Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘ASH 2014 San Francisco’

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.

Dr Kanti Rai ASH14 LIfetime Achievement Award

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.

San Francisco – it’s day 2 of the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. Yesterday, data was presented to the media on “Directing the Immune System to Attack Hard-to-Treat Blood Cancers.”

ASH 2014 San Francisco Media Briefing

The press briefing included four presentations on some the latest developments in blood cancer immunotherapy:

  • Phase 1 trial of nivolumab in classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL) – Abstract 289.
  • Phase 1 trial of pembrolizumab in classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL) – Abstract 290.
  • Phase 2 trial of blinatumomab in acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) – Abstract 379
  • Phase 2 trial of CTL019 CAR-T therapy in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) – Abstract 380

Delegates to the meeting will hear the above abstracts presented in oral sessions tomorrow. However the media heard the results yesterday which led to stories being published about data that “researchers reported on Saturday” and described the “results presented at the American Society of Hematology,” not the results to be presented!

We also saw the publication of two New England Journal of Medicine papers to coincide with the presentations to the media yesterday.

The New England Journal published the nivolumab data in cHL. BMS seem to have a talent for obtaining publication of early PD-1 clinical trial data in the NEJM to coincide with meeting presentations.

Irrespective of when data is presented at ASH or how it is shared, data on its own is meaningless without context and interpretation. The majority of our conference coverage will be after we have heard the full presentations of data, talked to experts and can do in-depth pieces.

However, on our daily live blog (or as live as we can make it) we will be sharing rolling insights from the sessions we are in and top line thoughts on what captures our attention.

Today, for those of you looking for a photo with our antibuddies (@gene_antibody), they are having a photo opportunity – do check it out, they will be at the Genentech booth 1909 from 12 -1.30.

What Genentech are doing is fun and educational – but do remember to brush up on your antibody structures before asking for a photo, you wouldn’t want the embarrassment of not knowing which was which would you?

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San Francisco – the 2014 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology kicks off today. Yesterday was “Super Friday” –  a day when the non-profit and industry sponsored satellite symposia and other ancillary meetings, take center stage.

Each day (Sat – Mon) at the ASH meeting here in San Francisco, we we’ll be sharing information on which sessions we are in. For all those who have asked how do we get a photo with our antibuddies: @gene_antibody, we’ll mention where they are if we see them 🙂

By the way to get a photo you have to be able to identify which one is which – tip: there’s a monoclonal, bispecific, ADC and glycoengineered. Can you work out which is which from the picture? If not, it’s time to brush up on your antibody structures!

In addition, throughout the day (schedule and wifi permitting) we’ll be updating the rolling blog with short comments on the oral sessions and posters we’ve been in and what’s captured our attention. The hematology community has embraced Twitter, with many of the leading experts in the field sharing commentary and insights on their specialized area. ASH is also particularly welcoming to patient advocates who will be live-tweeting too. Expect the #ASH14 Twitter hashtag to generate a lot of information. If you’d like to share the ASH journey with us over the next 3 days, you can purchase access by clicking on the blue icon at the end of the post. Existing subscribers already know how to login. Let the meeting commence!

Coit Tower San FranciscoThe 2014 American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting starts later this week in San Francisco. #ASH14 is a “must attend” given the innovation that has taken place in recent years for new treatments of blood related cancers.

One of the highlights of last year’s ASH was the data for CTL019 Chimeric Antigen Receptor CAR-T in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) presented by Stephan Grupp (CHOP). The data, in the opinion of many, was worthy of presentation in the plenary session of the meeting.

CAR-T cell therapy remains in the news, with the recent announcement that Seattle based Juno Therapeutics have an initial public offering (IPO) planned, and last week Kite Pharmaceuticals announced a secondary offering to raise additional funds. Last month, Houston based Bellicum Pharmaceuticals also filed an IPO to raise funds for development of their GvHD and CAR-T therapies.

It already looks a highly competitive marketplace and nobody is yet in phase 3 development. In addition to Juno, Kite, Novartis/UPenn and Bellicum, the Chinese also have CAR-T therapies in development. Other companies in the field include Cellectis, who have partnerships with Servier and Pfizer. On top of all this activity, only a week ago Janssen announced they had partnered with Transposagen Biopharmaceuticals. Wow!

In addition to ALL, CLL, and NHL, new developments are starting to emerge in myeloma, not just with CAR T cell therapies, but also checkpoint inhibitors and modified measles virus therapy.

Investor interest in immuno-oncology is certainly very high, and one has to question whether it is beginning to border on “tulip mania”? As we’ve written about on the blog, there remain a number of challenges that have to be overcome with CAR-T therapy, particularly in adults, and at the moment it’s still very much an experimental therapy.

In this post, we offer some top line thoughts on what to expect and look out for at ASH14 in Multiple Myeloma. It is consistently an area that attracts a lot of interest at the meeting and this year promises not to disappoint.

If you have to plans to be in San Francisco, do say “hello.”

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Nature Cover Checkpoint InhibitorsIn a landmark publication today, the prestigious journal Nature includes five “Letters” regarding checkpoint blockade of the programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor and its ligand PD-L1. It confirms the promise and potential of the emerging field of immuno-oncology to provide durable and long lasting responses in many cancers.

Readers of the blog will already have read about the stunning early data presented at ASCO this year for the engineered humanized antibody MPDL3280A (Genentech/Roche) in urothelial bladder cancer (UBC). In his Nature Letter, Thomas Powles (Barts) and colleagues sum of the significance of this data in the opening sentence:

“There have been no major advances for the treatment of metastatic urothelial bladder cancer (UBC) in the last 30 years.”

On the basis of this data, MPDL3280A received Breaththrough Therapy Designation from the FDA earlier this year.

Roy Herbst (Yale) and colleagues in their Nature Letter write about biomakers of PD-L1 inhibition and how their data “suggest that MPDL3280A is most effective in patients in which pre-existing immunity is suppressed by PD-L1, and is reinvigorated on antibody treatment.

At the recent annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), Dr Herbst gave one of the best presentations of the meeting, in which he discussed Personalized Immunotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.  His top ten lessons learned kept the audience’s attention throughout.

In this excerpt from an interview he kindly gave BSB afterwards, he talks about the promise of cancer immunotherapy in lung cancer:

 

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, so this will be the only post this week. Thanksgiving is a good time to take a moment out of the hectic life we all live to “smell the roses” and express gratitude for all the positive things around us.

Next week sees the start of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in San Francisco. The cancer conference circuit seems to roll quickly from one meeting to the next at the moment. There’s a lot of promising data, and while we can’t discuss the data before the meeting due to ASH embargo restrictions, next week we will be highlighting some of the presentations we are particularly looking forward to.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tower of London Field of Poppies

Marcel R.M. van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D.At the 2014 Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) annual meeting at National Harbor, MD, one of the presentations that caught my attention was by Marcel van den Brink MD PhD (@DrMvandenBrink), pictured right, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. (picture courtesy of MSKCC with permission).

Dr van den Brink, who is Head of the Division of Hematologic Oncology and Alan.N. Houghton Chair, gave a fascinating talk entitled, “The role of the Intestinal Microbiome on GvHD” (Graft versus Host Disease).

Think of the yogurt pots and probiotic drinks we see in the supermarket with “beneficial” bacteria. We’re familiar with the idea that the make up of the millions of bacteria in our gut can make a difference to our digestion and health.

Well, it turns out it can make a difference to our immune system too. Research presented at the recent SITC meeting by Dr van den Brink showed that manipulating the bacteria in the gut could potentially help the thousands of patients around the world who receive a bone marrow transplant (BMT).  BMT is a gruelling procedure that many leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma patients have to face as part of their treatment protocol.

Sadly, about 20%* of people who receive an allogeneic bone marrow transplant from an unmatched donor die from Graft versus host disease (GvHD)

* According to 2010-2011 data from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transport (CIBMTR), GvHD was the cause of death in 19-23% of people who received an allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

After his informative and interesting presentation at SITC, Dr van den Brink spoke with BSB about his findings and what’s on the horizon for the treatment of GvHD.

Over the course of a half hour conversation, he covered some of the new treatment options, one of which may change the standard of care, and the rational some companies are pursuing by targeting the innate immune system.

For those interested in CAR-T cell therapy and the promise of allogeneic CAR-T cells, Dr van den Brink kindly talked about some unpublished data from MSKCC about why we have not seen GvHD in patients who receive allogeneic CAR-T cells.

GvHD is an important topic, and one that deserves more attention. I expect we will here a lot more about it at ASH this year so reading this interview will, hopefully, help you better put that data in context.

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