Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘talazoparib’

Not in Madrid – with the global pandemic continuing to exert a significant effect on the cancer conference season, the annual meetings continue apace virtually.

Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid

For this year’s ESMO meeting we have already covered immunotherapies, both early and late stage pipeline highlights and now it’s time to explore what to watch out for over the weekend on the early to mid stage targeted therapy front.

The good news is there is some potentially practice changing data being presented, as well as some novel approaches in preclinical development emerging. These should be hitting the clinic in the near to medium term future.  On the other extreme is the more common problem whereby a few agents are showing signs of not holding up to their early promise/hype.

Let’s now take a look at what we can learn in the fourth and final ESMO Preview for 2020…

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Recently, PARP inhibitors have been back in the news for several reasons, including the publication of the olaparib (AstraZenca/Merck) advanced mCRPC data in the New England Journal of Medicine from the phase 3 PROfound trial and the announcement regarding achievement of the key secondary endpoint of overall survival. As Dr José Baselga quite rightly noted, this is very good news indeed because:

“Overall survival in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer has remained extremely challenging to achieve.”

We’ve rather more trial misses in this disease setting than successes from various therapies over the last few years including ipilimumab, PROSTVAC, alisertib, and atezolizumab, to name a few off the top of my head.

Related to mCRPC, let’s also not forget the upcoming PDUFA date later this month for Clovis’s rucaparib in the very same indication.

Not to be outdone on the PARP front, just a few days GSK received FDA approval for niraparib as first-line monotherapy maintenance therapy for women with platinum-responsive advanced ovarian cancer – regardless of biomarker status – based on the phase 3 PRIMA study presented at ESMO last year and simultaneously published in the NEJM. Recall that the majority of women (51%) had homologous-recombination deficiency (HRD) and this subset saw the greatest benefit.

Flying high in the DDR space?

We have now seen clinical benefit in the PARP inhibitors in four tumour types driven by DNA damage repair (DDR) deficiencies, namely ovarian, breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

How do we go about extending the concept of DDR in terms of the biology of other tumour types?

A number of related pathway targets have been investigated, including ATM/ATR, Chk1, Wee–1 and others, with mixed success.

It’s not the nature of oncology R&D to stand still, however; what if we could turn things on their head and think creatively about the problems still to be addressed?

One particular new company to the PARP space is doing just that… so what are they doing and what’s different about their approach?

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We’ve been writing about PARP inhibitors since 2006!  Who knew this target would have multiple legs over a dozen years on?

Barcelona

In this post we’re taking a look at some of the noteworthy presentations at ESMO19 around targeting DNA damage repair (DDR) and how they act through synthetic lethality and/or the generation of immune response to kill cancer cells in GU cancers.

It’s a fascinating area where we are seeing convergence between immunotherapy and genomic instability, one of the hallmarks of cancer.

The abstracts for ESMO19 are not yet available, so in this post we’re only providing context and setting the scene for some of the presentations we are looking forward to, as well as raising some key questions that we hope will be answered in Barcelona.

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Picking a PARPi – what can the biology tell us?

One of the really interesting questions I recently received from a BSB subscriber related to PARP inhibitors – they asked whether the therapies are all the same and can be considered interchangeable as a class?

Around the same time, another reader wrote in asking if there was any new information on what’s happening with PARPi combinations in breast or ovarian cancers?

This got me thinking as there has actually been some useful preclinical and clinical studies reported on both fronts that at least begin to open our eyes to new information based on research that has been reported in several places.

Thus I thought it would be useful to summarise the data and take a look at what we learned in the process.

Fair warning – some of the findings turned out to be a little bit more surprising than you might normally expect to see…

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It amuses me to realise that I’ve been writing about and following PARP inhibition since 2006 or so, when the field was in that twilight zone of early drug development between preclinical and clinical, thus just beginning to hit some sort of consciousness and broader interest in cancer research.

The AACR Molecular Targets meeting in 2009 was the first scientific meeting I covered as a science writer on the old Pharma Strategy Blog, which focused on early drug development from preclinical to phase 2 – after that I would rapidly lose interest and move on to the next new shiny scientific lure to research and discuss. No doubt this eager new writer ran about like an overenthusiastic little puppy in the poster halls chatting to scientists about their research, much to the amusement of the more staid press room, who at that time probably never ventured out of the darkened basement gloom.

In one of the press briefings there, I met an engaging and thoughtful scientist who was presenting his poster on PARP and synthetic lethality. He kindly took the time to explain in plain English a commonsense analogy that was most helpful for grasping complex concepts. Having sat through several long talks from luminaries in the field such as Drs Hillary Calvert and Alan Ashworth that covered double strand breaks and DNA repair mechanisms, it was a most welcome respite in the hurly burly of the conference!

Imagine his imagery…

You have a four legged coffee table or wooden chair and one of the legs breaks off or is damaged. The table remains standing, albeit less stable than before. Now a second leg breaks, and inevitably, the table is so unstable that it falls over.

Once you grasp that simple analogy for synthetic lethality, you have the basic idea of DNA double strand breaks and how inefficient repair can lead to vulnerabilities in the tumour that can be exploited.

The scientist I spoke to in Boston back in 2009 was Dr Mark O’Connor.

He was involved in DNA damage response research at a little known private company in Cambridge, UK called KuDos, who were subsequently acquired by AstraZeneca. Nearly a decade on and Dr O’Connor is still at the company; he now heads up their DNA damage response area.

Dr Mark O’Connor, AZN

With olaparib (Lynparza) since approved by the FDA in ovarian cancer and slated for the ASCO 2017 plenary session for HER2- breast cancer, things have certainly changed a lot since those early heady days of KuDos and the R&D journey has not been without its notable ups and downs along the way.

In Chicago earlier this month, I had the pleasure of catching up again with Dr O’Connor to learn more about the journey, and importantly, where things are going next.  It’s quite an interesting roller coaster ride, to be sure!

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Often times when we see promising data presented at a cancer conference, we interview a thought leader and post the expert opinion with additional commentary and insights.

ASCO17 OlympiAD Plenary

At ASCO, we decided to take a different approach, a twist on the usual fare… given that two of the phase 3 trials, OLYMPIAD and APHINITY, received significant attention and focus involved breast cancer, we reached out to numerous experts and curated their sentiments on both studies.  For completeness and fair balance, these included industry and academic opinions.

Today, we begin with the OLYMPIAD trial presented by Dr Mark Robson on behalf of his colleagues exploring the role of the PARP inhibitor, olaparib (Lynparza), in HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer with germline BRCA mutations.

There’s a lot to consider here, not least is where do we go next from here and which PARP combination approaches are researchers most excited about?

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Tesaro’s niraparib is a highly selective poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) 1/2 inhibitor that can induce synthetic lethality in tumor cells with homologous recombination DNA repair deficiencies (HRD), including germline BRCA-mutated tumours.  It received a lot of attention yesterday following the company’s announcement that the phase 3 trial successfully met its primary endpoint.  The trial was expected to readout this month, so it was bang on schedule.

ASCO 2016 Posters 5

Braving the scrum in the ASCO 2016 poster hall

The results generated a lot of discussion and also a bunch (half a dozen!) of questions from readers, since there was a lot noise around the top-line data in the press release, but very little real analysis or context.

I was planning on rolling out the draft posts we have been working on Gems from the Poster Halls, which included one focused on ovarian cancer.  It therefore makes sense to combine the poster analysis with a reader Q&A on ovarian cancer, including a detailed look at Tesaro’s niraparib as there are some important subtleties that many have missed.

Inevitably this ended up as a rather meaty analysis rather than the quick review I originally intended!

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Beyond the late breaking abstracts and plenary sessions at the European Cancer Conference being held in Vienna, Austria later this month, what other important topics can we expect to hear about?

ECCO 2015 Vienna

We covered the former in the last article on Biotech Strategy Blog, today we turn our attention to the proffered (oral) sessions and what we can learn from those sessions and the expected data that is due to be presented.

There are a number of interesting topics and new data slated for presentation that are worthy of review and highlighting in a What To Watch out For (W2W4) format.

Here’s our take on the potential highlights at the meeting.

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The DNA in a human cell undergoes thousands damaging events per day, generated by both external (exogenous) and internal metabolic (endogenous) processes. Unfortunately, some of these changes can generate errors in the transcription of DNA and subsequent translation into proteins necessary for signaling and cellular function. Genomic mutations can also be carried over into future generations of cells, if the mutation is not repaired prior to mitosis.

This DNA damage repair from normal cell cycle activity is a field with a large body of research over the last decade or so. Damage to cellular DNA is ultimately involved in mutagenesis and the development of some cancers.

Clinically, there are a number of different ways that can be utilised to help repair the damaged DNA. One approach that is included in this category is the poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors, which target the enzyme of the same name. I first wrote about PARPs on PSB way back in 2006 – you can check out the short posts for some basic background information on PARPs (here).  Fast forward to 2014, and another post highlights some of the challenges and issues associated with developing targeted agents, including PARPs.

In 2009, the hot buzzword of the AACR Molecular Targets meeting was ‘synthetic lethality’, a term that is highly relevant to understanding DNA mismatch repair and PARP inhibitors. Hilary Calvert gave a detailed talk on synthetic lethality and PARP inhibition at that meeting, where many attendees, myself included, were struggling to understand quite what he meant.

The lead scientist at KuDos, Dr Mark O’Connor, (note: KuDos was subsequently bought by AstraZeneca) had a nice poster on their PARP inhibitor in development at that very same meeting.  I’ll never forget our animated discusson and his simple analogy of a three-legged coffee table, removing one of the legs to cause instability and falling over as a great metaphor for what happens with synthetic lethality.

To this day, every time the leading British researchers in this field, Profs Hilary Calvert or Alan Ashworth, mention ‘synthetic lethality’, I immediately think of the unstable and wobbly coffee table visual!

Incidentally, the KuDos/AZN PARP compound in preclinical development back in 2009 subsequently became olaparib… is now Lynparza, marketed by AstraZeneca, and available on both the US and EU markets for refractory ovarian cancer with germline BRCA mutations. The EU approval is specifically in platinum-sensitive disease.

The Alamo San Antonio TexasSince then, we’ve seen iniparib (Sanofi) fail badly in phase 3 in a poorly designed catch-all study that didn’t screen or test patients with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) for BRCA mutations (doh!) and three new promising next generation PARP inhibitors emerge – veliparib (AbbVie), rucaparib (Clovis) and talazoparib / BMN 673 (Biomarin).  All three of these have received attention on this blog in the past (check the links).

In this article, we discuss what’s happening with Biomarin’s PARP program based on their latest update at the recent San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) last month.

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Ovarian cancer is an often neglected area in cancer drug development and historically has often been one of the last solid tumours to be evaluated as part of a life cycle management program. There are a number of reasons for this, but recently that situation has begun to change as our knowledge of the underlying biology improves and new agents are developed that target the particular oncogenic aberrations.

It is a tumour type that ranks 5th in cancer deaths amongst women and accounts for more deaths than any other gynaecologic cancer. Indeed, in 2014 nearly 22,000 women are estimated to be diagnosed with this cancer in the U.S. and approx. 14,000 will likely die from the disease.

Earlier this month the FDA approved bevacizumab (Avastin) in combination with chemotherapy (paclitaxel plus pegylated liposomal doxorubicin or topetecan) for the treatment of platinum-resistant, recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC), fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer who have received no more than two prior therapies. The approval was based on the phase 3 AURELIA trial (n=361), which demonstrated an improvement in median progression free survival (PFS) of 6.8 vs. 3.4 months (HR 0.38, P<0.0001). This means that the women in the trial saw a 62% reduction in the risk of their symptoms worsening compared to chemotherapy alone.

Surprisingly, this advance represented the first new treatment option in this setting for 15 years!

The good news is that beyond Avastin, there are a number of other promising agents in development for ovarian cancer. At this year’s EORTC-AACR-NCI Molecular Targets meeting held in Barcelona, new data was presented on several such compounds that are well worth highlighting.

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