At the AACR 2017 annual meeting, there was a surprising amount of early clinical data on offer, particularly in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

A shortage of reliable preclinical models that predict human response to cancer immunotherapy has led to a mad rush to the clinic to do trials in man – thee are now over 800 combination trials – if anyone wants to try and follow them all!

If you missed it do listen to the Of Mice and Men” episode of the Novel Targets Podcast recorded at AACR 2016 that features experts such as Dr Bernard Fox (@BernardAFox) and Professor Cornelius “Kees” Melief (Leiden) who discuss the challenges of mouse models.

Several thought leaders at this year’s AACR annual meting described it as “mini ASCO” given the focus on clinical data, with several plenary sessions devoted to the results of early trials.

Dr Julie Brahmer at AACR17 in Washington DC

At AACR17, Dr Julie Brahmer, a leading lung cancer expert and an Associate Professor of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Kimmel Institute presented long-term survival data for nivolumab in second-line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The 5-year survival rate of 16% with a single agent checkpoint inhibitor, while better than historical data with chemotherapy (~4%), is far from being a home-run, illustrating what a dismal disease this is to treat.

One of the challenges that we are starting to see with checkpoint inhibitor cancer immunotherapy is immune escape or acquired resistance in some patients. They may have an objective or partial response, and then relapse and progress (acquired resistance), or they may not respond at all (primary resistance).

From our experience with targeted therapies, it should perhaps come as no surprise that cancers may evolve, adapt and seek to evade immune detection. There are also many inhibitory factors in the tumour microenvironment to overcome in order to enable an immune response.

At AACR17, Dr Brahmer kindly spoke to BSB about what researchers at Johns Hopkins have learnt about checkpoint inhibitor resistance in lung cancer so far. Her insights are both insightful and very useful when we consider what to watch out for at the forthcoming ASCO meeting.

This post is part of our on-going series of expert interviews from AACR17.

In the additional commentary, now that the ASCO17 abstract titles are publicly available, we’ve also highlighted a few that caught our attention.  This is the first in our series of previews of ASCO17. We’ll be rolling out more hybrid posts as we segue our coverage from AACR17 to ASCO17.

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