Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts from the ‘CLL’ category

Standing from the crowd in refractory CLL?

Last year the two FDA approvals of tisagenlecleucel (Novartis) and axicabtagene ciloleucel (Kite/Gilead) CAR T cell therapy for hematologic malignancies such as pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pALL) and non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) have captured a lot of attention.

It’s worth remembering, however, that back in 2010 the first patient who had a dramatic response to CD19 targeted CAR T cell therapy was actually a gentleman with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the case study of which was subsequently published by Porter et al., (2011) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We’ve been following CAR T cell therapy and its potential in CLL for some time now, with all the successes, trials and tribulations along the way.

Dr David Porter (Penn) told BSB earlier this month:

“The very first patients we treated are now eight years out from their infusion, a little over eight years, and still in remission, still doing extremely well with no evidence of disease or progression, never had any other therapy. So, I think it’s become very clear that for some patients this is effective in the far advanced setting.”

It’s now two years since we last spoke and it was a great pleasure to reconnect with Dr Porter. As he told BSB at ASH in San Diego:

“One way you make it better is to understand why it’s working and why it’s not.”

What have we since learnt about the potential for adoptive cellular therapy in CLL and what new insights did we gain from new data presented at ASH18? The answers may well surprise you.

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As we continue rolling out our ASH coverage, we now move on to the in-depth analyses and thought leader interviews post meeting… What do experts really think about the critical questions that arise from new data? What is practice changing versus a nice to have in a small subset of people?

Someone said to me recently, “You seem very picky about who you interview. Why’s that?”

You betcha we are!

ASH17 in Atlanta

There are hem/oncs, thought leaders, and true experts whose opinions we value and know are solid and fair balanced in their commentary. There are also others who have major COI and will say whatever needs to be said about a particular individual study they are involved in, but are not reliable in a strategic perspective of the broader landscape or the impact of a study in terms of future trends.

I’d rather talk to people in the first category and learn from them – they don’t have to know everything or even agree with our own viewpoint, but they do need to be independent and fair balanced.

In the first of our ASH interview series, we posed some tough questions to a CLL expert and here’s a snippet on what he had to say:

Hah, at least we are thinking along the same lines!

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Over the last five years the face of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) landscape has changed quite dramatically with the advent of new approvals in several categories. These include anti-CD20 antibodies, BTK inhibitors, PI3K inhibitors and apoptotic Bcl–2 inhibitors.

In yesterday’s wide ranging interview we explored in-depth how these therapies are impacting the broader landscape, as well as emerging trends in how these regimens might be used.

In Part 2 of the ongoing series, we spoke with another CLL expert and explored promising new and earlier agents in development for a different perspective on how outcomes might be improved further.

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Targeted therapy and Chemo-Immunotherapy in CLL

At last December’s 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, one of the areas that attracted attention was the latest clinical data on the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

ASH 2016 in San Diego

In recent years, we’ve seen tremendous advances in the field with several new agents approved such as obintuzumab, ibrutinib, idelalisib, and venetoclax. There are also new treatment options available for CLL patients with high risk disease such as 17p deletions (Del17p).

Other new targeted therapies such as acalabrutinib are now in clinical development, plus we have CAR T cell therapies and combination strategies also being evaluated in the clinic.

So what was the hot news from #ASH16 in CLL?

  • Does chemotherapy still have a role or is it a targeted therapy world?
  • Are we further forward towards a cure?
  • Have we worked out how to identify those at risk of relapse?
  • Will CAR T cell therapy be a game changer in CLL?
  • Is financial toxicity going to be an issue with combination strategies?

BSB interviewed two experts in CLL while in San Diego who kindly shared their thoughts on which CLL data impressed them at the ASH annual meeting and discussed some of the big strategic issues facing the field right now. These interviews are being posted in a two-part series.

Part 1 today answers some of the questions highlighted above and explores the changing face of the broader CLL landscape.

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Dr David Porter, U Penn

Dr David Porter, U Penn

Honolulu: The BMT Tandem meeting kicked off yesterday with an excellent plenary session on “CAR T Cell Therapy: CD19 and Beyond.” The three presenters were:

  • David Porter (University of Pennsylvania) CAR T cells for Leukemia
  • Martin Pule (UCL) Building a CAR
  • Michael Jensen (Seattle Children’s) CD19-Specific CAR T Cells as a Post-Allo HSCT Relapse Salvage Therapy

Dr Porter (pictured) is Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at the University of Pennsylvania. I spoke with him after his talk. This post gives a quick overview of some of the key points I took away.

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ASH Exhibit HallIn recent years, there’s been a lot of progress in the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). New targeted therapies such as ibrutinib (Imbruvica) and idelalisib (Zydelig) have been approved and have helped extend the lives of patients with this disease further. However, there still remains a need for new treatment options.

Several new drugs are on the horizon for CLL.  At ASH there were a number of presentations for venetoclax, formerly known as ABT-199/GDC-0199, it’s a BCL-2 inhibitor, which is being co-developed by AbbVie and Genentech.  We’ve written extensively about it on the blog.  One of the challenges with venetoclax is the potential for Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS) – we heard at ASH that starting a patient on the drug needs to be carefully managed and monitored, with high risk patients hospitalized.

Other new drugs on the longer term horizon for CLL include acalabrutinib (Acerta) and BGB-3111 (BeiGene), both next generation BTK inhibitors and potential competitive threats to ibrutinib. The CLL market is becoming interesting again!

At ASH 2015, I spoke with Ian W. Flinn, MD, PhD. Director, Blood Cancer Research Program at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, TN. At ASH, Dr Flinn presented data for a CLL trial of venetoclax combined with obinutuzumab, a CD20 targeted monoclonal antibody; data was obtained in both the upfront and relapsed/refractory setting.

In a wide ranging conversation, we talked about some of the data of note in Orlando, what the future direction is in CLL, and what to look forward to at ASH 2016.

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ASH15 LBA Session

ASH 2015 LBA Session

The annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) has a few quirks compared to other meetings. One of these is that all the “Late Breakers” are presented together on the last morning of the meeting.

It’s a rather unfortunate time given many have already headed back to their busy clinics or left for SABCS in San Antonio and ‘late breakers’ by definition, often offer new data that’s really noteworthy.

The result can also be a bit of a hodgepodge session that you have sit to listen through to get to those presentations you really want to hear.

At ASH this year there were two late breakers on new treatment options for CLL patients with a 17p deletion (Del17p). This is a pretty challenging group to treat.  Although ibrutinib is indicated for this patient group, many sadly relapse. There’s an unmet medical need for new treatment options. At ASH we heard data for idelalisib (PI3K-delta) and venetoclax (Bcl2).

After the session, I briefly spoke with Dr Kanti Rai (New York) for his reaction to the data. Dr Rai (pictured below) received the 2014 Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology.

Dr Kanti Rai receives 2014 ASH Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr Kanti Rai receives 2014 ASH Lifetime Achievement Award

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Whew, after posting the interview with Dr Tom Gajewski this morning from the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), we headed across town to the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) morning session and then dashed back to complete the first of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Previews for 2015!

What a busy week it’s been, never mind the hurly burly of today.

The ASCO 2015 abstracts went live at 5pm ET, with the exception of the late breaking abstracts, which are usually embargoed to the day of the actual presentation.

ASCO 2015 Abstracts

There are a number of topics well worth highlighting this year, so today kicks off the first of our annual Preview series on BSB. There will be much more to come – we wrote nearly 30 articles before, during and after the conference last year – this year will probably be similar with so much data to review and discuss.

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One of the things I most enjoy in cancer research is hearing wonderful patient stories from oncologists who are at the coal face of clinical trials. They get to deal with death and dying every day and like those in Pharma R&D, also live for the successes, the drugs that make it through pipeline despite great odds against them and make a meaningful impact on the daily lives of ordinary people.

We’ve all heard topline data presented at medical conferences around the world, but what the summary data can’t tell you is how a drug can impact people in ways that are clinically meaningful yet are more obtuse to capture in the aggregate. This is why case studies at CME sessions are increasingly popular, because they add value and context to common issues in a way that a Kaplan-Meier curve can never do.

Zydelig_logoWith the flurry of recent US and EU approvals for obinutuzumab (Gazyva), ibrutinib (Imbruvica) and the newest kid on the block, idelalisib (Zydelig), in CLL and indolent lymphomas, I wanted to take a look at these drugs from a different perspective.

A reader wrote in asking which of these new agents would emerge the winner and why?

Today’s post therefore offers some thoughts on the emerging CLL landscape now that we are shifting from new product development to the marketplace.

Drugs mentioned: Gazyva, Imbruvica, Zydelig, ABT–199/GDC–0199, Arzerra, IPI–145, CTL–019
Companies: Roche/Genentech, J&J/Pharmacyclics, Gilead, GSK, Infinity, Novartis

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Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) was one of the hot topics at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), and a new CLL drug that caught my attention was the second-generation Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) inhibitor ONO-4059 from Ono Pharmaceuticals.

Professor Gilles Salles (Lyon, France) presented promising efficacy data from a phase 1 study of ONO-4059 in relapsed/refractory CLL and high risk CLL (#676).

Unfortunately after his presentation, Prof Salles declined my request for a quick interview citing a prior commitment with a large pharma company and subsequently failed to turn up for an agreed interview the next day. Talking about ONO-4059, at least with the media, did not appear to be a priority!

However, as a potential competitor to other BTK inhibitors in development such as ibrutinib (Pharmacyclics/JNJ) and CC-292 (Celgene/Avila) it’s worthy of a mention in the conference coverage and a quick post about the data presented.

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