Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘cytokines’

Not-in-San Diego: The second part of the 2020 virtual annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR VM2) is over, and now the fun part of looking at some of the key data presented commences.

If you listened in to some of the sessions live like BSB did then you would have heard many of the chairs say how surprised they were to have 1,200 to 1,500 or more people listening live – AACR are to be congratulated on promoting access to science from around the world.

We all miss the personal interaction of a meeting but given the high cost of attending an annual conference, a virtual meeting does promote the democratization of science, and we are all for that. Given the ongoing uncertainties around the control of Covid–19, with all the travel and large crowds involved, it remains uncertain when we’ll all feel comfortable going to major conferences again.

One presentation that caught the attention of many at AACR VM2 including ourselves was data on a novel way to target IL–18 from the lab of Dr Aaron Ring (Yale), which was presented by his postdoc, Dr Ting Zhou at the meeting. A paper was also published simultaneously in Nature last week.

We’ve been following Dr Ring’s work on IL–18 for some time so it was good to finally see it published.

As part of our ongoing AACR20 coverage, Dr Ring kindly spoke to BSB to explain how his research led to the discovery of a novel way to target IL–18 for cancer immunotherapy as well as the plans to translate this into the clinic through a spin-off company, Simcha Therapeutics.

Will this novel way of targeting IL–18 be a winner? We take a closer look in this post.

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A high tide marker stands out on the beach, what stood out at ASGCT20 for you?

As Covid–19 continues to exert its impact on the cancer conference schedule, the good news is that it isn’t a total wrecking ball effect as organisations turn to virtual meetings to enable researchers to share their work.

Some of the events we have ‘attended’ this year have been prerecorded in advance, while others have taken the form of live events. Having listened to both, I can say they have advantages and disadvantages either way.

To me, it doesn’t really matter if you are flexible and appreciate the effort the scientists are making to show their wares.

This week it’s the turn of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) to be in the spotlight with a truly ‘live’ meeting.

In the latest post, we focus on some key Gems from the Poster Halls…

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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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National Harbor, MD

With the abstract drop from the 2019 Society for the Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) meeting now available, what can we learn from some of the research slated for formal oral presentation this year?

Here in part one (posters will be reviewed tomorrow) we take a look at a mix of preclinical and early clinical studies that grabbed our initial interest from the oral presentations – they include the good, bad, and intriguing – to see exactly what can be learned from this year’s mix of abstracts?

The short answer is quite a lot.

Every year the what to watch out for preview is a popular one.  This year there are some surprises in store as well as some particularly important findings that BSB readers may well be keen to find out more about ahead of the conference later this week in order to maximise their thinking and avoid the inevitable brain-fry and fatigue that sets in on Saturday afternoon…

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Old Post Office in Barcelona

Barcelona – After the torrential rains that hit here earlier in the month at WCLC, it’s glorious weather in Barcelona for the 2019 Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (#ESMO19).

Each day we’ll be providing highlights from the Congress with news, commentary and analysis from various presentations we’ve attended and thought leaders we’ve spoken to.

This ESMO Congress is a really exciting meeting, perhaps one of the busiest we’ve seen in recent years with multiple sessions in parallel to choose from. There are no shortage of data to discuss and review.  In distant years past, ESMO used to be known as the metaphorical dumping ground for negative trials that undoubtedly got lost in hurly burly – no longer! That changed after they started appearing in the Presidential Symposia and having the spotlight shone on the data. It’s now a much more vibrant meeting for clinical development, with an increasing translational focus thrown in too to explain the why and not just the what.  That’s good news for all of us.

To kick off our daily live ESMO coverage, we begin with sharing some useful insights gleaned from what we’ve heard so far plus more will be added throughout the day as we hear from the educational sessions later…

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We’ve been covering cytokines and chemokines for several years now before they were hot cakes in the oncology space.

Fighting a way through the poster scrums or mosh pit is art in itself!

With a raft of new companies emerging in this area to challenge established players, things are getting much more interesting of late. That means it’s time for a new mini series exploring these opportunities through the eyes of the CEOs and CSOs.

We ask what’s different about their approaches and look at why should you be paying attention to them.

We begin with the first of a new three part series exploring novel and intriguing ways to activate cytokines and stimulate the immune system in various cancers.

This story begins with some new Gems from the Poster Halls that readers may well find fascinating…

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We’re starting our review of the program for the forthcoming 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (Twitter hashtag to follow: #AACR19) with a look at the cancer immunotherapy program.

One of the challenges of a large meeting is that it’s like a smorgasbord or buffet in a hotel that’s resplendent in choices, but you can’t possibly eat it all.

Choices!

Some choose to follow a research area, others a target or tumor type. There’s a lot of ways to segment the program depending on your specific interests.

However, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place ahead of a large conference such as AACR, even if you modify it as you go to take into account evolving needs.

Seasoned conference goers will be familiar with the maxim known as “the law of two feet” – if a session you are in doesn’t live up to expectations or meet your needs and something else looks more to your taste from the tweets, then simply dash off to another!

In our latest conference preview, we’ve taken a careful look at the cancer immunotherapy track.

What are some of the key sessions to put on your calendar if you’re following this track or have an interest in this area?

In Part 1, we review the IO sessions from Friday to Sunday then tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll review the schedule from Monday to Wednesday.  Yes, it’s that intense this year! Just think, five years ago you had to search the program really quite hard indeed to even find much on immuno-oncology, as it was very much in its infancy then.

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T lymphocyte    Source: Dr Triche, NCI

It’s time for an update on cytokines as there is a lot going on here across both academia and industry.

While the clinical proof of concept has been demonstrated for IL-2 with FDA approval going back to 1992, there’s still much that we don’t know when it comes to the telephone directory containing many of the others.

There’s quite a few questions that can be asked:

  • Which ones might be best in which tumour types?
  • What about timing, dosing, and sequencing?
  • Which early combinations look promising in terms of unleashing the T lymphocytes?

After all, let’s not forget that some cytokines will induce negative immunosuppression, while others might induce variable effects depending on what they encounter in the tumour microenvironment.  It’s certainly a lot more complicated than many people truly realise.

There’s also the much under-rated potential to combine cytokines with other approaches such as immune agonists in order to jumpstart the colder tumours.

In this latest update, we take a look at five very different approaches and see how much progress is being made with alternative forms of immune modulation – the resulting conclusions might well surprise quite a few readers!

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The #ASCO18 poster hall scrum

Wrapping up our cytokine mini-series, we have our latest expert in the BSB hotseat discussing concepts and future developments, as well as strategically drawing things together in a way that makes sense.

It has become increasingly clear that a hostile tumour microenvironment may account for one of the reasons why many patients don’t respond to cancer immunotherapy.

How do we go about figuring out the whys and wherefores in order to significantly improve on the results seen to date with monotherapy treatment?

There are quite a few angles to look at this conundrum, so we decided to explore some concepts and analogies, as well as look at what’s going on under the hood of IO clinical trials to address the thorny issue of tumour heterogeneity.  We also discuss some of the top-line data in the cytokine niche presented at ASCO and look at the outcomes in the context of what we learn and where we going next.

There’s a lot to take in and process here, but that’s part of the fun!  As often is the case, some of the best gems are in the poster halls or poster discussion sessions…

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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.

To learn more from our latest thought leader interview and get a heads up on our oncology insights, subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

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