Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘ovarian cancer’

Mainz – At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Germany, one of the underlying themes of the conference that attracted considerable attention from speakers and poster presenters was neoantigens, and how to generate cancer vaccines directed against them.

One of the European leaders in the field is Professor George Coukos who is Director of the Department of Oncology at the University of Lausanne Hospital and Director of the Lausanne branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Lausanne is an exciting place for innovative translational oncology work with the Swiss Cancer Center, that Coukos also directs, creating synergy between partner institutions co-located in the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV).

Mainz, Germany

We last spoke to Prof Coukos 18 months ago and much has happened since then. In Mainz, he kindly agreed to speak to BSB again and provide an update on progress.

This time we talked about the cancer vaccine research that he and collaborators such as Dr Lana Kandalaft are pioneering in Lausanne, and how this could best be applied in ovarian cancer.  It was exciting to hear him discuss his vision and some of the ambitious goals he hopes will be possible within the field.

Here’s a short excerpt from the interview – he has an interesting story to tell:

This expert interview is part 5 of our onging mini-series on the Future of Cancer Vaccines.

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One of the leaders in the field of neoantigen based cancer vaccine research is Dr Cathy Wu. She’s a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a scientific co-founder of Neon Therapeutics.

Mainz Cathedral

Personalised cancer vaccines are showing exciting promise, and are at the vanguard of what many think of as a renaissance in the field, one that is now attracting the interest of many companies and researchers.

We posted on Neon Therapeutics approach and progress at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference in January, followed by an update on the clinical data from Dr Wu at AACR.

Much has happened since then, however, so it’s a timely juncture to continue the story.

At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Mainz, Dr Wu kindly spoke to BSB about her research, where it’s at, progress to date, and importantly, where things are heading.

This is the first part in our latest mini-series on the future of cancer vaccines.

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This kind of positive news is always nice to wake up and read:

“Rucaparib maintenance therapy increases progression-free survival in BRCA mutant recurrent ovarian cancer by 77%, according to late-breaking results from the ARIEL3 trial reported today at the ESMO 2017 Congress in Madrid.”

Of course, it’s not the first PARP inhibitor to show a significant effect as maintenance therapy in ovarian cancer after initial platinum therapy and we shouldn’t assume that all drugs in the same class will have an equivalent effect until we see the data.

It is good to see confirmation of a positive impact after seeing the data from two plus lines of therapy at ESMO in Copenhagen last fall.

So what does the new readout look like, what can we learn from it, and what were thought leader reactions to the data?

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We now turn our sights to targeted therapies and DNA Damage Repair (DDR). This is an important topic that has seen much focus in ovarian cancer of late and will likely see renewed interest in breast cancer at the forthcoming ASCO meeting next month. As we segue from one set of conference coverage to the next, there is inevitably going to be overlap, which is a good thing here as it helps with background and preparation in getting up to speed.

There is no doubt that DDR has had a bit of chequered history over the last decade, whether it be the spectacular (and sadly predictable) flop of Sanofi’s iniparib in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), the negative ODAC incurred by AstraZeneca’s olaparib in ovarian cancer, or AbbVie’s more recent veliparib failures, to the much more positive events such as three PARP drugs now approved in different lines of therapy in ovarian cancer (olaparib, rucaparib and niraparib).

If ever there was a niche for the roller coaster ride that is oncology R&D, it has to be PARP inhibitors.  There’s much more to DDR than just PARP though.

Indeed, there are multiple intriguing targets to explore and also the potential for combinations with cancer immunotherapy approaches that may yield encouraging results in the future.

Can we go beyond ovarian cancer into other tumour types and if so, which ones look encouraging and how woluld we go about exploring those idesa? What makes one approach more successful than another?

Here we explore the world of DDR through the lens one company’s approach and look at what they’ve done, where are they now and where they hope to be. It certainly makes for an intriguing and candid fireside chat.

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Following the recent approval of Clovis’s rucaparib (Rubraca) by FDA under priority review as monotherapy for the treatment of women with certain types of advanced ovarian cancer, then impressive SOLO-2 maintenance data after initial chemotherapy at SGO earlier this month, PARP inhibitors continue to be in the news.

There’s always more though!

This afternoon saw the approval of Tesaro’s PARP inhibitor niraparib (Zejula) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for maintenance treatment of women with ovarian cancer who are in a complete or partial response to platinum-based chemotherapy (Link to label).

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There’s no secret or surprise with our latest AACR Preview as this week the focus takes a slight turns or detour to the annual meeting of the Society for Gynecology Oncology being held in National Harbor, Maryland.

PARP inhibitors in ovarian cancer have been a hot topic since last autumn when the PARP inhibitor data dropped at ESMO in Copenhagen, and was not without controversy either.

We’ve been following the trials, tribulations and even machinations, of the clinical development of olaparib, rucaparib and niraparib for a while now so what’s in store in the latest round of salvoes?

And importantly, what else can we expect to see in DC at AACR next month?

For a tumour type that hasn’t received much attention over the last decade or two, things are distinctly picking up.  Is it all good though?

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Today we continue the second of a two part interview with a global thought leader who is also a scientist-clinician and well versed in cancer research as well as clinical trials.

Old Town Hall, Munchen

We explore how we can do clinical trials better in order to learn via a more rigorous process what works, what doesn’t, and why. After all, we we don’t know why certain approaches didn’t work or what the mechanisms of resistance are, how can we possibly improve?

Randomness is not necessarily a good thing in clinical research, especially if you don’t know what target you’re actually trying to hit!

If you missed the first part of this latest KOL interview and want to catch up then you can find it here (Link).

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Part 3 of our series on Gems from the Poster Halls at ESMO continues with a look at another four important combination studies that may be of keen interest to readers.

These include both targeted therapies as well as immunotherapies.

Some of the posters I was originally keen to write about turned out a little unexpectedly with some issues to address i.e. lack of efficacy or unwanted toxicities based on the dosing schedule used and may require tweaking of the dosing, schedule or trial design. Others will unfortunately be destined for dog drug heaven unless a new tumour type offers more promise. Such is the R&D roller coaster that is oncology – sometimes we forget that more compounds fail than make it market.

The good news is that there were plenty of promising approaches that are worthy of writing up and discussing. In the third part of our poster mini-series, we take another deeper dive with a careful look at some new data in Copenhagen.

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esmo-poster-hallThis post started out as a look a one of the Gems from the Poster Halls at ESMO, including an interview with a thought leader in biomarkers, then morphed into a broader Op Ed that includes a strategic analysis of where we are, where we are going, and how we could get there more effectively and efficiently.

It’s time to turn tables to start challenging the status quo and slow pace of development if we really want to make a difference in advanced ovarian cancer.  I was recently challenged by a well respected GYN oncologist to delineate how we could do things differently so here are some ideas, along with the scientific rationale in my response to his gauntlet.

Is the ideal situation one where multiple companies randomly throw mud at the wall hoping something sticks the best approach? Or are there more effective ways to make a difference?

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One of the surprising things I learned over the summer was how many people misunderstand how advanced ovarian cancer is treated as a disease… it isn’t really one disease to start with, but is actually a series of subsets depending on the molecular underpinnings and also how women with the condition react to therapy.

Imagine then, when we see a series of press releases and abstracts emerge on PARP inhibitors followed by a rather indecent and sudden rush to judgment by Wall St and investors on the ‘Winner takes All’ out of the lot?

Except that real life doesn’t work that way in clinical practice.

A head/desk moment to be sure, and a frustrating one for those who understand what this is actually all about. To address this siituation, we had the pleasure of communicating with KOLs remotely or sitting down with several thought leaders in gynecologic cancer in Copenhagen to debate various aspects relating to current treatment paradigms, new clinical trial data with PARPs, and what they are most excited about going forward.

Copenhagen Waterfront

Copenhagen Waterfront

Today’s post highlights our latest thought leader interview with an experienced GYN oncologist and their perspectives on the rucaparib and niraparib data presented earlier this month at ESMO.

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