While many observers attentions have recently been focused on immuno-oncology of late, particularly with respect to checkpoint blockade and CAR T cell therapies, these are not the only class of drugs that are being investigated in the clinic.
Field of dreams or crowded marketplace?
We saw a lot of early preclinical data and especially got to see quite a few new targets at AACR, while next month ASCO offers a new opportunity to see inital phase 1 data presented in several developmental therapeutic sessions and in the poster halls.
There is no doubt that the oncology R&D niche is becoming increasingly competitive and crowded, which means that companies need to think carefully about how they can clearly differentiate themselves and position their platform much more assertively than before.
For small biotechs, this also means going beyond offering great preclinical packages to demonstrating proof of concept in the clinic, hence phase 1/2 trials are receiving a lot more attention these days, as potential collaborators and acquirers flock to the poster halls.
Today we have a CEO from one of these emerging biotech companies in the BSB hotseat with a candid discussion about their approach, why they are different, and importantly, where they are heading…
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This morning, like many folks, I woke up to the latest immuno-oncology news on the bispecific front that Xencor, a Los Angeles based biotech, announced their latest collaboration, this time with Novartis.
Over the last few years, we have seen a surfeit of bispecifics emerge that are focused on stimulating the immune system, particularly with regard to T cells and natural killer (NK) cells, as well as antigen targets on the surface of tumours. The first one approved was Amgen’s blinatumomab (Blincyto), a CD19 targeted bispecific for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which we have written extensively about.
The Xencor/Novartis deal has a number of interesting implications that are well worth exploring in more depth that go far beyond the information provided in the press release.
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Spring cherry blossoms
It’s twelve working days until the start of the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in New Orleans. This is a meeting we’re especially looking forward to this year, not only for the cool science on offer, but also the Louisiana Coastal Cuisine!
Next year, AACR 2017 returns to Washington DC, at what hopefully will be a perfect time for cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin.
In this post, I’ve taken a closer look at one cancer immunotherapy approach with new data at AACR – bispecific T cell engagers. Amgen’s blinatumomab (Blincyto) is interesting because it was the first T cell engager antibody to be approved by the FDA for the treatment of Philadelphia-negative ALL and refractory B-cell precursor ALL, thereby offering proof of concept that such an approach could be safe and effective. There are, however, some challenges associated with it (which you’ll read about).
Can we improve on blinatumomab?
This post will address the question in three parts:
- A look at what we know about blinatumomab to date
- Where the competitive landscape is evolving with potential solutions
- An interview with a scientist actively working in this field for their perspective.
For those attending AACR, I’ve put in links to some of the sessions and presentations to watch out for if you have an interest in bispecifics (there are a surprising number of them in R&D) – we’ll be writing more about some of the noteworthy data after it has been presented.
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Aggressive lymphoma… the very phrase is enough to send chills down your spine!
In the past, much of the focus at previous American Society of Hematology (ASH) meetings in this area has focused on the myriad of chemotherapy regimens and dose/schedule optimisations that followed in trying to boost patient outcomes.
This year, I’m pleased to say that things have quite a different flavour with numerous new therapeutics and promising combinations in development.
Some of these are inevitably hypothesis testing, while others will be up-levelling to large randomised controlled multi-centre trials.
As part of our ongoing preview series, we take a look at the different categories to watch out for beyond chemotherapy. These include monoclonal antibodies, antibody drug conjugates, targeted therapies and yes, even immunotherapies.
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Picture Credit: @gene_antibody
For much of the last two years, one of the hottest topics around has been T cell manipulation, which can happen in many different forms.
This is just one area that we have covered extensively in the immuno-oncology space from Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapies to checkpoint inhibitors, as well as various antibodies, including the first bispecific T-cell engager (BiTE) to CD19 that recently approved by the FDA called blinatumomab (Blincyto) from Amgen.
Not all cancer patients respond to all these approaches though.
Why is that and what approaches or novel targets can we explore next to address this vexing issue?
At the SITC and SABCS meetings, I saw some really interesting and unusual presentations, together with some recent publications on topic, that really piqued my interest in this challenge. They are early signs of the new directions some of the research in this field could go. Overcoming resistance and understanding different aspects of immune escape will likely be very instructive in developing the next generation of combination studies that could make a positive impact on patients.
Today’s post touches on some of these exciting developments and includes an in-depth interview with Dr Ira Mellman, the scientist behind Genentech’s immunology research program at gRED.
Interested readers can log-in to read more about the exciting new developments that are happening with different types of antibodies in the immuno-oncology space.