Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Acalabrutinib’

Are new pillars emerging in DLBCL?

It’s time to take a short break from the immunometabolism mini-series and turn our attention to aggressive lymphomas such as diffuse large B cell lymphomas (DLBCL).

This week heralded the latest AACR virtual meeting on Advances in Lymphoma in conjunction with iCML.  There were plenty of science focused talks to listen to and learn from, including new developments in oncogenic targeting.

What if we can learn from what the patients underlying biology can teach us in terms of more rationally designed clinical trials?

We know these are diverse and heterogeneous tumours, but this doesn’t mean we can’t take a more precision medicine approach to treating patients.  What can we learn from early trial readouts and genetic analyses?

It turns out, the answer is quite a bit and more information might be available at the forthcoming ASH meeting, so let’s look at what we can piece together from the available data now…

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Gems from the poster halls yielded some fascinating novel approaches and new twists on old targets

In this latest post ASH review, we explore some intriguing early developments from several small and large companies alike, explain why they matter and why we should be interested in them.

Sometimes the wisdom of the crowds isn’t always the best indicator of what’s coming down the pike in terms of oncology pipelines.

Part of our cunning plan this year involved going to ‘off Broadway’ sessions where we thought others would skip in favour of a more obviously popular session (the ones in the big halls) and merrily tweet them so you could easily follow along in parallel while the smaller rooms rapidly filled up and quietly closed to those desperately trying to get in late.

Our selections here include several gems from the poster halls (imagine trying to just pick a few highlights out of 4,000 poster options?!), as well as a couple of oral presentations that were missed by many – not surprising given how jam-packed the schedule was with double and even triple choices of selections in parallel to choose from!

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Orlando bound for ASH!

What is old is new again…

I have that distinct feeling of deja vu with the ASH asbtract drop yesterday on several fronts. It’s quite a few years now since we wrote about the runners and riders in the BTK/PI3K race to market in CLL and by weird coincidence a topic I was covering by interview yesterday on the RAS pathway came up in one of the first ASH asbtracts I was reading, which was rather spooky. Clearly Halloween came slightly late to Florida this year!

So how do all these disparate topics hang together and why are we excited about a small cap biotech company that is largely under many people’s radar?

They have some unexpected unifying threads…

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In our latest thought leader interview from the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Dr John Leonard (Weill Cornell) provides a lesson on how to interpret key lymphoma data such as ECHELON–1, CAR T cells, and other topics at ASH, as well as what he’d like to see more of in lymphoma clinical trials.

In this hard-hitting interview, Dr Leonard reminds us that the media should not be a mere extension of the PR of companies. Instead he offers his real world insights into what may or may not be practice changing, and how we should interpret CAR T cell therapy data.

Dr John Leonard (Weill Cornell)

It’s a must read for anyone with an interest in lymphoma… here’s an excerpt to give you a flavour of the wide ranging discussion:

 

 

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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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For years we’ve followed the trials and tribulations of targeted therapies seeing many approved and quite a few disappear forlornly (and officially) off to dog drug heaven. Many more sit in no-man’s land as companies eagerly wait in a holding pattern for other trial readouts in different tumour types. Sadly, sometimes these studies don’t generate enough compelling data either. With so much competition about, there are no shortcuts or low-hanging fruit in biotech or cancer drug development any more.

ASCO16 Chicago 1

En route to Chicago and ASCO!

Then along came antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), with some encouraging results in a range of cancers in both solid tumours and hematologic malignancies that lead to the approval of several new therapies.

After that, the next big advance was immunotherapies, specifically checkpoint blockade, with encouraging single agent activity in melanoma, lung, and even urothelial bladder cancer. We’ve also seen the promise fo combining two different checkpoints such as nivolumab and ipilimumab together in metastatic melanoma, albeit with an increase in toxicities.

This is all very well and good, although the challenge remains that the majority of patients either respond to therapy and relapse, or do not respond at all, depending on the circumstances, the tumour type and the regimen. We still have a long way to go in moving the needle and creating a new paradigm shift on a broad scale.

So what happens when we start to combine modalities – such as targeted therapies with immunotherapies?

Uh-oh, I hear the distant cries of disagreement erupt…

  • Remember vemurafenib plus ipilimumab in metastatic melanoma was scuppered by severe hepatitis?
  • What about osimertinib plus durvalumab in NSCLC and the increased incidence of ILD?

Both of these statements are true, and yet… we should not assume that all mixed therapy combination approaches are doomed on the basis of a mere n of 2. What happens if some are synergistic or additive? What happens of there are hidden gems that teach us new ways of doing things rather than doing the same old thing just because it’s always been done that way?

With this in mind, I’d like to open the door on our first ASCO 2016 Preview series with a look at novel combination approaches in development that caught my eye.

What are the early hints and signals that we can learn from the data? Which companies are evaluating imaginative new ideas that may turn the tables on traditional thinking?  The ideas discussed here may well surprise a few people.

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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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