Over the last five years the face of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) landscape has changed quite dramatically with the advent of new approvals in several categories. These include anti-CD20 antibodies, BTK inhibitors, PI3K inhibitors and apoptotic Bcl–2 inhibitors.
In yesterday’s wide ranging interview we explored in-depth how these therapies are impacting the broader landscape, as well as emerging trends in how these regimens might be used.
In Part 2 of the ongoing series, we spoke with another CLL expert and explored promising new and earlier agents in development for a different perspective on how outcomes might be improved further.
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Targeted therapy and Chemo-Immunotherapy in CLL
At last December’s 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, one of the areas that attracted attention was the latest clinical data on the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
ASH 2016 in San Diego
In recent years, we’ve seen tremendous advances in the field with several new agents approved such as obintuzumab, ibrutinib, idelalisib, and venetoclax. There are also new treatment options available for CLL patients with high risk disease such as 17p deletions (Del17p).
Other new targeted therapies such as acalabrutinib are now in clinical development, plus we have CAR T cell therapies and combination strategies also being evaluated in the clinic.
So what was the hot news from #ASH16 in CLL?
- Does chemotherapy still have a role or is it a targeted therapy world?
- Are we further forward towards a cure?
- Have we worked out how to identify those at risk of relapse?
- Will CAR T cell therapy be a game changer in CLL?
- Is financial toxicity going to be an issue with combination strategies?
BSB interviewed two experts in CLL while in San Diego who kindly shared their thoughts on which CLL data impressed them at the ASH annual meeting and discussed some of the big strategic issues facing the field right now. These interviews are being posted in a two-part series.
Part 1 today answers some of the questions highlighted above and explores the changing face of the broader CLL landscape.
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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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In recent years, there’s been a lot of progress in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). New targeted therapies such as ibrutinib (Imbruvica) and idelalisib (Zydelig) have been approved and have helped extend the lives of patients with this disease further. However, there still remains a need for new treatment options.
Several new drugs are on the horizon for CLL. At ASH there were a number of presentations for venetoclax, formerly known as ABT-199/GDC-0199, it’s a BCL-2 inhibitor, which is being co-developed by AbbVie and Genentech. We’ve written extensively about it on the blog. One of the challenges with venetoclax is the potential for Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS) – we heard at ASH that starting a patient on the drug needs to be carefully managed and monitored, with high risk patients hospitalized.
Other new drugs on the longer term horizon for CLL include acalabrutinib (Acerta) and BGB-3111 (BeiGene), both next generation BTK inhibitors and potential competitive threats to ibrutinib. The CLL market is becoming interesting again!
At ASH 2015, I spoke with Ian W. Flinn, MD, PhD. Director, Blood Cancer Research Program at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, TN. At ASH, Dr Flinn presented data for a CLL trial of venetoclax combined with obinutuzumab, a CD20 targeted monoclonal antibody; data was obtained in both the upfront and relapsed/refractory setting.
In a wide ranging conversation, we talked about some of the data of note in Orlando, what the future direction is in CLL, and what to look forward to at ASH 2016.
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ASH 2015 LBA Session
The annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) has a few quirks compared to other meetings. One of these is that all the “Late Breakers” are presented together on the last morning of the meeting.
It’s a rather unfortunate time given many have already headed back to their busy clinics or left for SABCS in San Antonio and ‘late breakers’ by definition, often offer new data that’s really noteworthy.
The result can also be a bit of a hodgepodge session that you have sit to listen through to get to those presentations you really want to hear.
At ASH this year there were two late breakers on new treatment options for CLL patients with a 17p deletion (Del17p). This is a pretty challenging group to treat. Although ibrutinib is indicated for this patient group, many sadly relapse. There’s an unmet medical need for new treatment options. At ASH we heard data for idelalisib (PI3K-delta) and venetoclax (Bcl2).
After the session, I briefly spoke with Dr Kanti Rai (New York) for his reaction to the data. Dr Rai (pictured below) received the 2014 Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology.
Dr Kanti Rai receives 2014 ASH Lifetime Achievement Award
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Whew, after posting the interview with Dr Tom Gajewski this morning from the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), we headed across town to the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) morning session and then dashed back to complete the first of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Previews for 2015!
What a busy week it’s been, never mind the hurly burly of today.
The ASCO 2015 abstracts went live at 5pm ET, with the exception of the late breaking abstracts, which are usually embargoed to the day of the actual presentation.
There are a number of topics well worth highlighting this year, so today kicks off the first of our annual Preview series on BSB. There will be much more to come – we wrote nearly 30 articles before, during and after the conference last year – this year will probably be similar with so much data to review and discuss.
The 2015 Annual Meeting of the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT 2015) was held in Istanbul from March 22-25, where it offered a European perspective on some of the latest developments in cancer immunotherapy.
We’ve heard a lot in the United States about the early CAR T cell therapy clinical trial results from institutions such as UPenn, CHOP, MSKCC, Fred Hutchinson, Seattle Children’s, the NCI, and MD Anderson to name but a few, so it was good to see a leading a European center join the club: University College London (UCL).
While completing a Masters degree in Human and Applied Physiology at King’s College London, I spent several weeks training at UCL and particularly enjoyed the intercollegiality of the University of London.
At EBMT15, Dr Sara Ghorashian Clinical Training Fellow at the Insitute of Child Health at UCL, presented data on a phase 1 trial of Epstein Barr virus (EBV) specific T cells transduced with a first generation CD19 Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR). The trial data was first reported by Dr Ghorashian (pictured below) in an oral presentation at #ASH14 (Abstract 383).
Dr Ghorashian stated at EBMT that UCL have several CAR T cell therapy trials planned.
Readers will be aware that earlier this year that UCL spun-off a series A funded company, Autolus, to commercialize their CAR T cell therapy research.
Although £30m from Syncona (a subsidiary of the Wellcome Trust) is not a lot of money by US investment standards, UCL is nonetheless a European center to watch if you have an interest in the CAR-T competitive landscape.
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A couple of years ago we had a lot of fun here on BSB following the progress of ibrutinib (Imbruvica), obinutuzumab (Gazyva), and idelalisib (Zydelig) in CLL and indolent NHL. It seemed back then that the stunning trio were the hot topics for some time at ASCO and ASH meetings. Exciting times! All three target different entities (BTK, anti-CD20 and PI3K-delta) and made it past the tape to market, with Gazyva leading, Imbruvica a close second and Zydelig a slightly more distant third. I was reminded of the race again over the last week or so as the 4Q earnings were announced, with Pharmacyclics reporting almost $500M for Imbruvica last year and estimating sales to hit $1B in 2015. In contrast, Zydelig revenues for 2014 were $23M, reflective of their much later market entry in the US.
Still, that was a pretty impressive set of drugs all in development at the same time.
Two other agents we also reported on regularly were Infinity’s IPI-145, a PI3K delta-gamma inhibitor, and ABT-199/GDC-0199 (now known as venetoclax). I haven’t heard much about the former of late, but after a few missteps, the next big question to consider is whether venetoclax is coming back strongly or destined for dog drug heaven?
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Readers don’t need Biotech Strategy Blog to tell them that Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy (CAR-T), along with Checkpoint blockade, is one of the hottest areas of cancer drug development.
The last two days have seen pre #JPM15 deal activity with Kite Pharmaceuticals ($KITE) announcing a commercial collaboration with Amgen ($AMGN), which is not surprising given several of the Kite senior management team previously worked at the company.
Meanwhile, both Seattle based Juno Therapeutics ($JUNO) and Houston based Bellicum Pharmaceuticals ($BLCM) had successful IPO’s at the end of 2014. Interestingly, Bellicum are initially focusing most of their IPO funds, not on bringing their CAR-T to market, but on a novel cell therapy post stem cell transplant that aims to lower graft versus host disease (GvHD). GvHD is something we’ve been writing about regularly here!
Just this morning we’ve seen yet more CAR-T activity, with European Cardio3Biosciences (Euronext Brussels and Paris: CARD) acquiring the CAR-T technology of Oncyte (the oncology division of privately-held U.S. biotechnology company Celdara Medical).
There’s certainly a lot of activity in the CAR-T space and I expect we will hear more at next week’s JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco (#JPM15). One player in the CAR-T space who has not been gaining as much attention, and one that I think should not be dismissed, is Paris based Cellectis (Alternext: ALCLS.PA), who struck deals with both Servier and Pfizer last year. In June, BSB went to Paris and interviewed Chairman and CEO André Choulika, PhD and CSO Philippe Duchateau, PhD. At the recent American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in San Francisco, Julianne Smith, PhD (pictured below), Vice President CART Development at Cellectis, gave an in-depth interview to BSB. Some key questions to address here are what are some of the important milestones for Cellectis in 2015 and and what makes the Cellectis CAR-T approach different from other companies in this space? Update Nov 7: This post now has two updates relating to the important news that came out after this post was published concerning the issuance by the USPTO of a gene editing patent that covers Cellectis’ intellectual property. Subscribers can login to read more or you can purchase access by clicking on the blue icon below.
San Francisco – “Manic Monday” is what I call Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. It’s when the majority of oral presentations take place in multiple parallel sessions that require you to run between meeting rooms if you want to follow a particular drug across different blood cancers.
It’s even more challenging this year by the fact the conference is in three buildings at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. While Moscone North and South are interconnected thanks to an underground atrium, to get to sessions in Moscone West from North/South you have to go out of the building, cross one or two main roads, then go up elevators to the second or third floors. Not ideal! I think ASH is now too big for the venue.
Looking back on yesterday, it was a privilege to be in the audience when Dr Kanti Rai received a well-deserved lifetime achievement award for his work in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). A visibily moved Dr Rai was given a standing ovation by the thousands present in the plenary hall.
Expect the #ASH14 Twitter stream today to be like opening the tap to run a bath. I congratulate all the hematology experts who have shared data and commentary from sessions via social media. #ASH14 stands out in terms of expert engagement and a high signal to noise ratio.
If there was an award for best conference coverage of #ASH14 on Twitter I would nominate @drmiguelperales.
Not only does Dr Perales from Sloan-Kettering share tweets from the sessions that he is in that are accurate and informative, but he frequently offers links to relevant papers for those that want to learn more. In addition to showcasing his expertise, this is a really good way to use social media to educate and inform. I look forward to his commentary, particularly if I am in another session at ASH. A must follow on Twitter!
To the extent possible we’ll be providing updates to today’s live blog throughout the date, subscribers can login to read more or you can purchase access by clicking on the blue icon at the end.