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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#ASCO17 Poster Hall aka rugby scrum
There were a lot of gems in the poster halls at ASCO this year, a fact that is partly a reflection of the wealth of new data with various IO combos and also the early cutoff date.
Now I jested before the meeting that these sessions were akin to a rugby scrum and lo and behold (see photo right) they were even more jam packed than usual!
If you wanted to best the eager and energetic Wall St analysts then remembering your ruck and maul skills were not a bad thing to have in muscle memory… It was not something I attempted in the Go-Cart this year for fear of bowling people over in the stampede to nab the QR codes 🙂
Much of the previous readouts have been with monotherapy in immunogenic tumours such as melanoma, lung, bladder, gastric, renal cell carcinoma etc. Objective response rates in metastatic triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) have generally been under 20%, however.
Lately, the focus has turned to the deepening of responses in these tumours with various combination approaches and also moving earlier in the disease setting, where immunotherapies might be expected to be more effective with a lower tumour burden.
While in Chicago, we spoke to a breast cancer specialist about where IO combos are going and his thoughts on future opportunities in our third post in a series on various aspects of new developments in breast cancer.
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This is the third in our mini-series previewing the forthcoming European Society for Medical Oncology 2016 Congress in Copenhagen (Twitter #ESMO16).
In this post we’re taking a look at what’s hot in head and neck cancer.
It’s not a cancer type we typically hear a lot about, but there’s an unmet medical need for effective new treatments.
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The 2016 Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) is fast approaching. It takes place next month from October 7th to 11th and we will be on site covering the meeting for Biotech Strategy Blog. We’re looking forward to a great meeting!
If you are sitting on the fence as to whether you should go to Copenhagen, then hopefully our series of Previews will help you decide.
Be warned that accommodation is in already in short supply and ESMO are now putting people up across the Oresund bridge in Malmo, Sweden.
The Congress App has a lot of useful information and is well worth downloading, if you haven’t done so already.
Last week many of the late breaking abstract (LBA) titles were announced, although there are still some placeholders. While we won’t know the actual late-breaking data until the meeting, the LBA titles offer insights into what will be presented in Copenhagen.
In the second in our ESMO 2016 Preview series, we’re highlighting the lung cancer late breakers that we’re looking forward to hearing, providing some background on why they may be of interest, and a look at how some of subset landscapes may be a-changing in the future.
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The BET Bromodomain market is a meaty epigenetics topic we have followed for several years now, including a look at the space back in 2013 on the old Pharma Strategy Blog (Link). The last update on this was ironically at AACR last year when we discussed MYC and bromodomains (Link).
In a remarkable tale of two cities in real life, two companies we discussed in those posts – Constellation Pharma and Tensha Therapeutics – have had markedly different fortunes since then. Roche decided to end their collaboration with the former and went on to acquire the latter instead.
Since we first wrote about bromodomains and BET inhibitors, the niche has exploded in a wildly stunning way… More drugs in the pipeline, more tumour targets being explored, and even novel combinations being evaluated preclinically for synergistic or additive effects. Even I was surprised by how competitive this niche has become based on the offerings at AACR this year.
With all the wealth of new data at the AACR annual meeting and also some other recent presentations I’ve attended elsewhere, it’s time for a more in-depth look at the BET/Bromodomain landscape.
Who are the new players, which tumour targets are now being evaluated, which combinations might be useful?
A word to the wise – this is neither a nerdy science post nor a comprehensive literature review – instead we take a look at the emerging landscape from a new product development perspective.
Science has been absolutely critical to success in all of the cancer therapeutics from targeted therapies to immunotherapies that have emerged in the last decade.
It really doesn’t matter whether you come from a marketing and commercial organisation or the investment community – if you want to make great decisions, you need to understand the basics of the science underpinning the R&D, where the strengths and weaknesses are. The alternative is play Roulette and put everything on Black 11 as a euphemism for whichever company/product/target you have an interest in.
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One of the hotly debated topics at the 2014 American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting was the arrival of checkpoint data in classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cHL), with initial data presented on 20-30 patients with relapsed or refractory cHL who received either nivolumab (BMS) or pembrolizumab (Merck) in open label, single agent trials.
Updated phase I data is expected to be presented at the 2015 ASH annual meeting in Orlando (Dec 5-8) (Twitter #ASH15)
At the recent ESMO symposium on Immuno-Oncology in Lausanne (Twitter #Immuno15) – great hashtag, there was an excellent overview of checkpoint blockade in lymphomas. What did this tell us about progress in this disease and where are things going?
The ESMO IO meeting set the scene for what we can expect at ASH this year?
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SITC Day 3 Highlights
There were a couple of late breakers presented in the oral session yesterday that are worth discussing for several reasons, not least the controversy surrounding the stock action afterwards.
Dr Tara Gangadhar (U Penn) presented epacadostat, Incyte’s IDO1 inhibitor, in combination with pembrolizumab, Merck’s anti-PD1 inhibitor in a phase 1/2 trial with selected solid tumours.
Will combining these agents lead to better responses and outcomes than with pembrolizumab alone?
Dr Naiyer Rizvi (Moffitt) presented the combination data of AstraZeneca’s anti-PDL1 (durvalumab) plus anti-CTLA4 (tremelimumab) in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Neither of these agents have yet been approved in any indication, so the only relative comparators we have here are nivolumab and pembrolizumab as single agents in NSCLC and ipilimumab plus nivolumab in metastatic melanoma. There are no data approved for the BMS combo in lung cancer.
This review looks at both trials, in terms of the controversial data presented, and also in a broader context of the ever-changing landscape.
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With the recent approvals of nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) in advanced lung cancer as well as new checkpoint inhibitor data presented on atezolizumab at the European Cancer Conference in Vienna, there are several new lung cancer immunotherapy controversies to consider such as…
- How do we choose between docetaxel chemotherapy versus anti-PD1/PD-L1 immunotherapy?
- Which checkpoint should we choose?
- Is the PD-L1 biomarker useful and important?
- Do the company assays differ?
Dr Jack West
Dr Jack West (Seattle) got the ball rolling on some of these issues earlier this month, generating quite a spirited and useful debate on Twitter, demonstrating that clinical decisions in this area are not as cut and dried as many might think.
In addition, we spoke to a number of lung cancer experts in Vienna for their perspectives on the data, the biomarkers, treatment paradigms and other critical issues.
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Have you ever sat in a freezing cold scientific session and been so engrossed in the compelling presentations that followed, you simply forgot to take notes? Not one. That actually happened to me at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Philadelphia this year in one of the many fringe sessions that I attended.
Reading Terminal Clock, Philadelphia
Granted, the hot topic of the conference was undoubtedly checkpoint inhibition, but I was anxious to escape to the comfort of some meaty and familiar basic and translational science, namely MYC. MYC is largely thought to be a difficult to target, even undruggable protein, and along with RAS and p53, represents a formidable challenge for cancer researchers. These three oncogenic proteins alone are probably responsible for more drug resistance developing and even death from cancer than any other proteins in a patient with advanced disease.
For cancer patients with advanced disease, the clock is ticking on time they have left.
Solve these three problems (MYC, RAS and p53) and we may have a shot at dramatically improving outcomes. As Dr Gerard Evans (Cambridge) noted:
“I think it’s fair to say that we don’t really know why interruption of any oncogenic signal actually kills cancer cells, but one of the reasons that we’re interested in MYC is because it seems to be a common downstream effector of many, maybe all cancers.”
Sure, the road to success is paved with an enormous graveyard of failures, just as metastatic melanoma was before checkpoint blockade came along, ironically. What I heard at AACR both inspired and filled me with greater confidence… we’re finally getting somewhere.
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One of the obvious learnings from the American Association of Clinical Research (AACR) meeting earlier this week was that we are coming to the end of the low hanging fruit opportunities for checkpoint inhibitors as monotherapies.
Speaking with numerous company people in this space, there was wide consensus on that point. As one clinical lead put it succinctly, “From here on out, it’s going to get way more complicated – had a low grade headache develop after the very first science session I attended – and it’s still there after two days!”
How many of us know that feeling all too well? AACR always has the heaviest science load of any cancer conference we attend each year. Sure there’s some nice clinical data, but that is like nibbling on the light appetizers before the 20 course banquet. You need much stamina and fortitude to survive the brain fog at AACR. Then there’s the glee at snagging some key poster handouts at the meeting, only to be rapidly diminished when you try to read the 4pt print post hoc and realise your eyes cannot focus easily.
Looking at the long list of topics I want to cover in the in-depth post meeting analysis for a ‘lighter’ post, especially given that it’s Friday after a very long week, that sinking feeling hit home hard – there are no lightweight topics at AACR.
The other day, we posted about the promising data in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), following on from the Genentech and Merck presentations at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS). These data surprised many folks, mostly because they didn’t consider breast cancer to be an immunogenic tumour – nor is lung cancer in the broader scheme of things for that matter – yet we are seeing some nice durable responses in both tumour types with checkpoint inhibitors.
In other words, our definition and perceptions must change as we redefine how we identify and think of possible ‘responsive’ cancers to these agents.
So where are likely heading next?
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