Biotech Strategy Blog

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

About Pieter Droppert

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Posts by Pieter Droppert

Now that at two CAR T cell therapies have been approved by the FDA in two indications, what does the future hold for new developments in both hematologic malignancies and solid tumours?

It was astonishing to explore the poster halls at AACR last month and see just how many new players and targets are emerging left, right and centre.

Last week we highlighted an up and coming new player on the scene, Mustang Bio, but what about the original pioneers in this niche and what are they up to these days?

To answer this question, we tracked down Dr Renier Brentjens at Memorial Sloan Kettering while in Chicago to learn more about his latest work and where he sees the future of CAR T cell therapy heading. It makes for a very interesting, and at times, surprising read…

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At the recent AACR meeting in Chicago one thing that was a surprise was how many new players seem to be emrging in the CAR-T cell space, not to mention the plethora of targets being evaluated preclinically in both hematologic malignancies and solid tumours.

The CAR-T cell niche is becoming very competitive and gritty

If we thought the market was becoming competitive before with less than a dozen players, imagine how crowded it will get once many of the unknowns start to make their mark?

This situation also presents many challenges and opportunities for the new entrants, not just in terms of merely identifying new targets and preclinical research, but also in the need for quality control and manufacturing expertise plus clinical development.

We should also remember that immunotherapy is designed not to target the tumour per se but unleashes the immune system on the tumour. This means that lessons from one approach (e.g. checkpoint therapy) can be applied to another (e.g. CAR-T cell therapy) and vice versa.

Yesterday, we discussed CD123 from the perspective of a bispecific company, what about approaching the target with a CAR-T cell therapy? What other alternative targets are out that that may be useful to investigate in the clinic?

We decided to explore these issues through the lens of one of the up and coming players in the CAR-T cell niche and find out more about what they are doing, how they see things evolving in this dynamic environment and what their path to market strategy is…

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

What we wanted to accomplish in our latest thought leader interview was to peek under the hood with someone active in this field who is an experienced participant in phase 2 and 3 trials, as well as being a solid translational researcher capable of thinking outside the box critically.

Stacking up the evidence from IO trials

Today we cover a global KOL’s perspectives on cancers of the lung, renal, bladder, and even melanoma, in a wide ranging discussion about immunotherapy trials and some of the pitfalls and opportunities to watch out for.

It makes for an intriguing read as there are likely a few issues that many have not thought about in great depth.

This is an important discussion in the context of not just data that was recently presented at several conferences including AACR, but also with the upcoming monotherapy and chemo combination trials (including squamous and non-squamous lung cancer) expected at ASCO in a few weeks time.

We discuss quite a few of the key challenges and opportunities relating to the broader picture and highlight some of the important issues to watch out for…

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At the 2018 AACR annual meeting, one of the noteworthy talks given to the 22,000+ attendees in Chicago was a plenary lecture by Charles Swanton from the Francis Crick Institute in London. He’s a Professor of Personalized Cancer Medicine at University College London and chief clinician for Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

Professor Swanton is the leader of a landmark clinical study, TRACERx (TRAcking Cancer Evolution through therapy (Rx)) study, which involves analyzing how cancers and in particular, lung and renal cancers, evolve over time.

There’s a lot of heavy science and jargon inherent in this niche that often frightens off people, but that need not always be the case.

What is fascinating, though, is the very idea that tracking the development of early stage cancers might teach us new insights and lessons about alternative approaches to oncology R&D.

We have all seen the limitations of chemotherapy, targeted therapies and even immune checkpoint blockade, so what other approaches can be considered that link back to the biology of the disease and how it evolves over time?

What we wanted to achieve here was a clear and elegant story about what Prof Swanton and his colleagues are doing, as well as a simple grounding on the basics of disease progression and how that can translate clinically into new therapeutics that might make a real difference to the lives of people with cancer.

It’s a fascinating story and may well be one of the most underappreciated recent developments in cancer research…

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Continuing our NK cell series, we turn to a different area of work within this niche, namely how cytokines can help boost effectiveness of the clinical responses in hematologic malignancies through their impact on memory-like cells.

Spring is in the air!

This is an important aspect to consider bearing in mind that while NK cells can be useful in attacking cancer cells, they are also notoriously more fickle and less durable than their T cell cousins in sustaining cytlotic effects.

How can this be fixed? What therapeutic approaches might be potentially useful in addressing the problem?

To find out more, we spoke to a learned clinician-scientist involved in research in this arena to learn more about what he had to say and also discover why a molecule they are working on in early clinical development is starting to look quite promising.

The good news is that it may also have utility in solid tumours as well, through the effects that it induces.

To learn more from our latest thought leader interview 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.

 

 

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas – Advanced pancreatic cancer is a very tough disease to treat, so it is not surprising that by 2030 it will be the No. 2 cancer killer in the United States, according to one of the speakers at the recent 1st Annual Symposium on Pancreatic Cancer held at the MD Anderson Cancer Center earlier this week.

There’s also high unmet medical need for new effective therapies for pancreatic cancer, which is why events that promote collaboration and cross-fertilization among leading experts are important.

I found out about the event from Twitter thanks to tweets by Dr Anirban Maitra (@aiims1742) who shares a lot of information. Do follow him if you don’t already.

Thank you to everyone at MD Anderson for putting on a panel of excellent speakers. The meeting was well worth attending and I hope it will become an annual event.

In this post I’ve captured some of the key take-homes that I took from the symposium.

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MD Anderson, Houston

Houston, Texas – At the First Annual Symposium on Pancreatic Cancer organized by Ronald DePinho MD and colleagues at the MD Anderson Cancer Center on Monday, one of the presentations that caught my attention was on exosomes.

Raghu Kalluri MD PhD (@KalluriLab) gave an excellent talk on, Exploiting the Biology of Exosomes for Diagnosis and Therapy of Pancreatic Cancer.”

What were some of the key take homes from his presentation?

He kindly spoke to BSB in Houston and talked about the direction he is going in this rapidly evolving field of research.

Here’s a short snippet from the interview where he talks about one aspect of this approach and how it might be useful (the others are covered in more detail below):

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Salt Lake City – at the 2018 BMT Tandem meeting (Twitter: #BMTTandem18) the combined annual meeting of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (ASBMT) and Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), one of the presentations of note today was a 7am breakfast symposium entitled:

Realizing the Promise of CAR T cell Therapy for Leukemia and Lymphoma: Implications for Long-term Care in the Era of Stem Cell Transplantation.”

Cancer cells in culture Source: Dr Cecil Fox, National Cancer Institute

This educational session supported by grants from Kite/Gilead and Novartis, featured two BMT transplant experts with hands-on experience of CAR T cell trials: Dr Stephan Grupp (@GruppSteve) from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Dr Krishna Komanduri (@drkomanduri) from the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

We’ve previously interviewed both Dr Grupp and Dr Komanduri on BSB, so were keen to hear how leading transplanters view the CAR T landscape now that two therapies have been approved by the FDA, and how they think this approach will integrate with transplants, and which patients will benefit most from this therapy.

Subscribers can log-in to read the take-homes we took from this session or if you didn’t make it to Salt Lake City, can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

Prof Tom Powles GU18 Title SlideAt the 2018 ASCO Genitourinary Cancer Symposium, one of the standout keynote lectures was from Professor Tom Powles, Director of the Bart’s Cancer Cancer Center in London who talked about Immune checkpoint inhibitors in Urothelial Cancer: which one and why?”

We’ve been following the highs and lows around checkpoint inhibitors in bladder cancer for some time, so it was interesting to hear what Prof Powles had to say in San Francisco.

How does he see the landscape evolving for immune checkpoint inhibitors?

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Red Bull Air Race NYC

San Francisco: Today at the 2018 American Society for Clinical Oncology Genitourinary Cancer Symposium, commonly known as ASCO GU (Twitter #GU18), Dr Eric Small (UCSF) will present the results of the SPARTAN phase 3 trial (Link to abstract):

SPARTAN, a phase 3 double-blind, randomized study of apalutamide (APA) versus placebo (PBO) in patients with nonmetastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (nmCRPC).

Despite the fact this is a positive trial and apalutumide will most likely gain regulatory approval for this indication in the United States, the data presented at ASCO GU is not a winner when viewed in the broader context of the prostate cancer landscape.

BSB subscribers can login to understand why, and also gain the perspective of a global thought leader familiar with both the SPARTAN and PROSPER trial data.

On a day when J&J have just announced that abiraterone (in combination with prednisone) provides a new treatment option for patients with metastatic high-risk castration-sensitive prostate cancer based on the results from the randomised phase 3 LATITUDE study, everyone’s attention is focused on the battle between SPARTAN (apalutamide) and PROSPER (enzalutamide) in M0 disease.

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