One key emerging area of growth (and importance) in cancer research is the validation, and hopefully clinical use, of more convenient and less invasive biomarker tests based on body fluids rather than tumour biopsies aka ‘liquid biopsies’.
With a glut of recent data now available from several trials, some of which might be considered controversial, and more to come in the next raft of cancer conferences, it seemed a good opportunity to take stock and see where we are, what we have learned, and importantly, where we are heading in this fledgling field.
In the BSB hot seat today we have our latest thought leader interview, where we discuss these issues and gain their perspectives on the latest round of data with blood TMB and whether it is turning out to be clinically useful or not…
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Cambridge: the third annual European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) conference on cancer genomics is underway at Churchill College in the UK. (Official Twitter hashtag: #CG17).
Churchill College, founded by the former Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, is a short 15 minutes walk from the historic city centre and has an edgy modernist field to it, with thought provoking sculptures scattered throughout the grounds. It’s a far cry from the more romantic and dreamy spires of Oxford portrayed in the TV detective series, Morse and Lewis.
Despite all the interest in cancer immunotherapy and immuno-oncology, it’s important to remember that cancer remains a disease of the genome, which is why we decided to cover this meeting for the first time. It has an impressive line-up of keynote speakers, as well as researchers presenting posters.
All too often now on the cancer immunotherapy conference circuit, it’s the same thought leaders giving a repeat of their ‘party piece’ standard “keynote” talk so it’s refreshing to hear new voices who are at the leading edge of cancer research, albeit in a slightly different niche.
What we are starting to see is the convergence of cancer immunotherapy with genomics, and that was very evident in the posters that are directional of where the field is going. More on that later.
This is the first of three daily blogs that summarise some of the insights and take-home messages from the EACR Cancer Genomics conference at Churchill College, Cambridge.
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Orlando, Florida: It’s time for a review of emerging science and clinical concepts. This post is the final one in our latest series from ASCO-SITC.
Here we take a step back and highlight six key emerging trends and ideas that were either presented in talks and posters, or are sentiments based on conversations with attendees in the poster halls or corridors.
Sometimes those discussions are pretty helpful in giving hints on new dirrections before the actual data eventually comes out.
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As we move from monotherapies to combinations in the immuno-oncology space, we start to see some intriguing ideas being explored from additional checkpoints to vaccines to neoantigens to immune agonists to oncolytic viruses. There are numerous ways to evaluate how to boost or jumpstart more immune cells upfront in the hope of seeing better efficacy.
One way to do this is to better understand the tumour microenvironment.
Wall of people at ASH16 in San Diego
If we know what’s wrong under the hood, we might be better able to make the immune system get going… more gas, faulty starter motor, dead battery, loose wire, broken fan belt? All these things and more might be a problem so you can see that diagnosing the issue up from from basic and translational work might be instructive for clinical trials.
If you don’t know what problem you’re trying to fix or repair then you might as well be throwing mud at the wall. Just as we don’t expect a car mechanic to suggest changing the battery or starter-motor without first diagnosing the issue, so understanding the tumour microenvironment in each different cancer or disease might also be a helpful strategy.
At the recent American Society of Hematology annual meeting (#ASH16), there was a fascinating sceintifc workshop that focused on this very concept – what’s going on under the hood and how do we go about fixing it?
Here we explore these ideas via an interview with a thought leader and specialist in the field. What he had to say was very interesting and candid indeed.
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We’re continuing our series of posts from the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) with an expert interview on how circulating tumor DNA could change breast cancer treatment.
There has been a noticeable increase in attention and focus on the application of liquid tests – especially from blood – over the last five years, culminating in a spinoff company called Grail from the deep sequencing giant, Illumina, announcing a massive funding round earlier this month.
At the time of the BSB expert interview in San Antonio, we had no idea that the Grail news was going to hit just a couple of weeks later!
While much of the media attention surrounding Grail has focused on the early detection of cancer in apparently healthy individuals, there’s actually a much more useful application where it could be more immediately applied to great effect.
Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) or cell free DNA (cfDNA) has the potential to revolutionise and improve monitoring over time for people with cancer who are receiving therapy.
This is the third in our series of expert interviews from the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (#SABCS16).
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