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.
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One thing has become very clear in the oncology space over the last year… checkpoint inhibitors are insufficient on their own for the vast majority of tumour types and patients that they have been explored in to date. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is lack of T cells in the tumour, which enable an effective immune response to be mounted.
This begs the question – how can we address that issue and manipulate the tumour microenvironment in our favour, thereby making subsequent checkpoint blockade more effective?
There are a number of different ways to do this.
In the past, we’ve discussed several methods including innate immunotherapies such as Aduro’s STING or Biothera’s immunotherapeutic, Imprime PGG. Other approaches include vaccines, which we have discussed in detail, t-cell receptors (TCR) or even monoclonal antibodies, such as AdaptImmune’s approach with their ImmTac technology.
There are other novel strategies currently being investigated by numerous companies too.
In this article – and also the second part of the latest miniseries – which will post tomorrow, we straddle our final reviews of interesting data from the European Cancer Conference (ECC) in Vienna with the upcoming one from the Society of Immunotherapy for Cancer (SITC) being held in National Harbor, Maryland.
Today’s post explores the concept of immunocytokines, engineered antibodies that are designed to boost the immune system, so that subsequent therapies will be more effective.
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