Biotech Strategy Blog

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

What stood out at TCT in Orlando?

Orlando – There have been numerous useful insights into the future of next generation of CAR T cell therapies at the Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Meeting (TCT) that’s currently underway here in Florida.

TCT (formerly BMT Tandem) is the combined meeting of the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) and the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR).

It should come as no surprise that the transplant community have embraced cellular therapies.

As we start what experts such as Carl June refer to as “the decade of cell therapy,” what does the next generation of CAR T cell therapy likely look like and how will we overcome some of the challenges associated with this approach?

In this post we’re following developments in the field, and sharing what we’ve learnt so far from thought leaders at the TCT meeting. This is the latest in our recent mini-series of posts on future developments in cellular therapy.

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Attention on small molecule inhibitors – after being in the doldrums for a while – seem to be making a comeback over the last year with much attention focused on a few companies developing new selective agents in specialised niches.

Time for a KRAS spring clean!

One such space is KRAS inhibition. Not just in terms of direct or indirect inhibition, but also with regards to tackling acquired resistance mechanisms such as SHP2.  While there has been quite the frenzy over what Amgen, Mirati, Revolution Medicine and a few others are all doing, other companies are quietly getting on with the business of producing some nice work and will soon be ready for the off.

In our latest review we explore some of the factors involved, which companies will need to be concerned about going forward, especially in the context of future combination strategies.

In solid tumours, with targeted therapies the winners are not always the ones who reached the market first, but rather the crafty ones who optimise the combination strategies and become ingrained in protocols across multiple situations.

Here we look at one of the hidden gems in the KRAS space and explore what it does, why it’s important and how it might fit in.  We also include a company interview with a scientist who gets the broader implications…

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San Francisco!

San Francisco – It’s time to switch horses for some the latest conference coverage and explore some important new findings emerging from the genitourinary world of bladder, prostate, and renal cell cancers at the ASCOGU specialist meeting held late last week.

Not that many years ago, much of this niche was dominated by numerous updates in prostate cancer, with little good cheer to write about on the other two cancers – how things have changed in such a short time!

This year there’s plenty going on in all three categories, I’m pleased to say.

Here we focus on several important trials or targets and explain why they matter and what’s significant about the findings…

Some of the agents or trials selected here are likely to receive more attention going forward as more data become available, so it behooves us to set the scene now.

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Whipping up the CAR-T cell niche

In the sixth and final part of the latest CAR-T cell therapy mini-series, we take a look at a really key factor that will need to be addressed if we want to move forward in both hematologic and solid tumours in terms of improved outcomes.

To be clear, this is not about the obvious – tackling immune suppression – but something entirely different!

Now, that might well mean incorporating new regimens in the process or it could lead to version 3.0 in terms of new constructs to be tested in the clinic in due course.

What’s not to like?

Added bonus in this review is that it’s not one voice expressed here, but rather the consolidated perspective of four different experts, so you can quickly see clarity and differences of opinion on several topics…

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CAR T cell therapy for solid tumours is the cancer new product development equivalent of the quest for the “Holy Grail.” It remains one of the cell therapy challenges of the coming decade.

Light inspires and illuminates

In this post we shine the light on one of the world’s leading cell therapy experts who is taking on that challenge.

Most of our posts are what is known in the business as “long-form” and this one is no exception; it’s over 7,000 words long and offers a veritable smorgasbord of insights into new cell therapies for blood cancers and solid tumours, novel targets, as well as future directions, including a company in stealth mode…

Curious to learn more about this important topic on cracking the code and the quest to find solutions?

Then consider supporting independent science journalism by joining an exclusive group of readers around the world in academic medicine and industry who read BSB premium content.

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At the start of the New Year, Dr Carl June (@carlhjune) who needs no introduction as one of pioneers of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy tweeted that, “2020 will be the decade of cell therapy and genome engineering.”

So what does the next decade hold for CAR T cell therapy?

At the recent 2nd European CAR T cell meeting, jointly organized by EHA and EBMT, we asked the man himself to tell us more about his vision.

In Sitges, Dr June kindly spoke to BSB and shared his thoughts on where he sees the CAR T field going, some of the key challenges that will need to be overcome, as well as some of the opportunities to watch out for.

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When should someone receive CAR T cell therapy? How do we identify who will benefit most or who will be most likely to fail? Those are some of the questions we’re considering in our latest expert interview.

As we see the landscapes around aggressive lymphomas and multiple multiple evolve and change with more near-term CAR T cell therapy approvals coming, so too do the clinical questions surrounding the optimising of these novel approaches.

Prof John Gribben, President of EHA (right) at CART2020 in Sitges

At the EHA/EBMT 2nd European meeting on CAR T cell therapy, BSB spoke with Professor John Gribben. He’s the current President of the European Hematology Association (EHA) and holds the Gordon Hamilton Fairley Chair of Medical Oncology at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary, University of London.

One of his messages was when considering CAR T cell therapy, it’s a delicate question of balance.

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Sunrise over Sitges

Sitges – One of the noticeable things about Sitges, a former fishing village south of Barcelona, is the quality of the light. We could imagine it, like St Ives in Cornwall, as being home to artists in times past.

The sunrises and sunsets have been particularly impressive. When it comes to oncology new product development, we’re all chasing the light and the potential of a cure. That’s the promise of cancer immunotherapy.

Here at the 2nd European CAR T cell meeting, jointly organized by EHA and EBMT, we’ve heard about where we’re at with current cell therapies, some of the many challenges that have yet to be overcome and we’ve been offered insights into where some in the field are going.

2020 will be a landmark year for CAR T cell therapy with new regulatory approvals on the horizon, particularly in myeloma, but the journey to make these therapies effective in solid tumours is one where we still need to chase the light.

In this post you can read our notes and commentary on day 2 in Sitges and what caught our attention at the meeting.

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Sitges, Spain

Sitges – It’s time to explore new opportunities for cell therapy at the second edition of the European CAR T cell meeting, jointly organized by the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) and European Hematology Association (EHA) kicked off today in Sitges, just south of Barcelona.

With over 1,000 attendees, there’s a lot of interest in the cell therapy field and registrations for the meeting sold out quickly.

That’s not surprising given the impressive line-up of the good and great in the field of cell therapy including Stan Riddell, Carl June, Crystal Mackall, Michel Sadelain, and many others.

There’s also a raft of presentations on the challenges and opportunities for cell therapy, along with presentations of new and emerging approaches in the posters.

In this post you’ll find our reactions and commentary on some of the key messages and insights that emerged and takeaways from the first day at the CAR-T meeting.

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In our latest expert interview, we depart from the usual focus on one of two particular or narrow topics and indulge in a more wide ranging discussion to explore a variety of issues facing the IO field and look at them from the perspective of a researcher who is experienced in working with antibodies in various forms.

We cover a lot of ground from CAR-T cells to bispecifics to NK cells – while many people in industry may see these approaches as separate modalities in different niches, in the future we may well see a greater convergent and opportunities for regimens and combinations rather than a more nihilistic either/or approach.

I have long been fascinated with design of molecules and how different tweaks or enhancements can change the way something works – for better or worse. Just as we have learned much from immune agonists and their biphasic curves that result from constant stimulation (and ways to fix that too), so too will we see CARs, T cell engagers, and NK cell therapies adapt and improve in terms of how they are constructed.

Who better to talk about these changes and the learnings to be had lately than someone who has built and tested many antibodies for a living and is now running his own company?

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