Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Astellas’

After a long lull on the targeted therapies front – outside of EGFR T790M in lung cancer – this year’s ASCO has plenty to be cheerful about with new data across multiple tumour types.  We can’t cover them all here, but more will be discussed in the Daily Live Blogs starting on Saturday.

Which drugs are going to be in roaring back after a quiet period?  Which ones will be having a more muted meeting?

ASCO16 Chicago 4For those of you who are working in the targeting therapy world, take heart, there is a future beyond cancer immunotherapy; it is not the universal panacea and will likely not cure every cancer, at least for now.

There’s still a market opportunity for targeted therapies in cancer, and as we mentioned in yesterday’s ASCO Preview, there is also potential for the combination of targeted therapies with immunotherapies, so long as the combined toxicity is manageable and doesn’t outweigh the benefits.

In this post we’re looking at a selection of targeted therapies in a variety of tumour types. There’s a lot to choose from at ASCO this year.

Here’s a few we think are worth highlighting upfront.

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Medivation-LogoThere’s nothing better than seeing good news in the early morning email alerts I have set up on cancer research!


astellas-logo-no-sloganToday, it was the turn of Astellas and Medivation to announce the results of the TERRAIN study, which is a primarily European phase 2 trial that began in March 2011 in the prechemotherapy setting for castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). The trial met its primary endpoint of progression free survival (PFS).


Why is this an important landmark in CRPC and what does the initial data show?

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The embargoed press release and abstract for Clovis’s CO–1686 (rociletinib) in advanced lung cancer patients with and without the T790M mutation, originally scheduled for Friday morning in Barcelona, was released last night. The actual presentation is slated for Friday, November 21 during the Plenary session from 11:00 to 13:00 CET.

Thus the ongoing race to market in this segment continues apace, as do the fairly robust and determined discussions on the topic.  Without much further ado to read more about our quick insights and reactions to the data, you can sign up or sign in below.


Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is usually a disease of the elderly and an area of high unmet medical need, especially in those who unfortunately relapse post stem cell transplantation (SCT) or are considered ineligible for a transplant. In some ways, it has languished in the graveyard of R&D with very few new therapies approved by the FDA or EMA over the last decade. In fact, it has been quite the opposite with Pfizer’s gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg), an anti-CD33 antibody drug conjugate (ADC) approved and subsequently withdrawn from the US marketplace following lack of confirmatory phase III data.

The list of agents, targeted and and cytotoxics, that have been evaluated and found wanting in the elderly AML setting is very long. These patients are usually considered ineligible for transplant and rather challenging to treat given the concomittant co-morbidities and often frail performance status often exclude them from drug clinical trials also. A number of phase II trials have also generated promising efficacy data, only to fall short in larger randomised studies.

There are now a new raft of compounds in development, quite a few with data at ASCO or EHA, making it a suitable time for an update of the AML landscape.

Companies mentioned: Karyopharm, Astellas, Ambit, Arog, Sunesis, Celgene, Novartis, Genentech, Agios

Compounds mentioned: selinexor, ASP2215, crenolanib, quizartinib, trebananib, vosaroxin, Vidaza, midostaurin, ABT-199, GDC-0199, AG–221, TIM3.

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We hope that everyone had a relaxing holiday break and now it’s time to get back to work.  Tomorrow I will review some more of my thoughts in the immuno-oncology space, since that area had a tremendous amount of progress in San Diego with lots of new ideas to process and summarise.

In the meantime, a few people have written in and asked about what was happening with overcoming resistance in various tumour types, was there anything new to say in that space that was in addition to the the detailed previews we covered before the conference?

Actually, there was a quite a few posters and presentations that caught my eye, so I thought this would be a good idea to review them here:

Lung Cancer: HER2, VEGF, T790M, EGFR, erlotinib, gefitinib, trastuzumab, bevacizumab, CO-1686, AZD9291

Prostate Cancer: mTOR, PI3K, Androgen Receptor, enzalutamide, abiraterone, CC214–2, ARN–509, BET Bromodomian inhibition, ODM–201, GDC–0980, GDC-0068, PF–04691502, BKM120, BEZ235

I am off to Washington DC tomorrow for the annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA).

If you are not able to attend, then you can follow the Twitter coverage on Pharma Strategy Blog where Sally Church (@MaverickNY) will be aggregating the tweets.  The conference hashtag is #AUA2011.  I also expect to be live-tweeting from the conference.

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Like many medical conferences in the United States, the AUA meeting kicks off with independent continuing medical education (CME) satellite symposia on topics of interest.

As a lawyer who has to pay for his own continuing legal education (CLE) credits, I have to confess that I am somewhat cynical that other professionals such as physicians expect to have their CME paid for through free industry-sponsored events.  These symposia are certainly not cheap to run.

However, compared with Europe, CME events in the United States are usually well-produced and fair balanced, albeit with a topical theme that obviously relates to the sponsor’s interest.

The two satellite symposia that I will be attending at AUA are Friday evening’s Amgen supported “Managing Skeletal-Related Events in Patients with Prostate Cancer” and the Saturday morning Astellas/Medivation supported “Reason for Hope: Key Advances in the Management of Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer.”

While at Quintiles, I was lead CRA/European Project Manager for the phase III trial trial of risedronate in elderly women at risk of hip fracture, so I am interested in bone related treatments, and am looking forward to hearing more about denosumab (Xgeva®) and its impact on skeletal related events (SRE).

Oliver Sartor (Tulane) raises some excellent questions in a recent paper published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, “if a patient has a SRE, does it affect the way a patient feels, functions or survives?”

Sartor argues that a better definition of the benefit a drug has on SRE’s would be “a reduction in pain, analgesic consumption or improvement in quality of life (QoL)” instead of the current “feel, function or survive” standard.

He notes that patients with bone-metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) have a limited life expectancy, so that QoL is a key issue. “An asymptomatic event linked to a future adverse event is less meaningful in a patient with metastatic CRPC.

Sartor concluded his paper by saying:

“The lack of effect of bisphosphonates or denosumab on patient-reported outcomes including QoL, pain or analgesic consumption continues to be a disappointment for this entire field.”

When we talk about a reduction in SRE’s what does this really mean for the patient?  I look forward to hearing what the expert panel at Friday evening’s symposia on this topic and hope it will be addressed.

Moving on to the other satellite symposium, supported by Medivation/Astellas, that I will be attending early on Saturday morning.  I expect this symposium will focus on new drugs in the pipeline such as MDV3011 and ARN-509 that target the androgen receptor. Hopefully they will also discuss other therapeutics, such as the recently approved abiraterone acetate (Zytiga®), as well TAK-700, which has a similar mechanism of action to abiraterone, i.e. they both inhibit CYP17 and testosterone production.

I’m looking forward to hearing what the expert panel has to say about the need to take prednisone with abiraterone, and whether there are any issues surrounding long-term usage if abiraterone ends up being used earlier in the pre-chemotherapy setting.  Updated data from the COU-AA-301 trial will be presented at AUA on Monday, and I expect a lot of interest from urologists in this.

The satellite symposia are set to be a good warm up act to the start of the main AUA meeting that runs from May 14 to 19 in Washington DC.  I’ll be writing more from the AUA 2011 over the next few days.

ResearchBlogging.orgSartor, O. (2011). Denosumab in bone-metastatic prostate cancer: known effects on skeletal-related events but unknown effects on quality of life Asian Journal of Andrology DOI: 10.1038/aja.2011.33

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