Scaling the ramparts in Real Madrido
It feels slightly surreal to be writing about this year’s annual ESMO confab instead of attending in person in Madrid, Spain.
While much of the time and attention at ESMO is usually focused on the major phase 3 readouts from various clinical trials, we will be covering these during the meeting as they are presented to avoid repetition since many of the topline company trial results have already been announced.
In this year’s conference Preview series, I wanted to take a step back and explore early new product development in several forms:
- Biomarkers and potential new ways of predicting outcomes in development
- Emerging novel targets of interest
- Developmental therapeutics – trials and tribulations
This initial review will tackle some important developments pertaining to various biomarkers of interest.
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A wet gloomy day in San Francisco was brightened up by some small biotech talks
San Francisco – The other day I mentioned that we could expect some cross pollination across several recent conferences and this latest post on Kura Oncology is one such example of that genre.
We’ve been following their story longitudinally for a while now and with a lot suddenly going on, 2020 could well turn out to be an crucial year for the company.
There is no doubt they have been pursuing a very focused precision medicine approach with tipifarnib and executing nicely on that strategy so far, but as more indications and additional pipeline agents move into the clinic do the same principles still apply?
To find out, we interviewed a couple of their senior executives and discussed both current progress as well as where they are headed…
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Heading Downtown for #CICON18
New York – It’s always good to see cancer researchers receive a Nobel prize.
I don’t think anyone at #CICON18 was surprised to see Dr Jim Allison as a recipient. I’m delighted to see Prof Honjo was also recognised too, as he discovered the PD-1 checkpoint target:
Moving on it’s time for some highlights of the first day of the meeting – a couple of interesting findings emerged from the proceedings…
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The potential of cytokines in cancer immunotherapy is now attracting a lot of attention with many in industry assessing whether they need a cytokine in their pipeline and if so which one may make the optimal combination partner.
We’ve been writing about cytokines for several years now and have been following several cytokine molecules, including Nektar’s novel pegylated IL–2 (NKTR–214) approach and Armo’s pegylated IL–10 (AM0010). Other technologies in early development include an IL–8 agonist from BMS and an IL–15 superagonist fusion protein from Altor Bioesciences.
#ASCO18 Blisterwalk to Developmental Therapeutic sessions
What does the future hold for cytokines – are they really the “best thing since sliced bread,” as we say in England or will they fizzle out and not prove to induce additive effects over and above monotherapy with checkpoint blockade?
For a view of where the field is at and where it might be going, while in Chicago at ASCO 2018 we spoke with Dr Mario Sznol, who is a medical oncologist at Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, where he treats melanoma and kidney cancer patients.
He’s one of the leading translational researchers in cytokine drug development and is also the in-coming president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).
Readers of Biotech Strategy will recall that we last spoke with Dr Sznol at the 2015 SITC annual meeting where he talked about his renewed interest in cytokines, and in particular, interleukin–2 (IL–2) (See post: Novel immunotherapies and combinations). Since then, much has happened and there are now even more targets being investigated, as well as a wider cadre of researchers actively involved in this field.
Being president of a medical or scientific association takes up a lot of time, so it was a privilege to talk with Dr Sznol again, before he takes up his new honorary position in 2019.
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One of the (many) highlights for me at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) was a “Meet the Expert” session presented by Professor George Coukos.
Prof George Coukos AACR 2016
Professor Coukos is Director of Oncology at the University Hospital of Lausanne and Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland.
Ovarian cancer is becoming a fascinating battleground for cancer immunotherapy, with multiple challenges that must be overcome before we see improvements in outcomes, especially for women advanced disease.
The interview with Prof Coukos is a follow-on to the one we did on advanced ovarian cancer and checkpoint blockade at ECCO 2015 in Vienna with Dr Nora Disis (Link).
If you missed it, you can still listen to highlights in Episode 7 of the Novel Targets Podcast (Link).
After his AACR presentation, Prof Coukos kindly spoke with BSB and in a wide ranging discussion, highlighted some of the innovative clinical trial strategies he is working on to move the cancer immunotherapy field forward in ovarian cancer.
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