Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘PD-L1 biomarker’

It’s the end of April and just in time for two important things here on BSB…

Dan Chen and Ira Mellman on Novel Targets PodcastA) Season 2 of our Novel Targets podcast has now kicked off!

The first show (sponsored by Genentech) explores the cancer immunity cycle (CIC), how it can help see the bigger picture and how this framework can be used to help figure out what areas are missing when patients don’t respond to immunotherapy.

There are also predictions about what we will see coming up in the next year – will the crystal ball be accurate – or not?

Crank up the Sonos, grab a coffee, pen and paper – you’ll find the latest podcast show here (Link), which is open access for anyone who wants to listen.

B) Reader Q&A Mailbag: we tackle your latest tough questions that are top of mind and offer insights on the hot topics people want to know about.

We have a broad range of topics to cover today including:

  • The battle for PD-1 sales
  • What are the IO bottlenecks where we can expect to see new research focus
  • Sanofi-Medivation bid
  • AbbVie snapping up StemcentRx

To learn more, Subscribers can log-in or you can purchase a subscription in the blue box below.

Nature Cover Checkpoint InhibitorsIn a landmark publication today, the prestigious journal Nature includes five “Letters” regarding checkpoint blockade of the programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor and its ligand PD-L1. It confirms the promise and potential of the emerging field of immuno-oncology to provide durable and long lasting responses in many cancers.

Readers of the blog will already have read about the stunning early data presented at ASCO this year for the engineered humanized antibody MPDL3280A (Genentech/Roche) in urothelial bladder cancer (UBC). In his Nature Letter, Thomas Powles (Barts) and colleagues sum of the significance of this data in the opening sentence:

“There have been no major advances for the treatment of metastatic urothelial bladder cancer (UBC) in the last 30 years.”

On the basis of this data, MPDL3280A received Breaththrough Therapy Designation from the FDA earlier this year.

Roy Herbst (Yale) and colleagues in their Nature Letter write about biomakers of PD-L1 inhibition and how their data “suggest that MPDL3280A is most effective in patients in which pre-existing immunity is suppressed by PD-L1, and is reinvigorated on antibody treatment.

At the recent annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), Dr Herbst gave one of the best presentations of the meeting, in which he discussed Personalized Immunotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.  His top ten lessons learned kept the audience’s attention throughout.

In this excerpt from an interview he kindly gave BSB afterwards, he talks about the promise of cancer immunotherapy in lung cancer:


Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, so this will be the only post this week. Thanksgiving is a good time to take a moment out of the hectic life we all live to “smell the roses” and express gratitude for all the positive things around us.

Next week sees the start of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in San Francisco. The cancer conference circuit seems to roll quickly from one meeting to the next at the moment. There’s a lot of promising data, and while we can’t discuss the data before the meeting due to ASH embargo restrictions, next week we will be highlighting some of the presentations we are particularly looking forward to.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Subscribers can login below or you can purchase access to read more detail about all five Nature Letters, and their implications for the emerging field of immuno-oncology.

Tower of London Field of Poppies

Immuno-oncology is one of the hottest topics, if not, the hottest in cancer drug development at the moment, and every conference seems to advance the field forward. The pace of progress is breathtaking as thought leaders and pharma & biotech seek to maximize how to leverage the body’s immune system in the fight against cancer. It’s exciting times!

Coming up next on the calendar are two cancer conferences, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) held in Maryland later this week, followed swiftly by the EORTC-AACR-NCI Molecular Targets conference (often referred to as the Triple meeting by industry insiders) in Barcelona just before Thanksgiving.

SITC 2014 Immunotherapy Banner

Whoa, that’s a lot of data yet to come, and then in December we have the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

Back home in the Blighty, November is often referred to as the ‘month of the drowned dog’ because it rains a lot… at this rate it’s more like raining data – let’s hope not too many agents are headed for dog drug heaven! The good news for subscribers is there’s a lot of conference coverage to come!

2014 ESMO Congress Poster HallSo here we are, after nearly two dozen posts, it’s time to close out the 2014 ESMO coverage with a final review of the immuno-oncology posters that piqued our interest.

There were 16 in all that fitted that category. Normally, we highlight three or four gems from the poster halls, so more than a baker’s dozen is quite a feast.

To learn more about what caught our attention, you can sign in or sign up below.

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ESMO 2014 Bladder CancerCancer immunotherapy, the ability to harness the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, is showing early promise in bladder cancer.

“Breathing new life into bladder cancer treatment” was the title of the excellent discussion by Maria De Dantis (Vienna) of data presented at the recent ESMO Congress in Madrid.

Advanced bladder cancer has a particularly poor prognosis. Once the cancer has spread in the body, according to Cancer Research UK, the average survival time is approximately a year to 18 months.

There is clearly an unmet medical need for effective new treatments, with no major treatment advances for over 30 years. To date, targeted agents in the second-line setting have shown only incremental progression free survival and generally low overall response rates.

Which is why it’s exciting to see hope for patients with urothelial bladder cancer from new inhibitors of the PD-1 immune checkpoint signalling pathway.

At ASCO this year, data for Roche/Genentech’s anti PD-L1 (MPDL3280A) was presented (Abstract 5011) by Thomas Powles (Barts, London). Commenting on the data, in her post “Making a difference in advanced bladder cancer” Sally noted, “it wouldn’t have been out of place in the Plenary session, frankly.”

Recognizing the potential based on the promise of the early clinical data, on May 31st the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation (BTD) to MPDL3280A in bladder cancer.

ESMO 2014 Bladder Cancer Session ChairsIf you need to catch up on immuno-oncology, we have a growing library of posts on Biotech Strategy Blog, and we’ll be continuing our coverage of the rapid progress in this area at the forthcoming annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC), which takes place at National Harbor, MD from Nov 6 -9.

At ESMO 2014, phase 1 clinical trial data in bladder cancer was presented for both Pembrolizumab (Merck) and MPDL3280A (Roche/Genentech).

Subscribers can login in to read how the two drugs compared in this indication, or you can purchase access by clicking on the blue icon below.

Melanoma oral abstracts at ASCO 2014The melanoma oral abstracts session at ASCO 2014 was packed as a full house in the Arie Crown lecture theatre listened to the latest on new immuno-oncology therapies that are leading a revolution in melanoma treatment.

In the Clinical Science Symposium on PD-1 blockade and in the oral session at ASCO 2013 we heard how PD-1 antibodies nivolumab, MK-3475 (now pembrolizumab) and the PD-L1 antibody MPDL3280A had high response rates, long durations of response with favourable toxicity. This led to melanoma suddenly becoming one of the hottest areas of cancer drug development.

Global incidence of stage III melanoma continues to rise, with a high 5 year relapse rate (89% in stage IIIc), so there remains a need for more effective treatment options. It’s particularly sad to see so many young people end up with metastatic melanoma from over-exposure to tanning beds or too much sun! After going to several melanoma sessions, I don’t go out as much in the mid-day sun here in Florida.

So what did latest data show at ASCO 2014? Is pembrolizumab better than nivolumab? Will combinations be more effective than single agent therapies alone and will toxicities impact the risk:benefit profile?

You can sign up or subscribers can login below to read more about where these new products stand a year later.

In her ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancer symposium (ASCO GI) keynote presentation earlier this year, Elizabeth M. Jaffee MD described the future of immunotherapy as being in combinations.

Overcoming or delaying resistance mechanisms or hitting multiple targets to greater effect will be achieved through combinations of drugs rather than single agent therapy. Combination strategies are the accepted future, whether drug companies like it or not.

In her keynote, Dr Jaffee also likened the revolution in immunotherapy to the same excitement the Beatles brought to music or the same magnitude of technology advances made by Apple. We agree completely.

Thought leaders at ASCO expressed similar sentiments. Steven O’Day (UCLA) said,

This is truly a brave new world of immunotherapy. I think the message is that the revolution is here, it’s ongoing, and it’s bursting out of melanoma into solid tumors.”

Interestingly, no immunotherapy data was considered to be of worthy of presentation in the plenary session at ASCO this year for the second year running, a decision that may reflect either an unwillingness to showcase early data, however good it may appear to be, or the influence of politics on the selection committee.

One potential combination is to target more than one checkpoint pathway to see if you can obtain a synergistic response. This is the rational for combining the monoclonal antibody ipilimumab and nivolumab. Ipilimumab (Yervoy) targets the CTLA-4 checkpoint protein that prevents dendritic cells from priming T cells to recognize tumors while nivolumab targets the PD-1 checkpoint protein that prevents T cells from attacking cancer cells. Yervoy is an FDA approved therapy for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Data published last year in The New England Journal of Medicine by Wolchok et al, showed that combining ‘ipi’ with ‘nivo’ gave more frequent and deeper responses in melanoma, but at the expense of much greater toxicity. Some 53% of patients receiving concurrent treatment had a grade 3-4 adverse event (see Table S-1B in the article).

Does it make sense to combine two immune pathway modulating agents? Does the enormous potential for synergy outweigh the additional toxicity? 

To learn more about these insights, you can sign up below or subscribers can login for our analysis of the data on nivolumab in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) presented at ASCO 2014.

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