It’s that time of the month where the BSB readers get their chance to put us on the hot spot!
Here, we take a look at reader questions that have been submitted and argue the toss – is there evidence preclinically or clinically that is useful or instructive?
We can’t promise to answer every question, sometimes there simply isn’t any data to help either way.
This week, the topic is CAR T cell therapies, a subject that seems to be very high on many people’s minds and many of you had similar questions, so here goes…
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At the recent American Association of Immunology (AAI) and American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) meetings in New Orleans, we had the good fortune to interview a number of leading cancer immunologists about their work. Some of these have already been published either here on Biotech Strategy Blog, or on the Novel Targets podcast.
In the meantime, the huge tsunami of data from the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) hit and we have been a bit backlogged! Time to address that and focus on some more thoughtful reflections about where the cancer immunotherapy field is going.
Already, we are seeing another round of new collaborations and deals hit the newswires with AstraZeneca announcing two collaborations, one with Inovio on the INO–3112 HPV cancer vaccine and another with Heptares, where they acquired the exclusive global rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise the adenosine A2A receptor antagonist, HTL–1071. The first involves a cancer vaccine and the second immune escape mechanisms. Not to be outdone, their rivals Clovis also announced a collaboration with Genentech to explore rociletinib (EGFR T790M) with atezoliumab (anti-PD-L1) in EGFR mutation-positive lung cancer.
Cancer vaccines have not, however, been a very successful or fertile area of R&D for Pharmaland to date, with only one such therapy approved by the FDA (sipuleucel-T or Provenge) and literally hundreds of other such compounds consigned to dog drug heaven. This illustrates the sheer enormity of the task we need to undertake in stimulating the body’s immune system to successfully attack the cancer in a sustained and robust way.
Dr Rosenberg, NCI
Despite this setback, there is still notable interest in exploring the innate immune system and finding effective ways to target and stimulate the T cells or T lymphocytes to attack the cancer.
One man who has accomplished an incredible body of work over the last two to three decades is Dr Steven Rosenberg from the NCI’s Surgery Branch (right).
No one who attended any of the cancer conferences where he spoke at over the last year is ever going to forget the dramatic before and after slides of remarkable transformation in his patient case history examples using Tumour Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) as this example illustrates:
To learn more about Dr Rosenberg’s work and insights, you can sign in or subscribe in the box below to read our latest thought leader interview in the cancer research field.
This weekend, a controversy erupted at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) relating to Juno’s chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy following a series of tweets by Jonah Lomu, a keen biotech investor:
This innocuous looking tweet started a maelstrom of speculation and wild rumours that spiraled a little out of control. This was perhaps not helped by Dr Michel Sandelin being a little caught off guard after his presentation yesterday, essentially saying, ‘no comment’ and that the trials were stopped for ‘safety reasons’. Rather than calm things down, it unfortunately added fuel to the fire.
Yesterday, we spoke remotely with Dr Renier Brentjens (MSKCC) off the record and ascertained that the furore, far from being a major incident that impacts the whole field negatively, was actually a tempest in a tea cup that has been blown out of all proportion.
After his invited presentation and Dr June’s discussion in the clinical trials symposium today, Dr Brentjens agreed to answer our questions on the record to provide some detail and straight facts to put things in context to address the concerns.
To learn what Dr Brentjens had to say in this exclusive interview, sign in below – it makes for very interesting listening:
The Inquirer yesterday reported on Philly.com that start-up Juno Therapeutics (Juno) are now in control of a legal dispute between St Jude Children’s Hospital (St Jude) and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) over chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) intellectual property that contributed to the development of CTL019, licensed by Penn to Novartis. Thanks to @lomu_j for sharing this news on Twitter.
According to the Inquirer, last month Juno entered an agreement with St Jude to commercialize their CAR T-cell technology, which gave them the right to “control, pursue and defend” the dispute between Penn and St Jude. On December 18, Juno’s intervention was approved in Federal District Court in Philadelphia.
(Update Jan 10: Zack Seward (@ZackSeward) provides additional commentary on WHYY Philadelphia newsworks on “The high-stakes legal fight over a ‘cancer cure from Penn.’ He reports that St Jude have every confidence in their patent.
Subscribers can read my analysis of the case below.
For many attendees, the most exciting news at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) held last December in Atlanta was the prospect of personalized T cell therapy for the treatment of patients with B cell cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
The potential of this new treatment option was recognized at ASH 2012 by the award to Dr Bruce R. Blazar, MD and Carl H. June, MD of the Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize for research that generated major translational advances in T-Cell Infusions.
ASH 2012: Carl June, MD receives Ernest Beutler Prize
Dr June, in his accompanying lecture discussed preliminary data for the trial of CTL019 (formerly CART-19), a novel chimeric antigen receptor-transduced T cell therapy against CD19. Subscribers to premium content can login to read more below: