Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts from the ‘Leukemia’ category

Cellular immunotherapy with Natural Killer (NK) cells is emerging as a potentially effective treatment option for older patients (more than 60 years of age) with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

AML remains a disease with high unmet medical need, particular for those patients who relapse and are ineligible for a stem cell transplant (SCT).

There’s considerable buzz around adoptive cellular therapy and, in particular, chimeric antigen receptor modified T cells (CAR T cells). It is important, however, to note that there are other approaches worthy of consideration. See post: Could a Novel Cell Therapy replace CAR T cell therapy?

Cancer immunotherapy targeting NK cells has already shown some early promising results in AML. We await the read out of the EFFIKIR trial data for lirilumab (Innate Pharma/BMS), an anti KIR (killer inhibitory receptor monoclonal antibody. See post: Innate Pharma at an Inflexion Point, an interview with Hervé Brailly.

357-cover-sourceRizwan Romee, Maximilian Rosario, Melissa Berrien-Elliott and colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis (@WUSTLmed) recently published the results of a clinical trial with a novel NK cell therapy: “Cytokine-induced memory-like natural killer cells exhibit enhanced responses against myeloid leukemia.”

The paper was published on 21 September, 2016 in Science Translational Medicine (link).

Melissa Berrien-Elliott, PhD. Photo Credit: Fehniger Laboratory, Washington University

To better understand the trial results and what they tell us about NK cell therapy in AML, BSB spoke with one of the joint first authors, Melissa Berrien-Elliot, PhD (pictured right) and senior author, Todd A Fehniger MD PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Washington University.

This post is part of our series on the innate immune system.

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Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is challenging disease to treat and quite distinctly different from its cousin, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).  The first is more common in adults, while the second is more prevalent in children.  Success rates with pediatric ALL have far outstripped what we have achieved with adults in AML to date, partly due to the elderly nature of the disease making for poorer outcomes with stem cell transplants (SCT), as well as increased clonal heterogeneity and cytogenetic complexity with age.

Quite a few FLT3 inhibitors have come and gone over the years – many keen observers will remember Cephalon’s (now Teva) TKI called CEP-701, which was tested in relapsed/refractory disease and Elderly AML, for example, and slid off largely unnoticed to dog drug heaven.

How much does clinical trial design impact a drug’s success or failure?

Sometimes quite a bit, as this story with midostaurin demonstrates; limited activity in advanced disease but much more dramatic results in the upfront setting.  Clearly, sometimes testing drugs in later disease does not predict their future performance elsewhere!

To put more colour on the data presented at ASH, we interviewed a thought leader in adult AML for his perspective on the FLT3 R&D developments.

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Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is usually a disease of the elderly and an area of high unmet medical need, especially in those who unfortunately relapse post stem cell transplantation (SCT) or are considered ineligible for a transplant. In some ways, it has languished in the graveyard of R&D with very few new therapies approved by the FDA or EMA over the last decade. In fact, it has been quite the opposite with Pfizer’s gemtuzumab ozogamicin (Mylotarg), an anti-CD33 antibody drug conjugate (ADC) approved and subsequently withdrawn from the US marketplace following lack of confirmatory phase III data.

The list of agents, targeted and and cytotoxics, that have been evaluated and found wanting in the elderly AML setting is very long. These patients are usually considered ineligible for transplant and rather challenging to treat given the concomittant co-morbidities and often frail performance status often exclude them from drug clinical trials also. A number of phase II trials have also generated promising efficacy data, only to fall short in larger randomised studies.

There are now a new raft of compounds in development, quite a few with data at ASCO or EHA, making it a suitable time for an update of the AML landscape.

Companies mentioned: Karyopharm, Astellas, Ambit, Arog, Sunesis, Celgene, Novartis, Genentech, Agios
Compounds mentioned: selinexor, ASP2215, crenolanib, quizartinib, trebananib, vosaroxin, Vidaza, midostaurin, ABT-199, GDC-0199, AG–221, TIM3.

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A regular reader of BSB wrote in asking for an update on Amgen’s blinatumomab, an anti CD3/CD19 bispecific antibody being investigated in B cell adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) and Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL). It has orphan designation for both indications.

Amgen acquired Micromet and their BiTE program way back in January 2012. At the time, the R&D head, Roger Perlmutter, referred to the exploratory phase II results as being a key driver for their interest in the technology. Like many, I too, was initially enthusiastic about the bispecific antibody when it was with Micromet, since those were very encouraging results in refractory adult ALL, a particularly hard to treat malignancy with a generally poor prognosis.

Unfortunately, since then we’ve heard very little about the program, which seems to have languished in the Amgen portfolio, a not uncommon occurrence when big Pharma/Biotech take over small biotech programs. In the meantime, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies have arrived to much fanfare, and with it, even more dramatic results that have caught people’s attention.

Is there still a future for blinatumomab and BiTE technology?

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