SITC2017 Poster Halls
National Harbor, MD: It’s time for the first of our Gems from the Poster Halls following the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) annual meeting over the weekend.
It’s time for a look at biomarkers of response and some novel approaches in development. In the past we have covered circulating tumour cells (CTCs), cell free DNA (cfDNA), circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) and even exosomes.
As Monthy Python would say — now for something really different…
What about a more integrated approach?
Yes, it’s possible and no, I’m not talking about the classical nonogram either.
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SITC 2017 at the Gaylord Hotel, MD
It’s that time of year already and it has come around so fast in 2017… yes it’s the annual meeting for the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (aka SITC).
This year there are several eagerly anticipated presentations, one of which is Juno’s ill-fated ROCKET trial in adult ALL using their JCAR015 CAR T cell therapy.
While Novartis and Kite both successfully made it to market recently in pediatric ALL and aggressive lumphomas, respectively, Juno were left languishing in a poor third place after a series of lethal cerebral oedemas scuppered the program. In the meantime, Novartis are relentless chasing Kite with their JULIET trial in DLBCL and could well have the third CAR T cell therapy indication.
Finally, we heard for the first time today what the company learned from the recent analysis of the deaths, which they shared with the field this morning. BSB was on the spot to hear more about what the CMO, Dr Mark Gilbert had to say and we also have some thought leader sentiments on their perspective of the findings.
That’s not all though, as there was also new data on checkpoint blockade and other immunotherapies that are in early development as well as developments on the biomarker front.
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Yesterday in part 1 (Link) of our latest mini-series, we looked at the SCLC landscape and some of the key background issues to think about.
This time around in part 2 we drill down focus more specifically on Rova-T, including physician and patient sentiments and in particular, what to watch out for with the upcoming phase 2 TRINITY readout. There’s a lot to consider here so we’ve broken the analysis down to five key areas.
Mystic Meg is also back with her canny predictions – what does the crystal ball portend for Rova-T and the TRINITY trial? Caveat: she’s been on a tear of late; this situation will not continue forever.
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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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Preserved section of the Berlin Wall
I have a personal interest in Alzheimers Disease, my mother Audrey died from it three years ago back in 2014.
Since then, I’ve watched with fascination and excitement the progress made in using the body’s own immune system against cancer. There’s still a long way to go, but a revolution in treating cancer is underway, as we’ve been documenting on this blog and the Novel Targets Podcast.
In recent years in the United States we’ve also seen grand initiatives targeting cancer such as Vice President Biden’s Moonshot, as well as large philanthropic support e.g. the creation of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.
Sadly, we’ve not seen the same level of interest in targeting dementia or funding research into new treatments for Alzheimers disease.
In the United States, the media doesn’t talk much about Alzheimers (compared to cancer), unlike for example, in the United Kingdom where any promising data is heralded with headlines that frequently deliver “hype over hope.”
Alzheimers is an insidious disease that removes the ability of the person to advocate and care for themselves, instead placing the burden on families and caregivers, often for extended periods of time. Ultimately many people end up in supported living or nursing homes.
As we debate healthcare insurance in the United States, who is going to pay for the cost of dementia care as the population grows older? Caring for dementia is arguably the greatest public health challenge that the western world faces.
Which is why I was excited to talk with a researcher who is thinking outside of the box and leading the way in how we could use our immune system against Alzheimers.
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Back in January this year, we posted an early look on what to expect from the evolving 1L NSCLC landscape following the controversial FDA submission of Merck’s pembrolizumab with chemotherapy. This lead to subsequent approval in May.
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin July 2017
At that time, quite a few people were shocked and surprised that the phase 2 KEYNOTE–021 Cohort G data presented ESMO was neatly parlayed into accelerated approval in the US.
Since then, a lot has happened and now many readers are on tenterhooks as we await the next round of lung cancer trial results in the upfront setting.
First up is AstraZeneca’s MYSTIC trial exploring an IO-IO combination with durvalumab plus tremelimumab. Merck’s confirmatory trial for pembrolizumab plus chemo is also expected in the fall – will it support the accelarated approval – or not? Meanwhile, we also await Roche/Genentech’s IMpower150 study evaluating their checkpoint inhibitor, atezolizumab, in combination with chemotherapy by the year end.
These are quite different strategies with diverse endpoints so following them closely will be key to understanding what happens next. Based on what we’ve seen in lung cancer to date, the roller coaster looks set to continue. The C-suite shenanigans have only added to the intrigue and mystique – do they mean anything? Who knows, but we’re focusing on the hard data i.e. science and the clinical clues that are available.
It’s all to play for and many readers wrote in asking for an update on the landscape and what to expect now that we’re much nearer to the shoes actually dropping.
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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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#ASCO17 Poster Hall aka rugby scrum
There were a lot of gems in the poster halls at ASCO this year, a fact that is partly a reflection of the wealth of new data with various IO combos and also the early cutoff date.
Now I jested before the meeting that these sessions were akin to a rugby scrum and lo and behold (see photo right) they were even more jam packed than usual!
If you wanted to best the eager and energetic Wall St analysts then remembering your ruck and maul skills were not a bad thing to have in muscle memory… It was not something I attempted in the Go-Cart this year for fear of bowling people over in the stampede to nab the QR codes 🙂
Much of the previous readouts have been with monotherapy in immunogenic tumours such as melanoma, lung, bladder, gastric, renal cell carcinoma etc. Objective response rates in metastatic triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) have generally been under 20%, however.
Lately, the focus has turned to the deepening of responses in these tumours with various combination approaches and also moving earlier in the disease setting, where immunotherapies might be expected to be more effective with a lower tumour burden.
While in Chicago, we spoke to a breast cancer specialist about where IO combos are going and his thoughts on future opportunities in our third post in a series on various aspects of new developments in breast cancer.
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Dr James Gulley is Chief of the Genito-Urinary malignancies branch and Director of the Medical Oncology service at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the National Institutes of Health. He’s a world-leading GU cancer expert and at the forefront of pioneering research to make cancer immunotherapy work in prostate cancer.
We last spoke to him at ASCO 2015 (See post: The future of prostate cancer immunotherapy). You can listen to excerpts from this interview on Episode 4 of the Novel Targets podcast (See: The non-inflamed tumour show).
Almost two years on, and new research by Dr Gulley and colleagues from the NCI shows that the STING pathway may have an important role to play in prostate cancer immunotherapy. Activation of this pathway through a novel mechanism could turn a cold non-inflamed tumor into a more inflamed or hotter one in men with advanced prostate cancer. How cool is that?!
At the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) that was recently held in Washington DC, Dr Gulley graciously spoke to BSB about some of the novel trials that are underway at the NCI, with the aim of making cancer immunotherapy work in men with advanced prostate cancer.
Dr Jim Gulley, NCI at AACR17
This is the seventh expert interviews in our series from AACR17 where we explore the conundrum:
How does Dr Gulley plan to light the immune camp fire in prostate cancer?
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We’ve been saying for a while that 2017 and onwards would be when we start to see a few IO combination trials start to shake out. Interestingly, that process seems to have already started, if recent news is any thing to go by.
With this in mind, the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) coming up this weekend gives us a timely moment to explore combinations that are looking interesting… or not.
In the last of our AACR 2017 Conference Previews, we take a look at what to expect on this year’s program in the IO and Checkpoint arena. In short, it’s quite a lot and not without some controversy either!
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