Buried amongst the intense hurly burly of a major medical meeting such as the American Society of Hematology (ASH) are the unsung preclinical researchers whose work largely makes clinical development possible. After all, few sensible companies would bet on an expensive clinical trial program, especially in combination, without first knowing whether such an approach is rational or not and has a decent shot of working efficaciously.
At stake here is the potential for building a blockbuster cancer drug niche by niche.
Venetoclax (BCL-2 inhibitor) got off to a somewhat slow start compared to say, ibrutinib (BTK inhibitor), which had a much broader initial indication and a lower risk of tumour lysis syndrome (TLS), yet it may actually have a wider application across multiple hematologic malignancies. This could well end up as one of those classic tortoise versus hare stories in the long run.
Back in 2013, we posted five interviews conducted with a range of experts including:
- Dr Oliver Sartor (prostate cancer)
- Dr Susan O’Brien (CLL)
- Dr Deepak Sampath (BCL-2 and ABT-199)
- Dr John Jenkins (then deputy director at the FDA)
- Dr Renier Brentjens (CAR-T cell therapy)
To put this in context, consider that we just recorded 15 interviews at ASH this year alone!
As regular readers know, we like to follow people and R&D stories over time, so while in Atlanta at ASH17 we took the opportunity to move a particular story forward – we wanted to learn where Dr Sampath and his colleagues are now and also where they are headed next. This gives readers a head start on anticipating what future clinical developments might be mentioned at JPM18 by either Genentech/Roche or AbbVie.
In our latest expert interview, we pick up and continue the discussion with Deepak Sampath to find out what’s happening with venetoclax four years on… it turns out quite a lot and makes for very interesting reading indeed.
Dr Deepak Sampath (Genentech)
Curious to now more about what this scientist and his work in BCL-2 targeting is all about? Check out this short excerpt:
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This week certainly turned out to be a defining tale of two drugs with a chequered history…
First off, the FDA approved AbbVie/Genentech’s venetoclax, now known as Venclexta, in a subset of CLL patients with 17p deletions. These patients have a historically poor prognosis and the approval goes some way to addressing the high unmet medical need.
Secondly, another biotech company, Clovis Oncology, got slammed by ODAC with a 12-1 vote to wait for phase 3 data from the TIGER-3 trial for rociletinib to better determine the efficacy:safety benefit profile.
For a long while it seemed that AbbVie had nothing but toil and trouble over the tumour lysis syndrome (TLS) issues giving them some significant challenges to overcome, while Clovis were one of the new darlings of Wall Street.
In the final dash to the market, the tables were turned almost at the 11th hour and fortunes stunningly reversed. Yet a mere eighteen months ago, few industry watchers would have predicted the difference in outcomes.
In our latest AACR Preview series, we take a look at Bcl2 inhibition and where some of the emerging opportunities might lie based on new preclinical research that is being presented here in New Orleans this weekend. It makes for interesting reading.
While one tiger is licking its wounds, another is smacking it chops at what the future might hold for new combination approaches; how the tails have literally turned.
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ASH 2015 LBA Session
The annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) has a few quirks compared to other meetings. One of these is that all the “Late Breakers” are presented together on the last morning of the meeting.
It’s a rather unfortunate time given many have already headed back to their busy clinics or left for SABCS in San Antonio and ‘late breakers’ by definition, often offer new data that’s really noteworthy.
The result can also be a bit of a hodgepodge session that you have sit to listen through to get to those presentations you really want to hear.
At ASH this year there were two late breakers on new treatment options for CLL patients with a 17p deletion (Del17p). This is a pretty challenging group to treat. Although ibrutinib is indicated for this patient group, many sadly relapse. There’s an unmet medical need for new treatment options. At ASH we heard data for idelalisib (PI3K-delta) and venetoclax (Bcl2).
After the session, I briefly spoke with Dr Kanti Rai (New York) for his reaction to the data. Dr Rai (pictured below) received the 2014 Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology.
Dr Kanti Rai receives 2014 ASH Lifetime Achievement Award
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