Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘colorectal cancer’

Do any of the early trials in advanced cancers aspire to be great?

Not in Chicago – Of relevance to the ongoing ASCO20 coverage, in the Preview series this year, two of the companies we highlighted going into the meeting (Innovent and Alphamab) both announced deals this week with Roche and Sanofi, respectively – talk about highlighting hot topics ahead of time 😉

After last week’s look at winners and losers in hematologic malignancies, this time around we now turn our attention to explore what’s happening on the new product development front regarding solid tumours.  In this review, we critique some of the trials presented and put them in broader context.

As always, there are both some important learnings we can glean as well as some, well, head/desk moments to contemplate…

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Are GI cancers still marooned on an island or are they catching up with other solid tumours in terms of progress?

San Francisco – In the past, whenever I posted updates on any of the GI cancers they attracted noticeably less attention than other solid tumours and rightly so, especially given the lack of new agents and compelling data. If the highlight of a meeting is debating the merits of left versus right side tumour responses or bolus versus infusional administration then the plot has kind of been lost in the morass of abstracts available.

This year, however, things are looking up with a tidy group of studies that have what I call ‘interestingness’ – in other words, results that will tempt us to look deeper rather than merely skim in the hope of something new and shiny.

This weekend in San Francisco saw some highlights (and also lowlights) in the form of new clinical data emerging from the 2020 ASCO GI conference. That means we’re due a review so let’s rock ’n roll though the important studies to see what stands out from the crowd…

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The calm before the morning storm surge at ESMO19!

Barcelona – I can’t recall the last time we published three long form posts from a conference before high noon (US time) on the same morning, but that certainly illustrates how busy this year’s ESMO is and there’s a lot more to come yet.

The initial starting coverage for today includes hot topics in ovarian, lung, and colorectal cancers and more will be added in due course.

If you are looking for osimetinib in FLAURA and AMG 510 in KRASm colorectal cancers, click on the BSB log in the top left corner to check out the front page slider for more information on those write-ups and commentary!

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Barcelona – Today is going to be a very long and complex day at ESMO, with a multitude of key data expected from several trials ranging from the phase 1 Amgen data update on their KRASG12C inhibitor, AMG 510, AstraZeneca’s osimertinib in the FLAURA study plus a raft of others, including the phase 3 PAOLA–1 and CheckMate–227 trials.

In order to keep all the information straight and manage the various embargo deadlines at wildly different times, we’re going to break with tradition and post three different articles at different times on KRAS, FLAURA, and the daily running log of various studies and posters that catch our interest. Yes it’s a lot more work, but it’s the only way to manage all the deadlines!

This post will focus solely for the KRAS updates at ESMO19, including the initial data release, the presentation, analyses, and commentary. No doubt that means a series of updates will ensue so do check back regularly or follow the alerts on Twitter via @biotechstrategy.

Let’s roll!

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Hitching a ride on the Powell and Mason tram

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers comprise quite a wide variety of different tumour types, including those of the oesophagus and stomach, pancreas, small bowel and hepatobiliary tract, as well as the colon, rectum and anus.

With the possible exception of oesophagus and gastric/stomach cancers, this bunch of tumour types are generally colld rather than hot tumours for various reasons.

Aside from some recent forays by immune checkpoint blockade in gastric cancer, this field hasn’t had a lot of startling new developments to get excited about of late.

Are things finally changing?

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San Francisco

The first cancer conference of 2018 is now upon us and after enjoying last year’s event in San Francisco, I wanted to take some time to explore some key abstracts of interest at the ASCO GI meeting, which begins tomorrow.

This conference covers various updates on new developments in oesophageal, gastric, colon, pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

Are there any trials or new developments to get excited about at this year’s GI18 meeting?

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This week in our colorectal cancer mini-series we have covered the validation of Immunoscore as a tool for determining which patients have high T cells in their tuours and are therefore candidates for single agent immunotherapy (Link), as well as microsatellite instability (MSI) and mismatch-repair deficient tumours and how they can respond immunotherapy (Link).

What happens in the majority (95%) of patients, the microsatellite stable (MSS) disease who are mismatch-repair proficient though?  They don’t respond well to checkpoint blockade so how can we help them?

Dr Johanna Bendell ASCO 2016In Chicago, BSB interviewed Dr Johanna Bendell from the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tennessee to find out more about what she and her colleagues have been doing and where they plan to go next.

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ASCO 2016 Collective WisdomContinuing part two of our mini-series on colorectal cancer, today we move from the big scale Immunoscore study to small subsets of disease that are looking interesting in several ways.

For years, advanced colorectal cancer has been dominated by chemotherapy (FOLFOX or FOLFIRI) with and without targeted therapies (VEGF and EGFR antibodies), with very little new to talk about. Part of the challenge here is how do you add something the existing standard of care and move the needle significantly. In front-line, for example, the OS is already out 2-plus years, so these are long and risky trials to undertake. Not surpisingly, many companies have sought to evaluate their agents in tumour types where they consider the risk of development to be lower.

Unless… we can find creative approaches that turn the paradigm on its head and identify a clearly defined niche that can be carved out separately from allcomers.

This is where we’re at now – identifying subsets that might respond exquisitely to novel approaches based on a rational understanding of the underlying biology.  One obvious subset might be BRAF, which can be treated with a BRAF inhibitor with or without other targeted therapies as Dr Pietrantonio and colleagues (2016) literally just showed for example, but what about others of potential interest?

Colorectal cancer with microsatellite stable (MSS) disease represents 95% of metastatic patients. These are people whose mismatched repair system is proficient and actively functional in fixing the DNA strand breaks that occur during the course of life.

In contrast, those with microsatellite instability (MSI) are the minority of people with colon cancer (and some other cancers too) whose mismatched repair system is deficient and unable to adequately repair the DNA strand breaks. Ironically, this leads to thousands of mutations that can be recognised by the immune system to help detect the presence of cancer. It also tends to occur in hereditary cancers such as Lynch Syndrome.

We’ve been following the MSI vs MSS story for a while now, but at ASCO this year there was more data available and things appear to be getting clearer on the commercial front too.

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We have selected five key strategic trends that are emerging that will be critical to follow, understand, and even implement if you are on the coal-face of clinical research and new product development.

ASCO16 Chicago 5We aren’t talking about financial things such as cost toxicity, or even how doctors should be paid, but meaty scientific aspects that we need to watch out for. If we are going to improve on cancer research and R&D in the future, these issues will be important.

For companies and academic researchers alike, there is much to learn from the tsunami of data that hit this week if you have a keen interest in the field and a bent for making sense of patterns out of an amorphous mass of data.

Not paying attention to evolution in clinical development can mean the difference between being in the winners circle, on the outside looking in, or falling way behind your competitors. Playing catch up is never anyone’s idea of fun in this market – oncology moves at a lightning fast pace compared to many other therapy areas.

Intrigued? To find out what these strategic trends are, subscribers can log-in to read the analysis.

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For years we’ve followed the trials and tribulations of targeted therapies seeing many approved and quite a few disappear forlornly (and officially) off to dog drug heaven. Many more sit in no-man’s land as companies eagerly wait in a holding pattern for other trial readouts in different tumour types. Sadly, sometimes these studies don’t generate enough compelling data either. With so much competition about, there are no shortcuts or low-hanging fruit in biotech or cancer drug development any more.

ASCO16 Chicago 1

En route to Chicago and ASCO!

Then along came antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), with some encouraging results in a range of cancers in both solid tumours and hematologic malignancies that lead to the approval of several new therapies.

After that, the next big advance was immunotherapies, specifically checkpoint blockade, with encouraging single agent activity in melanoma, lung, and even urothelial bladder cancer. We’ve also seen the promise fo combining two different checkpoints such as nivolumab and ipilimumab together in metastatic melanoma, albeit with an increase in toxicities.

This is all very well and good, although the challenge remains that the majority of patients either respond to therapy and relapse, or do not respond at all, depending on the circumstances, the tumour type and the regimen. We still have a long way to go in moving the needle and creating a new paradigm shift on a broad scale.

So what happens when we start to combine modalities – such as targeted therapies with immunotherapies?

Uh-oh, I hear the distant cries of disagreement erupt…

  • Remember vemurafenib plus ipilimumab in metastatic melanoma was scuppered by severe hepatitis?
  • What about osimertinib plus durvalumab in NSCLC and the increased incidence of ILD?

Both of these statements are true, and yet… we should not assume that all mixed therapy combination approaches are doomed on the basis of a mere n of 2. What happens if some are synergistic or additive? What happens of there are hidden gems that teach us new ways of doing things rather than doing the same old thing just because it’s always been done that way?

With this in mind, I’d like to open the door on our first ASCO 2016 Preview series with a look at novel combination approaches in development that caught my eye.

What are the early hints and signals that we can learn from the data? Which companies are evaluating imaginative new ideas that may turn the tables on traditional thinking?  The ideas discussed here may well surprise a few people.

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