Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Checkpoint Blockade’

And we’re off!

Rays of hope during dark days

No, no, not to the races – and certainly not to Cheltenham – but rather it’s that time of the year when the first of our annual AACR Preview series drops.  While some cancer conferences have been postponed and even cancelled, others such as AACR and ASCO are proceeding with virtual meetings, proving that even dark times can offer hints of hope.

This is good news for both young researchers and companies alike in getting data out there and shared because life goes on as time and tide wait for no man.

The actual abstracts themselves won’t be revealed until later in the month on April 27th, but for now we get a taster of this year’s truncated event since the titles available for the first virtual meeting.

Often time, this glimpse is sufficient to garner some useful clues, so what does this year hold in store for us all?

This Preview series will be in multiple parts – a review of some of the key oral sessions from the first virtual program (targeted agents, immunotherapies, cell therapies, novel targets, translational studies etc) followed by a review of the posters in the final part.

To get started, let’s take a look at some of the important presentations we can expect to hear on the first day…

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There are multiple players in the Magic Roundabout, but are some more important than others and will different culprits turn out to have hidden meanings? You may never see Ermintrude in the same way again 😉

Without a doubt, there are multiple potential ways we can go about improving responses to cancer immunotherapy, not just in terms of targets, combination approaches, different modalities etc, but also by manipulating the tumour microenvironment or thinking about directing different immune cells in positive ways.

In our latest review, we look at one area where emerging work appears to bearing fruit as multiple groups suddenly get one of those, a-ha! moments.

It’s not just happening in one tumour type either, nor is it limited to one type of therapy or modality, which makes it all the more intriguing to think about.

We heard about one example of this mechanism last year and now it’s time to explore things in more detail. This also means companies quick on the uptake could well take advantage ahead of their competitors.

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We get to chat with many leading oncologists and cancer researchers on Biotech Strategy Blog – it’s truly one of the perks of the job to meet experts and hear them discuss their early research.

Like a tutorial, we have the opportunity to ask questions and improve our own understanding, but where it becomes really interesting is when they talk about promising translational opportunities, because this is what we are about.

How do you translate basic research into oncology new products and figure out where are the viable opportunities?

In this post, we spoke with one of the world’s leading immunologists – someone we’ve never spoken to before – who a few weeks ago spun-out a company to commercialize one of their early research areas and while we were doing the interview told us about another commercial opportunity they had in mind. This was very much “under the radar” and in a relatively earlier stage of commercialization. Both targets have potential for synergy in our view, particularly in combination strategies and cancer immunotherapy regimens.

With one company in stealth mode and the other only incorporated a matter of weeks ago (at time of writing they don’t yet have a website), it’s exciting to see science translation in action.

This is one of the reasons why one of the many tribes that read BSB are those in business development and licensing (BD&L) or investment roles.

In this post we interviewed the delightful Prof. Akiko Iwasaki from Yale. We’ve also put together commentary on the opportunities and the science behind them, as well as some recent anecdotes gleaned from another expert in one of the fields discussed.

If you are part of a BD&L team then do consider purchasing a group or team license. We’d be happy to have our group sales department discuss this further with you.

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San Francisco!

San Francisco – It’s time to switch horses for some the latest conference coverage and explore some important new findings emerging from the genitourinary world of bladder, prostate, and renal cell cancers at the ASCOGU specialist meeting held late last week.

Not that many years ago, much of this niche was dominated by numerous updates in prostate cancer, with little good cheer to write about on the other two cancers – how things have changed in such a short time!

This year there’s plenty going on in all three categories, I’m pleased to say.

Here we focus on several important trials or targets and explain why they matter and what’s significant about the findings…

Some of the agents or trials selected here are likely to receive more attention going forward as more data become available, so it behooves us to set the scene now.

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Welcome to SITC19!

National Harbor: It’s time for the first of our daily highlights and review of key data that was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).

The first day is usually taken up by some longer review sessions on key topics, intermingled with some rapid fire oral talks on emerging areas where we get to hear some young investigators talk about their ongoing projects.

This results in some broad updates, as well as some specific areas of early R&D in the IO space that often end up as key areas to watch out for over time. This year is no different in that respect…

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One of the expected highlights of the forthcoming European Society for Medical Oncology (Twitter #ESMO19) will be data for breast cancer immunotherapy.

In the first of our pre-ESMO19 previews we are taking a closer look at three breast cancer immunotherapy presentations that we think are noteworthy.

As a reminder, the abstracts are not yet available, so we’re not writing about data that’s not yet been presented, but instead are looking at why the presentations may be of scientific/medical interest, and what the questions we hope they will answer. In cancer biology as we heard from Professor Gerard Evan in a recent expert interview, it’s not about “what” happened, but “why”?

We have “boots on the ground” in Barcelona from Sept 27th to October 1st providing daily posts for BSB subscribers with our unique blend of data, analysis and commentary.

Do download the ESMO19 app if you want to check out what already looks like it will be a busy, informative and interesting congress in Barcelona. Hopefully the rain that struck the recent World Lung meeting in Barcelona will have gone away, leaving us with a sunny and dry spell one normally associates with Spain!

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4th CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR meeting in NYC

The next conference we plan on attending will be the 4th CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR meeting in New York starting on Sun 30th Sept.

Having been to the 3rd annual event in Mainz meeting last Fall, I have to say it was absolutely fantastic and well organised, with plenty of researchers giving some excellent science based talks.  There was also a heavy focus on neoantigens and neoepitopes in the poster halls, making it a good place to learn from up and coming young European researchers keen to share and discuss their work.

To find out what’s in store this time around on US soil, we took a look at the program and came up with the first of our previews exploring some interesting topics…

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One of the challenges of the short whirlwind period between AACR and ASCO is that many new research papers get published and largely missed or forgotten about in the data tsunami that drops as people eagerly (and almost exclusively) focus on the new abstracts that are available.

This is a real shame since there were many really good pieces of research that were rich in knowledge that were published around then.  My reading pile heading into AACR was much larger than usual, and after wading through it all, it built up rapidly again heading into ASCO, never mind over 20,000 abstracts to consider between those two meetings!

Contemplating new data…

With this in mind, it’s time for a new Journal Club post – these are surprisingly popular on BSB, although on reflection the selections have tended to highlight either new targets and areas of therapeutic potential or offer explanations for some of the phenomena that we are seeing.

New developments often (but not aways) allow us to step back and see results from clinical trials with greater clarity.

With this in mind, here are our latest selections for the BSB Journal Club, all of which should prove to be a useful read…

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One of the many challenges we have seen with cancer immunotherapy and immune checkpoint blockade in particular is the thorny issue of how long should patients be treated for?

To be fair there are some studies testing a limited time period, but most are open ended in that patients are treated until progression or severe toxicities prevent continuation, whichever comes first.

Ovarian cancer TME Source: NCI

Is this the optimal approach though, especially if people receive the benefit and any more is superfluous, thereby increasing the twin burdens of clinical and financial toxicity.

Are there indicators that predict early discontinuation?

After all, if oncologists were aware of those factors then careful monitoring will be helpful in looking out for the warning signs.

Without a doubt, this is going to be a long road ahead and the path may be paved with different indicators depending on the tumour type involved. It could also become more complex as we move from monotherapy to doublets to regimens, which also increases the risk of clinical and financial toxicities.

We have to start somewhere and I’m delighted to say that I came across some elegant research that explored this issue and came up with some prediction factors of relevance. As a bonus, they actually make sound and intuitive sense too.

Here we describe the important study and look at the prediction factors that emerge…

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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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