Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘NK cells’

No ASH pre-conference coverage would be the same without a shout out to Dr John Leonard (Weill Cornell). For 10 days prior to the annual meeting he counts down each day with a lymphoma study that caught his attention and tags it #LeonardList. The first one went up yesterday:

Do follow Dr Leonard and his lymphoma selections on Twitter – there are usually surprising ones in the middle that are quirky or interesting that makes you stop and think more carefully.  He also appeared on the #ASH16 Novel Targets podcast in Season 2 explaining his choices and why they mattered if you want to get a flavour.

Our #ASH17 series we have already covered aggressive lymphomas and also developmental therapeutics.

Atlantic Olympic Sculpture

Up next in our third ASH17 Preview, we take a broad look at the wealth of abstracts available and highlight ten key presentations, irrespective of tumour type, which readers should be watching out for.

Some of these ‘Champions’ may not be immediately obvious and include interesting preclinical findings, intriguing new products in development, as well as eagerly awaited mature data from recently approved therapies. It’s an eclectic mix, to be sure.

There are definitely some early trends and interesting new molecules emerging from company R&D pipelines that are worthy of further consideration in this year’s batch of abstracts.

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We’re at a crossroads in the IO space, where much of the low hanging fruit has been already plucked and now we could be in limbo for the next 2–5 years while we wait to see which of the IO-IO or IO-other combos pan out as winners.

Part of the problem is that we don’t yet know all the potential mechanisms of resistance or immune escape involved, so imagine figuring out how best to optimally modulate the tumour microenvironment on top is going to be challenging – each tumour type is heterogeneous and highly complex.

In addition, the field has heavily skewed towards obsessing almost exclusively over T cells, which may or may not be a good thing.  There are alternative approaches that are starting to generate interest and results.

As Andrew Shepherd, the fictitious leader of the free world in the American President famously said:

“We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.”

One promising company in this space is Nektar Therapeutics.  At SITC this week they had some elegant and intriguing early data that combined an innate immunotherapy approach with checkpoint blockade.  We have been following their progress for a while now and it’s a great time for an update!

Dr Adi Diab NKTR-214 #SITC2017

Here we explore the data and have our latest expert interview that is not merely a couple of paragraphs long with a few platitudes or topline quotes… this is, quite frankly, a comprehensive review and strategic roadmap of what Nektar Therapeutics are doing in the IO space, why they are doing things a certain way, and where they are headed – in their own words…

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Cancer immunotherapy has been very much focused on T cells of late, but perhaps we shouldn’t ignore the importance of the innate aspect of the immune system and how that might help generate cytolytic activity to help kill cancer cells.

Regular readers will know that we’ve been following the potential of Natural Killer (NK) cell therapy and targeting NK checkpoints.

Sculpture in Mainz

At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Mainz, we spoke with a scientist active in NK cancer immunotherapy research.

Dr Nicholas Huntington (@Dr_Nick_Bikes) leads a laboratory at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia.  He’s also co-founder of oNKo-innate, a startup company focused on developing innate immunotherapies.

After his presentation in Mainz, he kindly spoke to BSB about his NK cell research and its potential as a novel target for cancer immunotherapy.

Here’s a short excerpt from our discussion:

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Eric Vivier, DVM PhD (@EricVivier1) is a leading French immunologist whose research has focused on understanding the innate immune system, and in particular, the role natural killer (NK) cells and innate lymphoid cells (ILC) play.

prof-eric-vivier

He is Director of the Centre d’Immunologie de Marseille-Luminy (CIML) and a Professor of Immunology at Aix-Marseille University.

In addition to his academic work, he also co-founded the biotech company Innate Pharma back in 1999. Through the company, he is actively involved in the translation of basic research into new cancer immunotherapy treatments.

New clinical data is eagerly expected for one of these, a first-in-class monoclonal antibody against KIR (lirilumab). It is in phase 2 clinical trials with Innate Pharma and Bristol Myers Squibb.

At the recent scientific meeting to celebrate 40 years of CIML (#CIML40), Professor Vivier kindly spoke to BSB about his research into innate immunity and the Marseille Immunopôle, for which he is also a co-founder.

It is an immunology cluster that brings together academic/clinical research with innovative biotech companies looking to bring new drugs and diagnostics to market.

This is the second post in our mini-series from the Marseille Immunopôle and CIML40. It also sets the scene for forthcoming posts on targeting the innate immune system, something you can expect to hear a lot more about in cancer immunotherapy.

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One of the (many) highlights for me at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) was a “Meet the Expert” session presented by Professor George Coukos.

Prof George Coukos AACR 2016

Prof George Coukos AACR 2016

Professor Coukos is Director of Oncology at the University Hospital of Lausanne and Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland.

Ovarian cancer is becoming a fascinating battleground for cancer immunotherapy, with multiple challenges that must be overcome before we see improvements in outcomes, especially for women advanced disease.

The interview with Prof Coukos is a follow-on to the one we did on advanced ovarian cancer and checkpoint blockade at ECCO 2015 in Vienna with Dr Nora Disis (Link).

If you missed it, you can still listen to highlights in Episode 7 of the Novel Targets Podcast (Link).

After his AACR presentation, Prof Coukos kindly spoke with BSB and in a wide ranging discussion, highlighted some of the innovative clinical trial strategies he is working on to move the cancer immunotherapy field forward in ovarian cancer.

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