Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Seattle Genetics’

Tesaro’s niraparib is a highly selective poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) 1/2 inhibitor that can induce synthetic lethality in tumor cells with homologous recombination DNA repair deficiencies (HRD), including germline BRCA-mutated tumours.  It received a lot of attention yesterday following the company’s announcement that the phase 3 trial successfully met its primary endpoint.  The trial was expected to readout this month, so it was bang on schedule.

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Braving the scrum in the ASCO 2016 poster hall

The results generated a lot of discussion and also a bunch (half a dozen!) of questions from readers, since there was a lot noise around the top-line data in the press release, but very little real analysis or context.

I was planning on rolling out the draft posts we have been working on Gems from the Poster Halls, which included one focused on ovarian cancer.  It therefore makes sense to combine the poster analysis with a reader Q&A on ovarian cancer, including a detailed look at Tesaro’s niraparib as there are some important subtleties that many have missed.

Inevitably this ended up as a rather meaty analysis rather than the quick review I originally intended!

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For years we’ve followed the trials and tribulations of targeted therapies seeing many approved and quite a few disappear forlornly (and officially) off to dog drug heaven. Many more sit in no-man’s land as companies eagerly wait in a holding pattern for other trial readouts in different tumour types. Sadly, sometimes these studies don’t generate enough compelling data either. With so much competition about, there are no shortcuts or low-hanging fruit in biotech or cancer drug development any more.

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En route to Chicago and ASCO!

Then along came antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), with some encouraging results in a range of cancers in both solid tumours and hematologic malignancies that lead to the approval of several new therapies.

After that, the next big advance was immunotherapies, specifically checkpoint blockade, with encouraging single agent activity in melanoma, lung, and even urothelial bladder cancer. We’ve also seen the promise fo combining two different checkpoints such as nivolumab and ipilimumab together in metastatic melanoma, albeit with an increase in toxicities.

This is all very well and good, although the challenge remains that the majority of patients either respond to therapy and relapse, or do not respond at all, depending on the circumstances, the tumour type and the regimen. We still have a long way to go in moving the needle and creating a new paradigm shift on a broad scale.

So what happens when we start to combine modalities – such as targeted therapies with immunotherapies?

Uh-oh, I hear the distant cries of disagreement erupt…

  • Remember vemurafenib plus ipilimumab in metastatic melanoma was scuppered by severe hepatitis?
  • What about osimertinib plus durvalumab in NSCLC and the increased incidence of ILD?

Both of these statements are true, and yet… we should not assume that all mixed therapy combination approaches are doomed on the basis of a mere n of 2. What happens if some are synergistic or additive? What happens of there are hidden gems that teach us new ways of doing things rather than doing the same old thing just because it’s always been done that way?

With this in mind, I’d like to open the door on our first ASCO 2016 Preview series with a look at novel combination approaches in development that caught my eye.

What are the early hints and signals that we can learn from the data? Which companies are evaluating imaginative new ideas that may turn the tables on traditional thinking?  The ideas discussed here may well surprise a few people.

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Dawlish TrainspottingIt’s Day 7 of our 12 day Countdown to AACR 2016 in New Orleans.  After exploring GITR and OX40, we’re now looking at another stimulatory target for cancer immunotherapy: CD40.

We’ve been writing about CD40 as a cancer immunotherapy target for some time. See posts: “CD40 as a Cancer Immunotherapy Target” and “Targeting CD40 in Cancer Immunotherapy.

Anti-CD40 antibodies are agonists that act on stimulatory signalling receptors on T cells and antigen presenting cells (APCs). Targeting CD40 effectively acts to “put the foot on the gas” and may help generate a better immune response. This could be important in cancers that have fewer natural T cells present.

CD40 is an attractive target because it’s expressed in more than 50% of carcinomas and melanomas and almost all hematological B cell malignancies.  Of particular interest is the potential to combine a CD40 agonist with a PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor.

Multiple companies have CD40 agonists in clinical development including Roche, Apexigen, Alligator Biosciences and Seattle Genetics.  There are others coming too.

In this preview of AACR 2016, we’re looking at the CD40 landscape. New products and companies have entered the scene, so we’re highlighting them and some of the CD40 presentations to look out for at AACR 2016 (and why they matter).

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ASH 2014 cHL PembroOne of the hotly debated topics at the 2014 American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting was the arrival of checkpoint data in classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cHL), with initial data presented on 20-30 patients with relapsed or refractory cHL who received either nivolumab (BMS) or pembrolizumab (Merck) in open label, single agent trials.

Updated phase I data is expected to be presented at the 2015 ASH annual meeting in Orlando (Dec 5-8) (Twitter #ASH15)

At the recent ESMO symposium on Immuno-Oncology in Lausanne (Twitter #Immuno15) – great hashtag, there was an excellent overview of checkpoint blockade in lymphomas. What did this tell us about progress in this disease and where are things going?

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The ESMO IO meeting set the scene for what we can expect at ASH this year?

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There are now several CD40 agonist antibodies in early clinical development from several different companies, including:

  • Roche – RO7009789
  • Apexigen – APX005M
  • Seattle Genetics – SEA-CD40
  • Alligator Bioscience – ADC–1013

This post is the last in our cancer immunotherapy coverage from the European Cancer Congress in Vienna. It features excerpts from an interview with Dr Christian Rommel, head of oncology discovery at Roche in Basle, Switzerland in which he talks about the development of their CD40 monoclonal antibody. Readers may recall we wrote about this from SITC 2014 last year: “Targeting CD40 in Cancer Immunotherapy.

This post is also a new primer on CD40 as we start our coverage of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) 2015 annual meeting. We’re informed by SITC it’s a sell out conference with 600 more people than last year’s record breaking number. Cancer Immunotherapy is indeed the hottest topic in cancer drug development.

If you have plans to be at National Harbor this week, we hope to see you there!

One of the overlooked highlights from ASCO this year was new data in diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which is an aggressive form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL). DLBCL is the most common form of NHL accounting for nearly one third of newly diagnosed NHL cases each year in the USA. Most of these people are adults rather than children.

The first sign of DLBCL is often a painless rapid swelling in the neck, armpit, or groin, which is caused by enlarged lymph nodes. Other symptoms can include night sweats, unexplained fevers, and weight loss.

Aggressive lymphomas such as DLBCL behave very differently from indolent NHL (iNHL) since they are faster growing and generally have a much poorer prognosis. As a result, they are treated much more aggressively with rituximab plus chemotherapy regimens such as CHOP (cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone). Sometimes etoposide (E) is added in younger patients with a high disease burden, in which case the regimen is known as R-EPOCH.

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To round off our series of post AACR reviews this week (there will be more coming next week as well, don’t worry), I wanted to look at some interesting non-immunotherapeutic agents that I found compelling and worth watching out for in the future.

A couple of things to remember or understand is that AACR is a very different conference from ASH and ASCO, aside from the presence of noticeably more science:

a) Much of the data presented at this meeting is either preclinical or phase I-II cinical data
b) Most of these studies are usually exploratory or preliminary in nature

Phase I trials are usually designed to evaluate dose finding in either a single agent or with an untested and untried combination. Investigators are interested in a number of key things here, which might include:

  • Maximum tolerated dose (MTD)
  • Dose limiting toxicities (DLT)
  • A recomemmended phase II dose (RP2D)
  • PK and PD
  • General tolerability assessment.

Sometimes a different formulation is tested, in which case bioavailabity is also important. To be expressly clear though – any efficacy signals seen are a bonus. That’s the main purpose of phase II trials.

That said, one of the things I most like about AACR is the early phase I data in new targets or data that explains why resistance develops as an adaptive response to therapy.  With these in mind, here are three excellent examples from well put together research from the meeting that we can learn a lot from.

To read more about our analysis of up and coming compounds including:

DEDN6526A, a novel ADC in melanoma; AG–221 in IDH2 mutant AML and MDS; a PI3K-α isomer-specific inhitor, BYL719, and the impact of PTEN alterations

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Originally, I was thinking of doing an in-depth review of lymphomas i.e. non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), which involve 85% of lymphomas and Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL), which take up the remaining 15%. This topic, however, has been largely done to death already.

There are are some very useful sources of carefully curated content that I enjoy following every year and in this post I’m going to direct you to some of those and highlight where I think the critical topics are in lymphomas.

Companies mentioned: Roche, GSK, AbbVie, Pharmacyclics, Gilead, Infinity, Seattle Genetics

Drugs mentioned: Rituxan, Arzerra, Gazyva, ABT-199, ibrutinib, idelalisib, IPI-145, Adcetris 

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