Sometimes research topics that we’ve researched and covered for several years, including interviews with thought leaders, suddenly become ‘hot’ or are seen as the latest shiny silver lures by sceptics when a new bandwagon starts rolling. They don’t always end well, but some do and take off and become embedded in new standards.
Checkpoint blockade and CAR T cell therapies are two such approaches, which we wrote about in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
When I included what was then known as MDX–1106 and MK–3475 in an ASCO 2010 or 2011 preview video, folks scoffed at highlighting phase 1 data in advanced solid tumours with obscure compounds – “too early to tell” apparently. They subsequently went on to become nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and are indisputely multi-billion blockbusters. Now it’s hard to imagine a discussion about cancer immunotherapies without them mentioned as a bedrock therapy to build on.
I mention this story because it’s easy to follow the herd and dismiss early promising developments as ‘too early’ – fortune favours the brave, even if it means that many approaches need to be tested and evaluated along the way before finding the best solution.
Pathway to success
There is no doubt that the path to success in oncology R&D is paved with many challenges and hurdles – it is rarely a straight road. Some drug classes will inevitably fail and fall by the wayside, others will need tweaking, incorporated into more optimal trial designs or even evaluated with other combination partners. And let’s not forget those twin issues of dosing and scheduling, which are no slouches when it comes to providing tricky or even exasperating hurdles for hitting an optimal therapeutic window, as many early phase PIs will no doubt be all too familiar with.
We currently live in a very T cell centric world despite the fact that they aren’t the most numerous of the various killing machines available to the immune system. They do happen to be extremely potent and highly effective fire power though, much as a machine gun is over, say, a combat knife or Samurai’s sword. That doesn’t mean that knives or other approaches aren’t effective, far from it, they’re just different and can even be more useful in appropriate situations.
Our heads were first turned by the potential for NK cell engagers a couple of years ago at ASH and we’ve keenly followed their progress since then, documenting the challenges and successes as we went.
With the Affimed-Genentech collaboration announced last night, it’s time to consider where we are with this approach and what this all means…
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Dr Michael Caligiuri (City of Hope)
In the first of our extended thought leader interviews relating to the latest mini-series, we explore NK cell research through the lens of one of the experts in this niche.
This one is more of a convivial fireside chat than the usual interviews where we discuss data, latest readouts, development blowouts, or clinical trials etc.
So who’s in the spotlight this time around?
It’s none other than Dr Michael Caligiuri (City of Hope) who also happens to be the current President of AACR.
What’s cool is that he has been involved in NK cell research for a couple of decades and has seen a lot of changes in that time. He’s also an engaging and humble researcher who had some interesting perspectives on where success in the future might lie with approaches in this niche.
So grab a cup of joe and settle down to learning an intriguing story…
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In this post, it’s time to put your thinking caps on and empty your minds of any pre-conceived bias in order to play the modern version of Star Trek tridimensional chess aka IO combination trials.
Gems from the Poster Halls
Here we weave now together some important themes and highlight intriguing ideas that at first seem dissimilar, but actually have much more in common than many realise.
Data from bone chillingly cold poster halls of conferences in the distant past can come back and reviewed afresh in the light of new developments. The seasoned observer discards neither these findings or thought leader snippets of insights within nor forgets them in an instant, as many do after the hum of instant live reactions passes.
With oncolytic viruses and cytokines being much in the news of late, what can we learn about where things are likely headed?
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King Kamehameha Statue, Honolulu HI
Honolulu: we’re continuing our coverage of the 2016 BMT Tandem meeting with a thought leader interview about a novel cancer immunotherapy approach that we’re excited about.
The cancer cell therapy landscape is still vastly uncharted territory in many respects.
The first CD19 targeted CAR T cell therapies expected to reach the market in 2017 are unlikely to be best-in-class, which leaves the commercial door open for other approaches that may be better, cheaper or more accessible.
If you are in the CAR T cell therapy space, there are plenty of competitive threats on the horizon, and the novel approach discussed in this post is one of them!
We’d heard a little about it, but hadn’t explored the concept in any detail, so were delighted to talk with a leading expert at the BMT Tandem meeting in Honolulu.
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