Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Cancer Immunotherapy’

One of the things that I’ve heard repeatedly over the last year is that many researchers want a better biomarker of response for checkpoint therapies than PD-L1 expression by IHC.

National Harbor

Indeed, we could expand that statement more broadly to say that there’s a real need for a better predictive biomarker of response to any immunotherapy, since there are more approaches out there now and not just checkpoint blockade. Plus combinations are evolving, complicating things further.

Fair enough, but what’s happening in this space?  Anything, Bueller?

We’ve covered a few emerging ideas in the past, although they were based on retrospective analysis – usually with a small N – and remain to be validated in prospective clinical trials.

There’s quite a few groups now much more active in research in this space, from academia to industry.  This is a good time to take stock and look at some of the emerging technologies that might be making a splash later if the data pans out.

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Cancer immunotherapy has been very much focused on T cells of late, but perhaps we shouldn’t ignore the importance of the innate aspect of the immune system and how that might help generate cytolytic activity to help kill cancer cells.

Regular readers will know that we’ve been following the potential of Natural Killer (NK) cell therapy and targeting NK checkpoints.

Sculpture in Mainz

At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Mainz, we spoke with a scientist active in NK cancer immunotherapy research.

Dr Nicholas Huntington (@Dr_Nick_Bikes) leads a laboratory at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.  He’s also co-founder of oNKo-innate, a startup company focused on developing innate immunotherapies.

After his presentation in Mainz, he kindly spoke to BSB about his NK cell research and its potential as a novel target for cancer immunotherapy.

Here’s a short excerpt from our discussion:

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Periodically, we post an analysis and look at a particular landscape and the leading competitors within. One area of rather intense interest that we have been following is the progress (or march might be more precise) of checkpoint blockade in previously untreated metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (1L NSCLC).

Our extensive reviews and discussions in this area have included a look at:

In addition, I last posted my recent predictions on this space in July this year and already quite a bit has happened since then!

With a bunch of other phase 3 trial readouts coming up over the next couple of months, it’s now time for another update on what to watch out for, what to expect and why some studies can be handicapped differently.

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Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is a tough disease to deal with given that it is portends poor clinical outcomes, aggressive tumour biology, and early metastatic spread. Not surprisingly, we have seen very little improvements in terms of clinical outcomes with anti-cancer therapeutics. Surgery (for early stage disease) and intense chemotherapy (for metastatic disease) remain the bedrocks of treatment to this day.

From an immunotherapy perspective, there are also additional barriers and hurdles to overcome including, for example, lack of high mutational load, a complex inhibitory tumour microenvironment, and even a physical barrier in the form of the stromal layer.

Not surprisingly, all of these factors combine to make companies reluctant to rush into clinical trials with immune checkpoint blockade, accepting that we really need to understand the underlying tumour biology better before attempting such an endeavour.

At a recent cancer conference we heard an uplifting talk from a research group who are attempting to tackle this issue and offer some pointers on where there may be some near-term opportunities that are worthy of discussion.

Before we can even consider what delivery system or adjuvant to use, we first have to do the scientific investigations into what’s special about exceptional responders and characterize those.

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Mainz – At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Germany, one of the underlying themes of the conference that attracted considerable attention from speakers and poster presenters was neoantigens, and how to generate cancer vaccines directed against them.

One of the European leaders in the field is Professor George Coukos who is Director of the Department of Oncology at the University of Lausanne Hospital and Director of the Lausanne branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Lausanne is an exciting place for innovative translational oncology work with the Swiss Cancer Center, that Coukos also directs, creating synergy between partner institutions co-located in the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV).

Mainz, Germany

We last spoke to Prof Coukos 18 months ago and much has happened since then. In Mainz, he kindly agreed to speak to BSB again and provide an update on progress.

This time we talked about the cancer vaccine research that he and collaborators such as Dr Lana Kandalaft are pioneering in Lausanne, and how this could best be applied in ovarian cancer.  It was exciting to hear him discuss his vision and some of the ambitious goals he hopes will be possible within the field.

Here’s a short excerpt from the interview – he has an interesting story to tell:

This expert interview is part 5 of our onging mini-series on the Future of Cancer Vaccines.

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Recently there has been a glut of encouraging new research published on the topic of breast cancer that is well worth perusing as a group, since new combination studies may emerge from these kind of data.

In this month’s Journal Club edition, we explore five such articles plus some related research in support of the main themes.

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It’s that time of the year again – time to highlight key events and talks at the upcoming European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) meeting held in Madrid next month.

Over the next two days, we’re going to take a look at five key IO trials (today) and five targeted therapy studies (tomorrow) that are being presented at ESMO.

In short, what should readers know about these oral presentations for greater context, why are they important, and what should you be looking for?

We will cover the hidden gems from the poster halls to watch out for in a separate future post.

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One of the intriguing themes that emerged recently at ASCO from several cancer immunotherapy trials centred around whether any elicited immune responses actually correlated with outcomes and if so, why and how?

Gems from the ASCO17 poster hall

It sounds easy in practice, yet in reality the topic has been quite a controversial one that has been hotly debated for a while.

With a wealth of new cancer immunotherapy trials now undwerway and initial results trickling out, how do we start to make sense of the information and what do we learn that might be useful going forward for future trials and the field as a whole?

With the help of a renowned cancer immunologist, we explored this concept in more detail to determine what can be gleaned from the data available.

Today, we look at part one of our latest mini-series, with the second part to follow later this week.

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In our latest thought leader interview we explore the intersection between epigenetic therapy and immunotherapy.

Gems from the ASCO17 poster hall

Much of the IO focus to date has been on monotherapies rather than combos, although that situation is slowly changing.

What we can also expect to see are the emergence of regimens, long the bedrock of traditional cancer therapy approaches.

As we learn how to bucket more discrete populations based on the underlying biology of the tumour microenvironment, so we will see a more IFTTT (If this then that) approach evolve in order to fix or improve a situation before or after attempting the core therapy. It might require a focus on changing the immunosuppressive or inhibitory factors, for example, or addressing factors that induce primary resistance upfront. The possibilities are endless.

Obviously, there are a number of ways to do this from chemotherapy and radiotherapy to epigenetic agents to targeted therapies – these traditional treatments are not going to go away, but I can see a future where we see more integration based on a patient’s underlying immune status. It won’t be the zero sum game many analysts seem to think it might be.

In the past, we have covered chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapies and looked at how they might be employed with immunotherapies in various guises. In this latest thought leader interview, we look at a different approach, epigenetic therapy and other novel immunotherapies.

Here, we combine two popular types of posts – Gems from the Poster Halls with an Expert Interview  – for detailed look at one particular area of research that is beginning to look quite intriguing.

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One of my favourite pastimes at cancer conferences is discussions with up and coming young researchers about their current experiments and what they learn from them.

The poster hall rugby scrum at #ASCO17

In the spotlight today is one of the gems from the poster halls at ASCO this month…

Here we explore how liver mets, which is a common site of metastases, can influence the response of cancer immunotherapy.

The findings from this research highlight some intriguing biology as well as offer some hints about where to go next.

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