Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘CLL’

This week certainly turned out to be a defining tale of two drugs with a chequered history…

Lion DancersFirst off, the FDA approved AbbVie/Genentech’s venetoclax, now known as Venclexta, in a subset of CLL patients with 17p deletions. These patients have a historically poor prognosis and the approval goes some way to addressing the high unmet medical need.

Secondly, another biotech company, Clovis Oncology, got slammed by ODAC with a 12-1 vote to wait for phase 3 data from the TIGER-3 trial for rociletinib to better determine the efficacy:safety benefit profile.

For a long while it seemed that AbbVie had nothing but toil and trouble over the tumour lysis syndrome (TLS) issues giving them some significant challenges to overcome, while Clovis were one of the new darlings of Wall Street.

In the final dash to the market, the tables were turned almost at the 11th hour and fortunes stunningly reversed.  Yet a mere eighteen months ago, few industry watchers would have predicted the difference in outcomes.

In our latest AACR Preview series, we take a look at Bcl2 inhibition and where some of the emerging opportunities might lie based on new preclinical research that is being presented here in New Orleans this weekend.  It makes for interesting reading.

While one tiger is licking its wounds, another is smacking it chops at what the future might hold for new combination approaches; how the tails have literally turned.

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Lindt Gold BunnyWhat questions are BSB readers sending in to us this month?

I wanted to take a moment out of AACR Previews and catch up on some recent news that is intriguing or perplexing subscribers. All questions are anonymous and in many cases, the same questions were actually sent in by multiple people, a testament to what’s top of mind in oncology lately.

Today, we cover a Q&A on a variety of topics on Kite Pharma (the Genentech collaboration and their TCR in solid tumours), a discussion about EGVRvIII in glioblastoma, and Gilead’s woes with idelalisib and an IO pipeline.

So let’s get started – subscribers can sign-in or you can sign up via the blue box below:

The immuno-oncology space continues to get both interesting and also very crowded with over 20 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies now in development. Originally, the excitement began with the University of Pennsylvania’s dramatic announcement regarding the first two advanced CLL patients they successfully treated, leading to a collaboration with Novartis and spurring a new ‘arms race’ development in this niche.

While most of the CAR T cell therapy data since has largely focused on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and to a lesser extent, non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL), many have been wondering what was happening on the CLL front?  Has hope been abandoned there or will we see a renaissance occur?  It is of particular relevance with the Abbvie/Genentech announcement that venetoclax has positive data in CLL patients who have the Del17p mutation and filing is likely here in this subset soon.  Therapies such as ibrutinib and idelalisib are already approved in refractory CLL and may also have a future role to play here.

Do we need suicide switches for CAR T cell therapies such as Bellicum and Cellectis are developing or not?

Meanwhile, other hematologic malignancies are also being explored, including multiple myeloma. Why would a CD19 CAR work in a disease long considered to be CD19-negative in advanced, refractory disease?

Carl June UPenn

Dr Carl June, U Penn

What about progress with solid tumours? Many commentators and investors have been highly sceptical of the chances of success here following the advent of positive checkpoint data beyond metastatic melanoma and early CAR data in mesothelin cancers.

To answer these questions and also get a flavour for where things are headed with CAR T cell therapies, we recently interviewed one of the leading experts in this field, Dr Carl June (U Penn).

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A couple of years ago we had a lot of fun here on BSB following the progress of ibrutinib (Imbruvica), obinutuzumab (Gazyva), and idelalisib (Zydelig) in CLL and indolent NHL.  It seemed back then that the stunning trio were the hot topics for some time at ASCO and ASH meetings.  Exciting times!  All three target different entities (BTK, anti-CD20 and PI3K-delta) and made it past the tape to market, with Gazyva leading, Imbruvica a close second and Zydelig a slightly more distant third.  I was reminded of the race again over the last week or so as the 4Q earnings were announced, with Pharmacyclics reporting almost $500M for Imbruvica last year and estimating sales to hit $1B in 2015.  In contrast, Zydelig revenues for 2014 were $23M, reflective of their much later market entry in the US.

Still, that was a pretty impressive set of drugs all in development at the same time.

Two other agents we also reported on regularly were Infinity’s IPI-145, a PI3K delta-gamma inhibitor, and ABT-199/GDC-0199 (now known as venetoclax).  I haven’t heard much about the former of late, but after a few missteps, the next big question to consider is whether venetoclax is coming back strongly or destined for dog drug heaven?

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) was one of the hot topics at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), and a new CLL drug that caught my attention was the second-generation Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) inhibitor ONO-4059 from Ono Pharmaceuticals.

Professor Gilles Salles (Lyon, France) presented promising efficacy data from a phase 1 study of ONO-4059 in relapsed/refractory CLL and high risk CLL (#676).

Unfortunately after his presentation, Prof Salles declined my request for a quick interview citing a prior commitment with a large pharma company and subsequently failed to turn up for an agreed interview the next day. Talking about ONO-4059, at least with the media, did not appear to be a priority!

However, as a potential competitor to other BTK inhibitors in development such as ibrutinib (Pharmacyclics/JNJ) and CC-292 (Celgene/Avila) it’s worthy of a mention in the conference coverage and a quick post about the data presented.

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Now that the last of the 2013 cancer conference season is finally over, we’re going to run a couple of post meeting summaries this week from ASH as a few subscribers have asked for the Cliff Notes version of what was hot – or not in the context of the market.

New treatments for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) was one of the hot topics at the recent annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in New Orleans.

Hot on the heels of Roche’s recent FDA approval for Gazyva (obinutuzumab/GA101) in CLL, other companies in the race to market including:

  • Pharmacyclics and Johnson & Johnson (ibrutinib)
  • Gilead (idelalisib, GS-9973)
  • Infinity (IPI-145)
  • AbbVie and Roche (ABT-199/GDC-0199)
  • Novartis (CTL019).

Here’s my subjective and personal assessment of the winners and losers based on the data presented:

ASH for me always starts on a Saturday, as Friday is taken up with travel and a Super Friday corporate symposium, if any manage to catch our interest.

The start this year was somewhat disrupted by an ice storm that hit many southern states, causing considerable chaos for many ASH attendees – flights, hotels, bags, meetings, interviews, Ad Boards, investigator meetings, poster sessions and presentations etc.

I did enjoy the B cell malignancies CME session yesterday afternoon. Although it was sponsored by Gilead, it was well balanced and included discussion on FCR, ibrutinib, idelalisib, IPI-145, TGR-1202, ABT-199 and several earlier investigational compounds.

The highlight for me was Susan O’Brien’s thoughtful and philosophical talk on where are we going with CLL?

It’s an important question for physicians to start asking themselves with Gazyva approved in CLL, Imbruvica (ibrutinib) is pending in CLL and idelalisib expected to gain approval in 2014.

The chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) landscape has been one of the most dynamic and exciting over the last 12 months, with many new therapies emerging against different targets from CD20 to BCR signaling, Bcl2 to the PI3K pathway. Other new targets may also soon emerge.

The annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in New Orleans sets the scene for the rollout of more mature data and affords an early evaluation of where the various companies competing in this space may shake out.  Given that we are moving beyond traditional chemoimmunotherapy to evaluate several newer classes of therapy including B cell receptor (BCR) and PI3K signaling, anti-CD20 antibodies, anti-CD19 chimeric antigen receptor T cell technology (CART) it looks to be shaking out to an exciting conference.

Companies mentioned: Roche/Genentech, Gilead, Pharmacyclics, Abbott, Celgene, Infinity, Incyte, ONO, Amgen, TG Therapeutics, Novartis

Products discussed: rituximab, bendamustine, obinutuzumab, idelalisib, ibrutinib, ABT-199, CC-292, GS-9973, IPI-145, ONO-4059, INCB40093, AMG 319, TGR-1202, CTL-019

As cancer becomes increasing complex with adaptive responses to therapeutic intervention, so our knowledge and strategies for overcoming it must also adapt and improve. Immunotherapy – in several forms – is probably the hottest topic on the landscape at the moment with both checkpoint inhibitors and chimeric antigen receptor technology (CART) vying for air time and attention but where are these approaches going and how can we harness the immune system more effectively?

One of the things I like most about AACR meetings is that there are nearly always some strategic gems emerging from the scientist-physician thought leaders if only you stop to think about how the field can rapidly change by looking at the early patterns that are emerging.

Here’s the first part of a synopsis of what I learned at the recent Molecular Targets meeting in Boston, some of these findings may well have a major impact on cancer research over the next few years…

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