Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘ASCO 2018 Chicago’

Summer time always seems a good opportunity to explore new cancer targets or approaches on BSB and we’ve covered quite a few interesting concepts over the last couple of years.

ASCO18 Gems from the Poster Halls

This particular approach is an up and coming immuno-oncology target that I noticed is quietly gaining increased interest amongst pharma companies and not all the usual players either.

Consider typing in [target] + cancer in PubMed…

What I got was one single paper in 2000, nothing until 2006 (two more papers), then one to four new ones a year dribbled out until 2014 when nine appeared, followed by a big jump to 17 in 2015, over 20 the following year, then finally more than 30 last year.

At the current rate there will likely be 40–50 such articles in 2018, making for a typical sigmoid growth rate of interest.  Boom!

Clinical trials (montherapy and combinations) are already in early phase studies in the clinic, so this is a good time to take stock and look at progress to date. It also makes for interesting reading when put together as a whole!

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The potential of cytokines in cancer immunotherapy is now attracting a lot of attention with many in industry assessing whether they need a cytokine in their pipeline and if so which one may make the optimal combination partner.

We’ve been writing about cytokines for several years now and have been following several cytokine molecules, including Nektar’s novel pegylated IL–2 (NKTR–214) approach and Armo’s pegylated IL–10 (AM0010). Other technologies in early development include an IL–8 agonist from BMS and an IL–15 superagonist fusion protein from Altor Bioesciences.

#ASCO18 Blisterwalk to Developmental Therapeutic sessions

What does the future hold for cytokines – are they really the “best thing since sliced bread,” as we say in England or will they fizzle out and not prove to induce additive effects over and above monotherapy with checkpoint blockade?

For a view of where the field is at and where it might be going, while in Chicago at ASCO 2018 we spoke with Dr Mario Sznol, who is a medical oncologist at Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, where he treats melanoma and kidney cancer patients.

He’s one of the leading translational researchers in cytokine drug development and is also the in-coming president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).

Readers of Biotech Strategy will recall that we last spoke with Dr Sznol at the 2015 SITC annual meeting where he talked about his renewed interest in cytokines, and in particular, interleukin–2 (IL–2) (See post: Novel immunotherapies and combinations). Since then, much has happened and there are now even more targets being investigated, as well as a wider cadre of researchers actively involved in this field.

Being president of a medical or scientific association takes up a lot of time, so it was a privilege to talk with Dr Sznol again, before he takes up his new honorary position in 2019.

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At Biotech Strategy, we’re fans of science-driven companies, and one that we’ve been keen following for over three years now is Nektar Therapeutics (NASDAQ: NKTR).

Drs Jonathan Zalevsky and Adi Diab

We last spoke with the “dynamic duo” Nektar’s Dr Jonathan Zalevsky (CSO) and Principal Investigator, Dr Adi Diab (MD Anderson), back at SITC17.

Since then, much noise and attention has focused on cytokines and the potential they have to improve responses with checkpoint blockade. There are plenty of sceptics out there who don’t believe they add anything in combination, while others are equally adamant that they do.

It was a pleasure to catch up with them again at ASCO 2018, and in this post we take a closer look at what the NKTR–214 data presented in Chicago does in fact tell us.

Is it hype over hope, or is it the real deal?

What did we learn about NKTR–214 at ASCO18 and how should we interpret this data from a clinical and scientific perspective?

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It is always a pleasure to talk with experts who have a clear vision of not just what the current treatment landscape looks like, but where the field is going.

Dr Stephen Liu at ASCO18

Dr Stephen Liu is a medical oncologist and assistant professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC, where he specializes in thoracic oncology.  He’s also actively involved in clinical trials and developmental therapeutics.

We last interviewed him at ASCO 2016 – you can also hear him on Episode 13 of the Novel Targets Podcast – where he shared his thoughts on some of the early lung cancer immunotherapy combination trials underway.

As regular readers know, we like to follow stories over time and also catch up with thoughtful, intelligent people we’ve talked to in the past whose opinions we value.

Dr Liu kindly shared his highlights of ASCO 2018 in lung cancer, and in a wide ranging discussion, also offered some thoughts on what the future may hold and where we may be going next.

There was a lot to learn from Chicago this year, with plenty of nuances and subtleties to consider. If you read only one post on lung cancer from ASCO18, this interview tells you all you need to know!

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Beyond Loxo’s RET inihibitor, LOXO–292 in RET+ cancers, there were quite a bit of other targeted therapy data to mull over at ASCO this year.

ASCO18 Gems from Poster Halls

We highlighted a few of these in our Preview series in terms of what to watch out for, so I wanted to take a moment and explore some of them in a more detail now that the data have been presented.

Did they live up to the initial promise or not? What can we learn from trial failures? Sometimes this can be even more valuable than positive trials.

To find out, we took a careful at some of the readouts and assessed what looked better or worse than expected to help readers make sense of the tsunami of data that were presented in Chicago.

Inevitably, some of the selections we chose are gems from the poster halls

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This year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference has proven to be both enjoyable and thought provoking with plenty of new data to peruse and learn from.

In this latest round-up we explore and discuss some of the key oral and poster sessions from yesterday, which was a frenetic day from beginning to end, including thought leader interviews in between sessions.

The last morning of the final day of ASCO or AACR is always a bit eerie for the committed diehards who remain to the bitter end for the science in the all important tumour biology session:

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Chicago June 3, 2018: The data for the phase 3 KEYNOTE–042 trial has just been presented in the plenary session of the 2018 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (#ASCO18).

Data for this positive phase 3 study was presented by Dr Gilberto Lopes (@GlopesMd), Associate Professor at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of the Miami.

The trial in previously untreated patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), who didn’t have an ALK translocation or EGFR mutation, sought to answer the question of whether the anti-PD–1 checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) would be better than chemotherapy in patients whose tumours had an expression of PD-L1 between 1–49%.

Readers may recall that pembrolizumab has already received FDA approval for the treatment of first-line NSCLC in patients with greater than 50% PD-L1 expression, based on data for the KEYNOTE–024 trial that was presented back at ESMO 2016 by Dr Martin Reck.

So what’s the verdict? 

Dr Lopes kindly spoke to Biotech Strategy and shared his perspective on the trial data he shared with ASCO. Will the KEYNOTE–042 trial change the standard of care, and how does it fit in with the KEYNOTE–189 trial data that we heard about at the 2018 AACR annual meeting back in April?

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The calm before the #ASCO18 storm

Saturday 2nd June was the first day of ASCO for me this year, so continuing our annual tradition, we post a review of the daily highlights and topics or issues that caught our attention.

This can be useful for those of you sidetracked by off-site meetings and unable to actually get to the conference centre to hear talks – yes, it happens, more commonly than many realise!

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One thing that often comes up is why don’t all inflamed tumours respond to immune checkpoint blockade or immunotherapy – it is that PD-L1 is a weak biomarker of response or are there factors that can explain the phenomenon?

ASCO 2011 #BlisterWalk

The ASCO #blisterwalk

Some new research now sheds some light on the issue.

This seemed to be a great opportunity to explore several topics around this theme and look at what the data from AACR and ASCO are potentially telling us.

Obviously we need to see the presentations in Chicago to be sure, but the good thing is that there are some good hints of where to start and what to think about going forward since they could have an impact on clinical trial design.

With a lot of observers focused on some disappointing results from, for example, Incyte’s epacadostat (IDO) and Jounce’s ICOS antibody, are there things we can do to improve the chances of success?

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In the frantic rush to the clinic with various IO-IO combinations, many people seem to have forgotten that these have an increased risk of failure than say, combining one IO molecule with chemotherapy.

This risk can take the form of increased toxicities, as well as lack of efficacy, especially if you are giving an unknown therapy instead of one that is known to be effective in controlling the tumour.

We look at a tale of two cities in lung cancer; there are some interesting lessons to be learned here…

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