It’s Day 6 of our Countdown to the AACR 2016 annual meeting in New Orleans. We’re at the halfway, 6 posts written and 6 more to go! Then it will be daily Live blogs from the meeting.
There’s a lot of cancer immunotherapy at AACR this year, so after yesterday’s post on GITR we’re continuing our mini-series with a look at another immune agonist.
Today, we’re moving onto OX40 (CD134) as a novel immuno-target. Regular readers will know that we’ve been following this target for some time.
Immune agonists such as GITR, OX40, CD40, CD27 and 4-1BB help to rev up T cells. As Dr Tom Gajewski (Chicago) told us last year, in an interview published on the blog and excerpted in Episode 6 of the Novel Targets Podcast: Stepping on the Gas:
…there are inhibitory receptors on activated T cells that are involved with shutting immune responses down. There are also activating receptors that help to rev up those T cells. You might question whether you can push an activator and block an inhibitor, and maybe get a good anti-tumor response going as well.
When we drive a car, we both lift our foot off the break and we step on the accelerator. We have really beautiful data in animals that that this is exactly the case, that if you hit one of those strong positive regulators, and block just one of the negative regulators, you can have complete disappearance of the tumors in mice.
Several of those positive agonistic antibodies against costimulatory receptors are in the clinic. One of them is anti-OX40 that a couple of groups have in the clinic. We’re working with Genentech, that has one of those agents in phase I.
What does the OX40 competitive landscape look like?
In those post we’ve provided commentary on some of the new products in development from companies and highlighted a surprising number of abstracts that you’ll want to watch out for at AACR 2016 if you’re on the cancer immunotherapy track.
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There can be no doubt that immuno-oncology is a hot topic in cancer research of late with checkpoint inhibitors, immune agonists, immunocytokines, CAR T cells, TILs, TCRs, not forgetting innate immunotherapies. We’ve written extensively about many of these topics, but what about the companies behind them and their strategies?
One thing subscribers tell us they love reading about here on BSB is not only fireside chats with thought leaders, but also interviews behind the scenes with company personnel, be scientists, clinicians or CSOs.
Recently, we’ve posted some interviews with Roche and Genentech scientists/physicians about their IO platform that were well received. Today, it’s the turn of AstraZeneca and MedImmune, who are also developing checkpoint inhibitors and immune agonists against various cancers.
With the anti-PD1 antibodies i.e. Merck’s pembrlizumab (Keytruda) and BMS’s nivolumab (Opdivo) already approved by the FDA, and Roche/Genentech’s atezolizmuab well on the way to filing in advanced urothelial bladder cancer with the announcement this week that the IMvigor 210 trial in relapsed/refractory disease met its primary endpoint, the big question now remains is what’s happening with the fourth element of the quartet? How well is progress coming along there and what is the main focus we can expect in the near future?
Like most Brits, when AstraZeneca noted back in 2013 that they expect to establish their global R&D hub in Cambridge, I assumed they meant in the Golden Triangle and not Massachusetts. This is a burgeoning area for European biotech research, which is somewhat ironic after the KuDos scientists working on olaparib (Lynparza) moved to Alderley Park in Cheshire with the acquisition and will likely face moving back again!
At ASCO, we had the pleasure of a chat with Dr Rob Iannone, the head of the AstraZeneca Immuno-oncology development program. The company also published a number of interesting abstracts and posters that were on show in Chicago, as well as a burgeoning pipeline in this area beyond their lead compounds, the anti-PDL1 inhibitor, durvalumab (MEDI4736) and tremelimumab (anti-CTLA4).
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There has been a lot of enthusiasm in the immuno-oncology space since ASCO about the possibility of combining a checkpoint inhibitor with an immune stimulator. There are several ideas behind this approach since:
a) Not all patients respond to checkpoint inhibitors
b) Some patients only partially respond, although they can achieve an attenuated response before relapsing
An important question in many people’s mind is what is different about these subsets of patients compared to exceptional responders? How can we change that situation for the better?
Two approaches that have been mooted of late include the following:
- Using a cancer vaccine to ‘prime’ the tumour
- Combining a checkpoint inhibitor with an antibody agonist to stimulate the immune system
At SITC in Maryland this weekend, there were plenty of packed presentations and discussions on both of these classes of agents, so this is a good time to explore the idea of immune stimulators further based on the latest data we heard.
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