Biotech Strategy Blog

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

The White House in spring, Washington DC

With spring in the air and the clock rapidly running down on the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Washington DC in just two weeks time, it’s time to take a look at the seventh topic in our Preview series.

What’s hot on deck to day?

With increasing competition in the metastatic breast cancer space, particularly in HR+ HER2- disease, it’s time to explore key issues around CDK4/6 inhibitors as there’s a lot going on here, including some important presentations ahead.

A road map of what to expect and what to watch out for is often valuable if you want to avoid surprises.

We also examine key issues the companies here are facing as well as highlighting emerging scientific and clinical data of note on several relevant fronts.

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The recent PARP inhibitor data has stirred up a lot of interest amongst BSB subscribers (See post: PARP! PARP! what’s hot in ovarian cancer at SGO and AACR?).

So, rather than do another AACR 2017 Preview (more coming next week!), it seemed timely to take a look at some of the interesting questions we’ve received from subscribers.

Five questions have been selected for answer in this week’s BSB reader Q&A. We don’t award prizes if your question is selected, nor do we name who asked the question, but everyone benefits when interesting questions are asked and we can all learn from each other.

As author Thomas Berger aptly said:

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” 

What differentiates many world class cancer researchers is frequently the scientific questions they ask in their work. The same holds true if you are a C level executive or a journalist. The quality of the answer you obtain is often dependent on the quality of the question you ask.

We hope that being better informed about the issues and topics we write about on BSB will enable subscribers to ask better questions, and in the process make better decisions.

Subscribers can login to read more (and see if your question was answered) or you can gain access via the blue box below… 

There’s no secret or surprise with our latest AACR Preview as this week the focus takes a slight turns or detour to the annual meeting of the Society for Gynecology Oncology being held in National Harbor, Maryland.

PARP inhibitors in ovarian cancer have been a hot topic since last autumn when the PARP inhibitor data dropped at ESMO in Copenhagen, and was not without controversy either.

We’ve been following the trials, tribulations and even machinations, of the clinical development of olaparib, rucaparib and niraparib for a while now so what’s in store in the latest round of salvoes?

And importantly, what else can we expect to see in DC at AACR next month?

For a tumour type that hasn’t received much attention over the last decade or two, things are distinctly picking up.  Is it all good though?

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MLK Memorial, Washington DC

We’re continuing our previews of the forthcoming 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Washington DC with a look at an emerging pathway that may impact checkpoint therapy.

It’s an exciting time in cancer immunotherapy, although only a small minority of people have remarkable long-term durable responses and the reality is that most patients, even if they respond initially, end up relapsing at some point.

There’s still a lot to learn about cancer immunotherapy – we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible.

At AACR17 we can expect to see insights on the direction the field is going. In this post we take a look at an emerging pathway, and some of the key presentations and posters that you should see if you are in DC for the meeting.

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Washington Monument

After exploring a mechanistic approach and a tumour type as part of our AACR annual meeting coverage, in our third preview today we turn to look at a novel target.

This particular target hasn’t received much attention at all but this could well change in the future as some of the compounds move into the clinic.

There are a few important questions to consider:

  • Who’s going to be first to evaluate in humans?
  • Which tumour types will be optimal?
  • Which combinations are likely to be synergistic, tolerable and effective?
  • What path to market strategies will avoid the enrollment problems now that checkpoint blockade is becoming much more ubiquitous?

This is an interesting niche that may well evolve into a competitive landscape going forward.

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Today for the second AACR 2017 Preview, I wanted to switch things up a bit and turn from looking at an important trend to a specific tumour type. One of the reasons for this is that we received questions from readers about recent data presented at medical meetings in this sphere.

It’s also not something that we have covered extensively here on BSB, so looking at something in a different light is often a good idea since insights and intelligence can sometimes jump out afresh.

Given that there are also some important clinical trial results emerging here, this is something we can expect to return to in Washington DC when the data is presented at AACR next month. What can we learn ahead of the event though? It turns out the answer is quite a lot.

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In the first of our 2017 AACR annual meeting previews, we are taking a look at a particular theme that we expect to hear much more about over the coming months.

Washington DC cherry blossoms

In order to make something better than what it is, we first need to step back and understand the various factors that underpin it. To do otherwise is akin to the proverbial throwing of mud at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Trying things out just because they seem like a good idea or that’s all you have in your pipeline doesn’t really inspire the greatest of confidence in a clinical trial’s success.

This is also where several factors including tumour biology, cancer genomics, biomarkers, and acquired resistance can intersect to produce some intriguing results.

Please note that our Conference Preview series are never random.  When looking at the abstracts as a whole, we try to organise them around a particular scientific theme or a tumour type. The idea here is that it makes it much easier for our readers to see and grasp emerging concepts and trends. It’s also a deeper dive into the whys; things happen for a reason – why is that?  What can we learn from the process?

These are also not random selections from say, publicly traded or private companies, big or small caps.

It does take more time to roll thematic articles out, but the advantage is that over the course of the next two weeks readers will be better equipped to get a grip on the meeting ahead of the event.

Indeed, a couple of subscribers even told us last year they learned more from our in-depth previews than they did from the meeting itself because it’s easy to miss the important things or become ‘bigly overwhelmed’ as one bio fund manager explained to me.

Strategically, we’ve taken one specific theme today and explored what we can expect based on what we have learned to date, and looked at how that will potentially impact a few things going forward.

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Orlando, Florida: It’s time for a review of emerging science and clinical concepts.  This post is the final one in our latest series from ASCO-SITC.

Here we take a step back and highlight six key emerging trends and ideas that were either presented in talks and posters, or are sentiments based on conversations with attendees in the poster halls or corridors.

Sometimes those discussions are pretty helpful in giving hints on new dirrections before the actual data eventually comes out.

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Hans Bishop, Juno

After a rocky 2016 for Juno with JCAR015 and the trial that imploded unexpectedly and badly, the CEO Hans Bishop quietly announced that announced that ROCKET has been abandoned:

“2016 was a year of progress and learning for Juno and the cancer immunotherapy field. We continue to experience encouraging signs of clinical benefit in our trial addressing NHL, but we also recognize the unfortunate and unexpected toxicity we saw in our trial addressing ALL with JCAR015. We have decided not to move forward with the ROCKET trial or JCAR015 at this time.”

A strange year of hubris attracting nemesis might be another way of describing the events for some observers.

We covered the Juno roller coaster and events in July and December 2016 for those who want to catch up on the full history of this unfortunate and ongoing debacle:

Where does the latest Juno news leave things and what can we expect going forward?

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