Dr Ira Mellman is a leading cancer researcher, familiar to many in cancer immunotherapy for his work on the Cancer-Immunity Cycle and Cancer-Immune Set-Point with Dr Dan Chen.
Prior to joining Genentech, he spent 20 years as a faculty member at Yale, publishing extensive research on dendritic cells.
River Rhine, Mainz
Last year, Genentech announced a strategic collaboration with Mainz based BioNTech in Germany to develop and manufacture personalized mRNA based cancer vaccines.
At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR cancer international cancer immunotherapy conference in Mainz, Dr Mellman kindly spoke to BSB about the underlying biology/immunology, the rationale behind the BioNTech collaboration, and his vision on where he sees the potential for therapeutic cancer vaccines going forward.
This is the second post in our series on the Future of Cancer Vaccines.
Here’s a snippet of the interview with Dr Mellman to get you warmed up…
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Dr Bernie Fox (@BernardAFox) is a man on a mission to #FinishCancer, a Twitter hashtag he uses to reflect his vision.
A cancer immunotherapy rockstar, Bernard A Fox, PhD, is the Harder Family Endowed Chair for Cancer Research at Providence Center Center and Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular and Tumor Immunology at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute in Portland, Oregon.
Fox is also a past president of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) and CEO of UbiVac, a biotechnology company focused on therapeutic cancer vaccines.
Readers of the Blog and Novel Targets Podcast listeners will recall we had the privilege to interview Dr Fox back at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in New Orleans in 2016: “AACR Cancer Immunotherapy Insights from Dr Bernard Fox.”
Fast forward 18 months… it is now time for a detailed update on this issue, as a few interesting events have since come to light in this niche with Genentech/Roche abandoning development of their OX40 agonist, coupled with several new publications from different labs suggesting that concurrent administration of an anti-OX40 antibody with an anti-PD1 antibody attenuated the effect of anti-OX40 and resulted in poor treatment outcomes in mouse models.
Dr Fox kindly spoke to Biotech Strategy Blog about some of the key learnings from this research, where he sees the future potential for OX40, and what his vision for cancer immunotherapy is.
Here’s a short clip from the fireside chat…
He’s definitely a man on a mission to #FinishCancer!
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Back in January this year, we posted an early look on what to expect from the evolving 1L NSCLC landscape following the controversial FDA submission of Merck’s pembrolizumab with chemotherapy. This lead to subsequent approval in May.
Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin July 2017
At that time, quite a few people were shocked and surprised that the phase 2 KEYNOTE–021 Cohort G data presented ESMO was neatly parlayed into accelerated approval in the US.
Since then, a lot has happened and now many readers are on tenterhooks as we await the next round of lung cancer trial results in the upfront setting.
First up is AstraZeneca’s MYSTIC trial exploring an IO-IO combination with durvalumab plus tremelimumab. Merck’s confirmatory trial for pembrolizumab plus chemo is also expected in the fall – will it support the accelarated approval – or not? Meanwhile, we also await Roche/Genentech’s IMpower150 study evaluating their checkpoint inhibitor, atezolizumab, in combination with chemotherapy by the year end.
These are quite different strategies with diverse endpoints so following them closely will be key to understanding what happens next. Based on what we’ve seen in lung cancer to date, the roller coaster looks set to continue. The C-suite shenanigans have only added to the intrigue and mystique – do they mean anything? Who knows, but we’re focusing on the hard data i.e. science and the clinical clues that are available.
It’s all to play for and many readers wrote in asking for an update on the landscape and what to expect now that we’re much nearer to the shoes actually dropping.
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IDO/TDO inhibition is a topic we’ve been following the progress on for several years now with various updates along the way. It’s also one of our most requested Previews for this year’s ASCO meeting taking place next month.
The Bean, Chicago
In Chicago next month, initial data from several trials is due to be presented.
- What can we expect?
- How are the main players in this landscape doing?
- Will this combination be the next big thing in the oncology IO space?
In our latest #ASCO17 Preview, we take a hard look at IDO/TDO inhibitors.
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With the advent of single agent checkpoint blockade and success in melanoma, lung and urothelial carcinomas has come the realisation that the majority of patients do not respond and even some that do have a response of short duration. Immune escape and adaptive resistance are not an uncommon occurrence.
There has been much focus of late in looking at ways to address this by uncovering the relevant mechanisms underlying the biology of the disease and this is an avenue we can expect to see more research evolve. We already know that JAK1/2 upregulation and PTEN loss have lead to resistance with checkpoint blockade – what about other possible mechanisms?
Indeed, at the ASCO-SITC meeting in Orlando last week, another such target emerged and clinical evaluation is already underway, making it a worthwhile area to explore.
Here we take a look at the science and biology, as well as the emerging clinical landscape to see which companies are involved and may get a jumpstart on the combination niche.
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One of the frequently cited conceptual frameworks in Cancer Immunotherapy is the Cancer Immunity Cycle developed by Drs Dan Chen and Ira Mellman from Genentech.
Ira Mellman and Dan Chen
As we heard Dan and Ira tell us on the Novel Targets Podcast recorded last year at #AACR16, the cancer immunity cycle doesn’t include all the elements that we now know impact the immune system and whether someone will have an immune response. The microbiome is one example that readily comes to mind.
To address this, Chen and Mellman have now published the next installment in the series in Nature:
“Elements of Cancer Immunity and the cancer-immune setpoint.”
The review paper published last month incorporates the latest research into a different framework that looks at the factors that influence what they call the ‘cancer-immune setpoint.’
Anyone involved with cancer immunotherapy knows how fast moving and dynamic the field is, something they draw attention to:
“The pace of cancer immunotherapy clinical studies is such that they have outstripped our progress in understanding the underlying science. However, this situation has created the opportunity to combine emerging scientific and clinical insights in a synergistic fashion that… will also provide guidance for the identification of new targets… and the crafting of a framework for making decisions on a personalized basis.”
Conceptual frameworks such as those proposed by Chen and Mellman will be of increasing importance as we try to make sense of the tsunami of cancer immunotherapy clinical trial data, including combinations, that is coming our way over the next 18 months.
During my recent visit to San Francisco for ASCO GI, I had the great pleasure to catch up with Daniel S. Chen, MD PhD, (Global Head of Cancer Immunotherapy Development, Genentech/Roche) and talk about his latest thoughts on how we should think about cancer immunotherapy.
In writing these review papers he told me:
“We look at this as an opportunity to really think about the field, and try to conceptualize what is happening.”
We also discussed their collaboration with Kite Pharma, something of relevance to conferences this week as we head off to BMT Tandem and the ASCO-SITC meeting.
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After several years in the wastelands of cancer research due to lack of significant results and only one product on the market, therapeutic cancer vaccines now look to be back in fashion and are seeing a revival with their inclusion in clinical trials.
One of the reasons behind the resurgence of interest is the advent of checkpoints, and the potential of vaccines in the immuno-oncology space to boost or enhance the immune response.
Their use could not only increase the response to checkpoint inhibitors in people who might otherwise not respond, but in those who obtain some initial response such as a partial response, they could also potentially help achieve a more durable long-term response.
As we continue to ride the wave of cancer immunotherapy on BSB, the cancer vaccine field is suddenly an exciting area to watch.
I’ve long been known as a cancer vaccine sceptic, although recently several approaches in this niche have begun to look rather promising indeed. Here, we highlight and discuss one such company in the field, including an interview with the CEO.
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At the recent 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS16), Cascadian Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CASC) presented a poster (Abstract #P4–21–01) on:
“Efficacy Results of a Phase 1b Study of Tucatinib (ONT–380), an Oral HER2-Specific Inhibitor, in Combination With Capecitabine and Trastuzumab in HER2+ Metastatic Breast Cancer, Including Patients with Brain Metastases.”
Tucatinib is an oral tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is highly selective for HER2.
Cascadian’s tucatinib poster at #SABCS16
We’ve seen several new treatments approved for HER2 positive breast cancers in recent years including four targeted treatments: trastuzumab, pertuzumab, lapatinib and T-DM1.
Other companies such as Puma Biotech (NASDAQ: PBYI) also have oral TKIs in development. Puma’s drug, neratinib has, however been shown to have a high incidence of grade 3+ diarrhea, raising questions about its tolerance.
At SABCS16 (Abstract P02–11–03), the company presented the interim analysis of an open-label, multicenter phase 2 trial, which explored their compound:
“Incidence and severity of diarrhea with neratinib + intensive loperamide prophylaxis in patients (pts) with HER2+ early-stage breast cancer (EBC).”
There has been a lot of interest and controversy in this space, so it’s time to take a look at the latest events in HER2+ breast cancer and consider the ramifications since there are a number of new developments that are well worth following, including neratinib (Puma Biotech) and pertuzumab (Genentech).
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San Francisco: In the final post of the week, it’s time to focus on some of the interesting concepts and early ideas being explored in GI tumours such as pancreatic and colorectal carcinomas.
Gems from the Poster Hall or what Dog Drug Heaven really looks like?
Despite the image implied by the used poster bins (right), there were actually several encouraging signs from emerging IO approaches as well as some surprising results that lead to some compounds – or at least some indications – going off to dog drug heaven.
There were also some salutory lessons to be learned in terms of understanding biomarkers and useful these can be.
After years of incremental improvements with targeted therapies, it’s time to look at whether some immunotherapy combinations can make an impact in what is known as cold tumours.
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San Diego – after “Flying Friday” where I flew from Munich to San Diego, Biotech Strategy Blog coverage of the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) is now done for another year.
With over 27,000 attendees – it’s the largest ASH annual meeting I’ve seen in 20 years of coming here! ASH is definitely the pre-eminent global meeting for hematology and blood cancers.
As you might expect, the thought leaders at this event are super-busy, but we’ve already managed to catch up with a few, and we’ll be rolling out interviews in the “post-game show.”
Subscribers have been asking what’s really hot at ASH this weekend, so reflecting my interests and the sessions I went to, here are my seven highlights/learnings of ASH 2016 (so far). There’s a lot more data to come!
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