days of summer and my reading stack of interesting science and cancer research papers is particularly high at the moment despite reading voraciously over the last few weeks…

So much excellent research keeps on piling up as fast as one can get through it.

It’s beginning to feel like Ravel’s Bolero…

Still, there’s one particular batch of important papers that draws together some interesting findings in an area we have been following for a little while now and these data most certainly advance the field in more ways than one.

Subscribers can log-in below to read our latest insights or you can sign up via the blue box to learn more…

Traditionally we’ve seen the evolution of oncology companies with chemotherapies, then those with targeted therapies, whether TKIs or antibodies.

Increasingly, we’re seeing the rise of an entirely new empire – those with a raft of immunotherapies in their pipeline.

Gems from #ASCO17 Poster Halls

Then there are those with a more mixed portfolio approach of targeted compounds and novel immunotherapy agents… which leads to some interesting combination approaches that target the cancer immunity cycle and address issues that exert inhibitory factors dampening down the immune system responses.

Our latest fireside chat and expert interview focuses on an up and coming biotech company with a pipeline that combines protein targeted antibodies with novel approaches that can potentially reprogram various immune cells in the tumour microenvironment.

Subscribers can log-in below to read our latest insights or you can sign up via the blue box to learn more…

Churchill College, Cambridge: Yesterday heralded the 4th and final day of the EACR Cancer Genomics conference with some invited speakers and proffered papers based on research from several groups and labs.

Churchill College, Cambridge

We got to see through the keyhole on several important areas of research that highlight both challenges and opportunities faced by the field.

The good news is that the opportunities provide insights into how we can learn from ongoing and optimise future clinical trials.

 

Subscribers can log-in or you can sign up via the blue box below to learn more…

Churchill College, Cambridge:  Yesterday, the main focus at the EACR Cancer Genomics conference was on immunology-related topics as they pertain to genomics.

A rainy day in the Fens for #CG17

Unfortunately, however, the Great British summer ended as almost as soon as it started – I can confirm that it started on a Wednesday this year and fizzled out by the following Tuesday!

Consider that on the first two days of the conference it was gloriously sunny and those wooden benches were full of scientists sitting outside eagerly discussing their research or various collaborations afoot.

A mere 24 hours later, the heavens opened and steadfastly drizzled all day long, much to the chagrin of the attendees.

To learn more, subscribers can login in below or you can sign up via the blue box…

Florence, Italy: Today at the EACR-AACR-SIC Conference on “The Challenges of Optimizing Immuno and Targeted Therapies,Tom Powles MRCP MD, Clinical Professor of Geniturinary Oncology at Barts Cancer Institute in London, gave a special lecture on the IMvigor211 trial (NCT02302807).

EACR AACR SIC Conf Banner

This was a phase 3 study of the PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab compared with chemotherapy in participants with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial bladder cancer.

Prof Tom Powles (Barts)

Prof Tom Powles (Barts Cancer Institute)

Readers may recall we interviewed Prof Powles back in August 2015 about the potential for the PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab in urothelial bladder cancer? (See post: Atezolizumab PD-L1 Checkpoint Inhibitor will Change Bladder Cancer Treatment.)

We also featured the atezo data presented by Dr Jonathan Rosenberg (MSKCC) at ESMO 2015 on Episode 7 of the Novel Targets Podcast, where we also heard Prof Powles tell us about the long durable responses he had obtained in clinical practice in some of his patients.

Subsequently on May 18, 2016 the US Food and Drug administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval to atezolizumab (Tecentriq) for urothelial bladder cancer (link to news release).

Fast forward a year to May 9, 2017 and the surprise announcement that the confirmatory phase 3 trial (IMvigor211) failed to meet its primary endpoint (link to Genentech press release).

So what happened? Why did the atezo phase 3 trial end up being negative when we saw durable responses in the randomised phase 2 trial and other PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors have shown an overall survival benefit in the same indication?

Many in the media only want to write about positive data, but in science we often learn as much from our failures as we do from our successes, perhaps even more sometimes.

IMvigor211 was expected to be a positive trial especially after the recent Merck success gaining an overall survival benefit for pembrolizumab, so the negative result is noteworthy and one that anyone in the field of cancer immunotherapy drug development will want to understand.

Professor Powles kindly spoke to BSB and shared his perspective.

Subscribers can login to read more or you can purchase access below…

Cambridge: the third annual European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) conference on cancer genomics is underway at Churchill College in the UK. (Official Twitter hashtag: #CG17).

Churchill College, founded by the former Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, is a short 15 minutes walk from the historic city centre and has an edgy modernist field to it, with thought provoking sculptures scattered throughout the grounds. It’s a far cry from the more romantic and dreamy spires of Oxford portrayed in the TV detective series, Morse and Lewis.

Despite all the interest in cancer immunotherapy and immuno-oncology, it’s important to remember that cancer remains a disease of the genome, which is why we decided to cover this meeting for the first time. It has an impressive line-up of keynote speakers, as well as researchers presenting posters.

All too often now on the cancer immunotherapy conference circuit, it’s the same thought leaders giving a repeat of their ‘party piece’ standard “keynote” talk so it’s refreshing to hear new voices who are at the leading edge of cancer research, albeit in a slightly different niche.

What we are starting to see is the convergence of cancer immunotherapy with genomics, and that was very evident in the posters that are directional of where the field is going. More on that later.

This is the first of three daily blogs that summarise some of the insights and take-home messages from the EACR Cancer Genomics conference at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Subscribers can login below or you can purchase access by clicking on the blue box…

PS Do read our Terms of Use beforehand and ensure you qualify to purchase through this website. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

error: Content is protected !!