Until recently, we followed the race to market in EGFR T790M lung cancer with Clovis’s rociletinib and AstraZeneca’s osimertinib (Tagrisso). In phase 2, AstraZeneca caused quite a stir when they came from behind and leapfrogged their biotech rival with a large global randomized controlled trial seemingly out of nowhere. They never looked back.
Can they do the same thing with durvalumab (Imfinzi), one of their IO therapies that targets PD-L1?
If there’s one thing that many astute observers of the IO space have learned this week it’s that irrational exuberance and the hopeful sentiment that ‘everything’ will just tweak the immune system and work positively no matter what has thankfully come to an end.
We’ve seen several highs and lows already with Merck’s pembrolizumab gaining accelerated approval in 1L NSCLC in allcomers when combined with chemotherapy and AstraZeneca reporting positive phase 3 data for durvalumab in unresectable (stage 3) NSCLC based on meeting the study endpoint (PFS).
There is much to be learned because the nivolumab disaster in 1L NSCLC last year was not a singular aberration given that durvalumab has seen some missteps in the past and even atezolizumab had some unexpected news with urothelial cancer this week (Check out our insights), as compared to chemo in the second line setting. Just like mutations, there will be many more to come, perhaps even some additional ones before the year is out.
What about today’s news from AstraZeneca in unresectable NSCLC?
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We’re overdue a roundup and discussion on various key topics of interest to BSB readers, so here goes…
Today’s topics include an in-depth look at the impact of some negative events:
- Kite and the cerebral oedema death with axi-cel
- Genentech’s atezolizumab OS miss in urothelial cancer
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We’ve been saying for a while that 2017 and onwards would be when we start to see a few IO combination trials start to shake out. Interestingly, that process seems to have already started, if recent news is any thing to go by.
With this in mind, the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) coming up this weekend gives us a timely moment to explore combinations that are looking interesting… or not.
In the last of our AACR 2017 Conference Previews, we take a look at what to expect on this year’s program in the IO and Checkpoint arena. In short, it’s quite a lot and not without some controversy either!
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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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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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One of the frequently cited conceptual frameworks in Cancer Immunotherapy is the Cancer Immunity Cycle developed by Drs Dan Chen and Ira Mellman from Genentech.
Ira Mellman and Dan Chen
As we heard Dan and Ira tell us on the Novel Targets Podcast recorded last year at #AACR16, the cancer immunity cycle doesn’t include all the elements that we now know impact the immune system and whether someone will have an immune response. The microbiome is one example that readily comes to mind.
To address this, Chen and Mellman have now published the next installment in the series in Nature:
“Elements of Cancer Immunity and the cancer-immune setpoint.”
The review paper published last month incorporates the latest research into a different framework that looks at the factors that influence what they call the ‘cancer-immune setpoint.’
Anyone involved with cancer immunotherapy knows how fast moving and dynamic the field is, something they draw attention to:
“The pace of cancer immunotherapy clinical studies is such that they have outstripped our progress in understanding the underlying science. However, this situation has created the opportunity to combine emerging scientific and clinical insights in a synergistic fashion that… will also provide guidance for the identification of new targets… and the crafting of a framework for making decisions on a personalized basis.”
Conceptual frameworks such as those proposed by Chen and Mellman will be of increasing importance as we try to make sense of the tsunami of cancer immunotherapy clinical trial data, including combinations, that is coming our way over the next 18 months.
During my recent visit to San Francisco for ASCO GI, I had the great pleasure to catch up with Daniel S. Chen, MD PhD, (Global Head of Cancer Immunotherapy Development, Genentech/Roche) and talk about his latest thoughts on how we should think about cancer immunotherapy.
In writing these review papers he told me:
“We look at this as an opportunity to really think about the field, and try to conceptualize what is happening.”
We also discussed their collaboration with Kite Pharma, something of relevance to conferences this week as we head off to BMT Tandem and the ASCO-SITC meeting.
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After several years in the wastelands of cancer research due to lack of significant results and only one product on the market, therapeutic cancer vaccines now look to be back in fashion and are seeing a revival with their inclusion in clinical trials.
One of the reasons behind the resurgence of interest is the advent of checkpoints, and the potential of vaccines in the immuno-oncology space to boost or enhance the immune response.
Their use could not only increase the response to checkpoint inhibitors in people who might otherwise not respond, but in those who obtain some initial response such as a partial response, they could also potentially help achieve a more durable long-term response.
As we continue to ride the wave of cancer immunotherapy on BSB, the cancer vaccine field is suddenly an exciting area to watch.
I’ve long been known as a cancer vaccine sceptic, although recently several approaches in this niche have begun to look rather promising indeed. Here, we highlight and discuss one such company in the field, including an interview with the CEO.
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San Francisco: In the final post of the week, it’s time to focus on some of the interesting concepts and early ideas being explored in GI tumours such as pancreatic and colorectal carcinomas.
Gems from the Poster Hall or what Dog Drug Heaven really looks like?
Despite the image implied by the used poster bins (right), there were actually several encouraging signs from emerging IO approaches as well as some surprising results that lead to some compounds – or at least some indications – going off to dog drug heaven.
There were also some salutory lessons to be learned in terms of understanding biomarkers and useful these can be.
After years of incremental improvements with targeted therapies, it’s time to look at whether some immunotherapy combinations can make an impact in what is known as cold tumours.
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Challenges and Opportunities in the evolving 1L NSCLC Landscape
Rolling English Landscape in Devon
Following a series of events – from BMS’s failure with nivolumab monotherapy… to Merck’s sudden announcement to file their combination of pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy… to AstraZeneca’s delay of the MYSTIC trial exploring durvalumab plus tremelimumab this week, there’s never a dull moment in lung cancer!
So can we expect some more surprises in store in 1L NSCLC?
I say yes we can!
The big questions are what are they and what impact will they have?
2017 is ironically, the year of the Rooster – so who’s going to crow loudly at dawn and who is going to get strangled in the process?
In the world of cancer research it is unlikely that everything wins or is successful, so figuring out the early signs and hints is an important part of the process.
One thing I learned early in this business is that it pays for companies to be humble, flexible and open minded rather than arrogant and dogmatic in their thinking… otherwise you can easily be blindsided.
There were a few examples of that in oncology R&D last year, a repeat could very well follow in 2017 for the unwary.
Here we look at 1L NSCLC in the context of multiple phase 3 trials that are slated to read out… from AstraZeneca, BMS, Merck and Genentech.
If you want to know what the potential impact of these events are on the landscape, including what we can expect from MYSTIC, CheckMate-227 and several others, then this is the post for you because some surprises are likely in store.
We cut through the chase to explain the what and the why in clear simple language.
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National Harbor, MD
Despite remarkable results with cancer immunotherapy to date, we do need to keep out feet on the ground and remember that response rates are relatively low to modest (10–30%) and the majority of patients do not respond or see a benefit with these approaches.
As we start moving beyond checkpoint monotherapy, the realisation has fast hit many researchers and companies that we really don’t know as much about the tumour microenvironment (TME) as we would like.
No doubt we will learn a lot more about it from the combinatory approaches, but be aware that this also means higher risk associated with such developments – we will likely see a lot of failures – and hopefully, some successes too.
This is where the little biotech companies have an opportunity to shine… they may have some intriguing IO compounds in development but not an anti-PD1/L1 backbone, meaning they can collaborate with a big pharma company to explore novel combinations in small phase 1/2 trials to determine what works or not. This is much lower risk (and R&D costs) for both parties and we get to see more quickly where things shake out.
At the annual Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) meeting last week, there was a whole day devoted to New Immunotherapy Drug Development.
Some of these agents look worthy of watching out for and following their progress. A variety of data in different targets and MOA were presented from big and small companies alike. We selected a few of the promising ones for further review and discussion.
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