For the last couple of years at every annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference, I have posted an extensive Preview of the CAR T cell therapy landscape and looked at which abstracts piqued my interest.
The roaring 30s CAR
This year the review is the most extensive to date, with more companies, more research groups, more tumour types and way more preclinical research coming through. It’s like a kaleidoscope of ideas cascading through R&D.
The other thing to take note is how fast the field is moving – it’s warp speed now and so much comes through the literature every month on top of that.
So here we go – hold onto your hats as there is a LOT to contemplate this year!
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As we move from monotherapies to combinations in the immuno-oncology space, we start to see some intriguing ideas being explored from additional checkpoints to vaccines to neoantigens to immune agonists to oncolytic viruses. There are numerous ways to evaluate how to boost or jumpstart more immune cells upfront in the hope of seeing better efficacy.
One way to do this is to better understand the tumour microenvironment.
Wall of people at ASH16 in San Diego
If we know what’s wrong under the hood, we might be better able to make the immune system get going… more gas, faulty starter motor, dead battery, loose wire, broken fan belt? All these things and more might be a problem so you can see that diagnosing the issue up from from basic and translational work might be instructive for clinical trials.
If you don’t know what problem you’re trying to fix or repair then you might as well be throwing mud at the wall. Just as we don’t expect a car mechanic to suggest changing the battery or starter-motor without first diagnosing the issue, so understanding the tumour microenvironment in each different cancer or disease might also be a helpful strategy.
At the recent American Society of Hematology annual meeting (#ASH16), there was a fascinating sceintifc workshop that focused on this very concept – what’s going on under the hood and how do we go about fixing it?
Here we explore these ideas via an interview with a thought leader and specialist in the field. What he had to say was very interesting and candid indeed.
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Some cancer conferences attract more questions and queries than others.
Old Town San Diego
Interestingly, ASH is always a popular meeting for attendees and readers alike, so it is good to see another batch of critical questions come in so soon after the last one. It’s a while since we did two BSB reader Q&A mailbags from a single meeting!
Not surprisingly, there were also a bunch of questions on CAR T cell therapies, which continue to dominate readers minds, as well as related issues. Here, we answer the most pressing questions that have come in over the last week.
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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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It was only five years ago that the number of abstracts on CAR T cell therapies at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) ran to a dozen or less. Fast forward to 2016 and we now have tens of them, almost too many to count, let along review quickly and easily.
A scene from ASH 2015…
To give you an idea of the staggering speed of progress, in 2010 it took me less than half an hour to search and read all the CAR T cell abstracts, now it takes nearly a whole day to peruse and review them carefully.
We can’t resist a challenge…
As usual, we will write in more depth from the meeting as the data emerges in real time since many of the abstracts are often placeholders with updated information provided at the conference itself.
For now, here we provide an in-depth preview of the CAR T cell landscape in terms of the players, the products, new scientific research, biomarkers, emerging trends and more in a handy What to Watch For (W2W4) guide on key areas to expect at ASH to enable better enjoyment and awareness as the data rolls out next month.
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There was a time when it seemed that all the good news emerging in cancer research was on breast cancer, that is clearly no longer true as other tumour types have seen some leaps and bounds with different modalities, including areas previously thought to be a graveyard for big Pharma, such as metastatic melanoma, for example.
New Dawn at the Houses of Parliament
That said, after the excellent developments in hormone-sensitive disease and the identification of the HER2 oncogene, we now have CDK4/6 as a validated target in metastatic breast cancer.
Pfizer’s palbociclib (Ibrance) lead the way, with two approvals in previously untreated and relapsed ER+ HER2- advanced breast cancer. Two other companies in this field are Novartis with ribociclib and Lilly with abemaciclib. Data is being presented on all three therapies at ESMO this year.
In addition, there are some other abstracts of note that are well worth discussing.
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In our ECCO Preview series last year (note: ESMO and ECCO have alternated the EU major cancer conference in the Fall for years), we highlighted several promising novel agents in development including the following:
- StemCentRx’s anti-DLL3 inhibitor: rovalpituzumab tesirine (ROVA-T)
- Ignyta’s Pan Trk, ROS1 and ALK inhibitor: entrectinib
- Pfizer’s anti-NOTCH3 inhibitor: PF–06650808
- Pfizer’s PTK7 ADC in TNBC: PF–06647020
What happened to them all? Were they good selections or not?
Well, AbbVie acquired StemCentRx in a $10.2B deal, Ignyta are busy advertising their new clinical trial enrollment for entrectinib as a non-chemotherapy and non-placebo controlled study on social media, suggesting that compound’s clinical development is still very much alive, while both the Pfizer compounds are also still active, as far as I know.
None have yet been consigned to dog drug heaven, which is quite something considering the failure rate in oncology drug pipelines!
Indeed, last year the Pfizer PTK7 ADC data was focused on triple negative breast cancer, where there is a solid rationale. This time around, the same research group explore the latest activity in advanced solid tumours, including ovarian cancer, as mentioned in the earlier Preview (See: 9 key abstracts in Ovarian Cancer).
So it’s time to sit down and chew the fat on one of my favourite topics at conferences – Development Therapeutics.
Here we consider which other compounds – other than the Pfizer ADC – that are worthy of highlighting and watching out for this year?
There are certainly some curious and quite different (i.e. novel) approaches to look at.
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If you had told me several weeks ago that we would write over 28 posts on #AACR16 and become very interested in mouse models, then most likely I would have laughed out loud and told you not to be so ridiculous! Here we are with the 29th one and, another, on the bromododomain landscape yet to go. Such was the vast richness of data and concepts being discussed or presented in New Orleans for those who chose to look.
Today, I want to start the segue from AACR to ASCO coverage.
One way to do that is through the second part of the Gems from the Post Hall series. This latest one looks at a range of intriguing new targeted therapies and novel targets that are emerging, including a pharma company with a particularly interesting early pipeline.
Several pharma companies presented interesting data on their very early compounds currently in development, plus I noticed a trend for a new class of targeted therapies to emerge, MNK inhibitors, which we will also discuss.
Companies mentioned: Bayer, Orion Pharma, Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, Agios.
Targets mentioned: PI3K, CDK, Akt, TWEAK, FGFR, BUB1, IDH1, SMYD2, MNK
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It’s Tuesday at the 2016 JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco (Twitter #JPM16).
Each day of #JPM16 we’re doing a rolling blog post which we’re updating throughout the day with commentary and insights on the company presentations we’re covering.
While we’re not giving a blow-by-blow account, many companies have the slides readily available, we will be commenting on noteworthy news, and what we learn about corporate strategy going into 2016.
For those of you who like to catch up with the final summary of each day’s highlights, you can read yesterday’s Day 1 synopsis here and our interview with Seattle Genetics CEO, Clay Siegall here.
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There are now several CD40 agonist antibodies in early clinical development from several different companies, including:
- Roche – RO7009789
- Apexigen – APX005M
- Seattle Genetics – SEA-CD40
- Alligator Bioscience – ADC–1013
This post is the last in our cancer immunotherapy coverage from the European Cancer Congress in Vienna. It features excerpts from an interview with Dr Christian Rommel, head of oncology discovery at Roche in Basle, Switzerland in which he talks about the development of their CD40 monoclonal antibody. Readers may recall we wrote about this from SITC 2014 last year: “Targeting CD40 in Cancer Immunotherapy.”
This post is also a new primer on CD40 as we start our coverage of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) 2015 annual meeting. We’re informed by SITC it’s a sell out conference with 600 more people than last year’s record breaking number. Cancer Immunotherapy is indeed the hottest topic in cancer drug development.
If you have plans to be at National Harbor this week, we hope to see you there!
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