Biotech Strategy Blog

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

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It’s a Bank Holiday weekend on both sides of the pond, which is always a good excuse for some shorter snippets as everyone will be enjoying the break outside, weather permitting!

In our latest Preview series, we address some pertinent questions that have come in from BSB readers on several topics in between AACR and ASCO, including tumour mutation burden (TMB), the PACIFIC trial, monalizumab, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC).

To learn more and get a heads up on our latest oncology insights, subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

Chicago Loop Train

In this latest ASCO 2018 Preview, we take a look at tissue and blood based biomarkers to see what we can learn and whether they look useful or not for predicting which patients should receive a therapy or not.

There’s quite a lot we can learn from the latest data from the initial abstracts ahead of the meeting in order to be better prepared about what to expect in Chicago.

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Downtown Chicago

In our latest ASCO 2018 Preview series we take a look at some of the key highlights from urothelial and bladder cancers and look at how new developments in this space are progressing.

Historically in oncology, we see initial trials begin in advanced stage disease especially in the refractory metastatic setting and move up into earlier lines of therapy later as safety and efficacy become more established.

This situation has been very much the case in urothelial carcinomas, including bladder, penile, renal pelvis, ureter and transitional cell cancers. With the approval of pembrolizumab and atezolizumab in the relapsed setting following cisplatin therapy, much of the focus has now turned to earlier stage disease.

In our latest Preview, we explore some of the key combinations and look at whether or not they are more promising in terms of outcomes than the monotherapy readouts we have seen to date.  There’s a lot to cover and digest…

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Well, the ASCO abstract drop has certainly brought with it some good, bad, and even confusing data to explore this year, perhaps not helped by some of the weird assumptions and misconceptions being bandied around.

In our latest preview, we take another dozen or so key topics and explore what we know and don’t know in the context of the broader landscape. We also address some of the inaccuracies out there for the unwary.

There’s a lot to learn here and the devil, as always, is in the details.

“There’s just a song in all the trouble and the strife
You do the walk, yeah, you do the walk of life
You do the walk of life.”

So grab a cup of coffee and take a walk through the minefield of initial data with us… after all, not all of it is in dire straits 😉

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Following yesterday’s review of a dozen key oral abstract sessions to watch out for at ASCO18 next month including lung cancer and others, we now take a look at the other side of the coin with a dozen key poster abstracts to explore.

  • Which topics jump out this year?
  • What new targets and molecules are the emergent gems to think about?
  • What can we learn from translational and early combination clinical data?

Take a walk with us on our journey to Chicago ahead of the data drop at 5pm…

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The Bean, Chicago

Whenever the Bean photo pops up then you know it marks the start of the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Ahead of this year’s abstract data palooza, I thought it would be a nice idea to highlight some of the key sessions of interest and important abstracts within.

There are quite a few new molecules to watch out for in early drug development, plus some important phase 3 trial readouts to consider, especially on the combination front.

It will be hard act to beat or even follow the phase 3 lung cancer clinical trials plenary at AACR18 last month, but here goes…

We have selected 11 key areas that may be useful to watch out for as a starting point ahead of the abstract data dump expected tomorrow at 5pm.

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While many observers attentions have recently been focused on immuno-oncology of late, particularly with respect to checkpoint blockade and CAR T cell therapies, these are not the only class of drugs that are being investigated in the clinic.

Field of dreams or crowded marketplace?

We saw a lot of early preclinical data and especially got to see quite a few new targets at AACR, while next month ASCO offers a new opportunity to see inital phase 1 data presented in several developmental therapeutic sessions and in the poster halls.

There is no doubt that the oncology R&D niche is becoming increasingly competitive and crowded, which means that companies need to think carefully about how they can clearly differentiate themselves and position their platform much more assertively than before.

For small biotechs, this also means going beyond offering great preclinical packages to demonstrating proof of concept in the clinic, hence phase 1/2 trials are receiving a lot more attention these days, as potential collaborators and acquirers flock to the poster halls.

Today we have a CEO from one of these emerging biotech companies in the BSB hotseat with a candid discussion about their approach, why they are different, and importantly, where they are heading…

To learn more and get a heads up on our latest thought leader interviews and oncology insights, subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

The hurly burly in Chicago between sessions

We have written about the positive and negative effects of various inhibitory checkpoints such as PD-L1, PD-L2, ICOS, and even B7-H3, but there are also other targets within the B7 family that might be worthwhile exploring in the clinic.

Beyond the hullabaloo surrounding the phase 3 anti-PD(L)1 data in 1L NSCLC, there were actually a lot of interesting new and emerging molecules that caught our attention from small biotechs that we plan to highlight throughout the rest of this week. They all have different targets, approaches and rationales, but offer a window into the world of oncology R&D and where things might be headed in the next couple of years.

Today we take a look at one of the long forgotten checkpoint targets and explore a number of aspects that can be considered, given that several companies have preclinical or clinical molecules in early development.

Is this an IO target to watch out for – or not?  What are the challenges and opportunities to consider?

It turns out that there could be more than one way to unleash T cells on cancer… as this interview with a company scientist and researcher demonstrates.

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Can we break through the barriers of a hostile tumour microenvironment?

Who would have thought that after 30 years of no new therapies that urothelial carcinomas would suddenly be almost constantly in the spotlight with enticing words like cancer immunotherapy, biomarkers, tumour microenvironment, translational immunology etc?

And yet it has happened – with a lot more to come in this highly competitive niche too.

Prior to AACR in Chicago, we highlighted TGFβ in our Preview series as an important emerging target that is gathering attention and may be relevant in tumour types, such as urothelial carcinoma and ovarian cancer.

After the meeting, Dr Paul Rennert (CSO, Aleta Biotherapeutics) noted:

I don’t disagree with either of these sentiments – there was a reason we interviewed a lot of NK cell enthusiasts recently and we have since been rolling out our thought leader mini-series focused on TGFβ. Yesterday, we kicked off with perspectives from an academic researcher active in this field and tomorrow will showcase some practical clinical perspectives.

On deck today, we have a interview with a research scientist who has conducted both basic and translational work for a discussion about how he sees the learnings that have arisen from bench to bedside and back again.

To learn more and get a heads up on our latest thought leader interview and oncology insights, subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

We know that not every patient responds to checkpoint therapy and some may respond but then stop responding, so what can we learn about the tumour microenvironment in order to fix it?

To do this may well require retrospective analyses of the existing trials in order to learn what happened and figure out an improved design of the next wave of clinical trials with rationally based combinations (as opposed to randomly testing two molecules simply because that’s what a company has in its pipeline).

The other thing to consider is that while some people might have a high level of a particular marker or inhibitory factor up front, others may see rise on treatment as an adaptive response to immunotherapy. Those two situations may well require quite different approaches or regimens to address, making things much more complicated than originally thought.

Dr Kunle Odunsi (Roswell Park) at #AACR18

One topic that caught our attention in the run-up to AACR and subsequently during the meeting was a cytokine called transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β). We have covered IL–2, IL–6 and IL–15 developments quite extensively on BSB, but what of TGF-β?

As such, we decided to investigate this little known target further and explore the concept from different perspectives in both academia and industry.

Today, we begin this latest mini-series with a thought leader interview from an academic institution who is researching a novel approach to combination therapy based on TGF-β – here’s what he had to say about the topic…

To learn more and get a heads up on our latest thought leader interviews and oncology insights, subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

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