One of the interesting questions raised by the recently announced and much-discussed Juno/Celgene collaboration is whether you really need a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy in your portfolio to succeed as a global cancer immunotherapy company?
One leading cancer immunotherapy company that believes you don’t is Roche. At ASCO 2015 I had the privilege to talk about this with a leading cancer scientist, William Pao, MD PhD (pictured below). Dr Pao formerly worked with Nobel Prize-winning scientist Harold Varmus at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and subsequently led the Hematology-Oncology Division at Vanderbilt. He joined Roche in July 2014 to lead their early development of innovative oncology new products (see press release).
I particularly enjoyed Dr Pao’s discussion of the T-cell centric strategic framework around which the Roche/Genentech cancer immunotherapy portfolio strategy is based.
If you haven’t done so already, do listen to Episode 3 of the Novel Targets podcast (ASCO Lung Cancer Show) in which you can hear an excerpt from my interview with Dr Pao.
This is the first in a series of interviews with scientific leaders at companies at the forefront of cancer research.
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Anyone who has been regularly to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) over the last decade or two will have have sat through quite a lot of trials with doublets and triplets in numerous advanced solid tumours and seen an impressive graveyard of failed cytotoxics and targeted therapies build up… Too toxic, lack of efficacy, futile even. This is especially true for some of the more difficult to treat cancers such as pancreatic, small cell lung cancer, melanoma, glioblastoma and soft tissue sarcomas.
There is hope though, after all, things have changed quite dramatically in the metastatic melanoma landscape over the last five years that it is now quite unrecognisable compared to a decade or even five years ago. This is very good news indeed.
What about the other tumour types in that list, though? How are we making progress with those?
In the latest series here on BSB, we’re going to focus on the new developments happening on the fringes of cancer research out of the main spotlight and look in more depth at what’s looking promising in some of these areas. Today, we’re going to start with small cell lung cancer (SCLC), a truly devastating disease with a horribly dismal prognosis.
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Chicago – the cancer immunotherapy poster session yesterday morning was “mobbed,” that is the only word to describe it. I have never seen such a crowded poster session at any medical meeting before. It speaks to the huge interest in this growing field.
It’s also a reflection that insights into the future direction of the field will be found in posters about preclinical and early work, rather than in oral presentations that reflect strategic decisions made a long time earlier.
We know checkpoint inhibitors work in many cancers, and a few more have been added to the list at this meeting. While that’s interesting, the real question is how do we increase the response rate and also get them to work in non-immunogenic tumors?
Yesterday in the poster session at ASCO, there was a poster that caught our attention on one approach that may achieve this. We briefly wrote about it in the ASCO Day 2 blog.
Also of note yesterday was that the new generic name for the PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor from Roche/Genentech. MPDL3280A is now atezolizumab. A few presenters stumbled over the pronunciation, it was so new…… and all the z’s add to the trickiness!
As to what Day 3 at ASCO holds, we’ll be updating this blog during the day as our schedule permits.
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Chicago – the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is underway. It’s the Super Bowl of clinical cancer research with approx 35,000 attendees from all over the world.
Earlier today, in a press briefing focused on cancer immunotherapy, we had a glimpse of some of the data that ASCO thinks is particularly newsworthy at the meeting.
In this post, we’ll offer some top-line thoughts and commentary on the following presentations by:
Dung T. Le “PD-1 Blockade in Tumors with Mismatch Repair Deficiency”
Anthony B. El-Khoueiry “Phase 1/2 Safety and Antitumor Activity of Nivolumab in Patients with Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC): CA209-040
Tanguy Y. Seiwert “Antitumor Activity of the Anti-PD-1 Antibody Pembrolizumab in Biomarker-Unselected Patients with R/M Head and Neck Cancer: preliminary results from the KEYNOTE-012 Expansion cohort.”
Luiz Paz-Ares “Phase III, Randomized Trial Checkmate 057 of Nivolumab (NIVO) versus Docetaxel (DOC) in advanced Non-Squamous (non-SQ) cell Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).
We’ll be writing a daily post from ASCO 2015 with regular updates on sessions we’ve attended, and initial thoughts and reactions. Our usual in-depth coverage will follow after the meeting.
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Yesterday, Juno Therapeutics announced a new deal for a collaboration with Editas Medicine that is:
“Focused on creating chimeric antigen receptor (CAR T) and high-affinity T cell receptor (TCR) therapies to treat cancer. The companies will pursue three research programs together utilizing Editas’ genome editing technologies, including CRISPR/Cas9, with Juno’s CAR and TCR technologies.”
This follows on from their recent deals with Fate Therapeutics and Stage Cell Therapeutics and bluebird bio’s licensing deal with Five Prime for novel antibodies to develop CAR T cell therapy.
One of the most interesting questions in CAR T cell development, is whether you need to incorporate a suicide gene or suicide switch into them that allows you to turn off the response, force the T cells to self-destruct, in the event of severe Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS) or other serious adverse events.
This review article is another example that straddles data from conferences earlier this month at Immunology 2015 (AAI) and American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) this coming weekend.
At ASGCT we spoke with Dr Carl June and also heard the latest update on what Cellectis are doing from Dr Julianne Smith.
Companies mentioned: Juno Therapeutics, Novartis/U Penn, Cellectis, Bellicum, bluebird bio, Formula, Molmed.
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New Orleans – At the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) leading experts came together to share their insights on the “Promise of Cancer Immunotherapy.”
The audience at #AAI2015, in an artic chilled hall, heard from an outstanding panel of speakers, many of whom flew in specially:
- Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade: Combinations and Mechanisms, Jedd Wolchok (MSKCC)
- Immune Checkpoint Therapy: Clinical Success and Next Steps, Padmanee Sharma (MD Anderson)
- Improving Cancer Treatment Through Immunotherapy Combinations: Combination MAb Therapy: Dual tumor & Immune Targeting, Holbrook Kohrt (Stanford Cancer Institute)
- Curative Potential of T-Cell Transfer Immunotherapy for Cancer, Steven Rosenberg (Surgery Branch, NCI)
- PD-1 pathway blockade in cancer therapy: new frontiers, Suzanne Topalian (Johns Hopkins)
Dr Steven Rosenberg (NCI)
Cancer Immunotherapy is such a fast-evolving field that at Immunology 2015, we heard data that wasn’t at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), just a few weeks ago.
Several presenters also put in context data that will published at the forthcoming ASCO annual meeting.
If you’d like to hear more about some of the checkpoint inhibitor data at AACR15, do listen to the first episode of the Novel Targets podcast (if you haven’t already done so).
It’s available as a free download on SoundCloud and on iTunes.
This post offers a top-line summary of some of the key messages we heard in the #AAI2015 symposium.
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