One of the hot topics at this year’s annual ASCO meeting is clearly going to be PD-1 and PD-L1 immunotherapies, following on from the success of BMS’ PD-1 agent highlighted in my ASCO video last year. By now, we know that it has a generic name, nivolumab, and is being studied in combination with ipilimumab (Yervoy) in metastatic melanoma. You can find the many nivolumab abstracts here.
Continuing my series of posts about the 2013 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), I am delighted to publish today a guest post from Philippe Aftimos, MD (@aftimosp) a medical oncologist at the Institut Jules Bordet in Brussels.
Blog readers may recall that Philippe wrote a guest post last year from AACR 2012 in Chicago. Since then he has been promoted from clinical research fellow to the position of medical oncologist and clinical research physician specializing mainly in early clinical trials (phase 1 and 2), new drug development and breast cancer. Congratulations!
On the final day of the annual 2013 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Washington DC, Jeffrey Engelman (MGH) hosted an excellent plenary session on “Cancer Evolution and Resistance” with a series of superb talks not only from himself, but also Neal Rosen (MSKCC), Todd Golub (Broad Institute) and René Bernards (Netherlands CI).
If this session is included in the webcast, I would highly recommend watching the whole thing several times, as it was one of the meeting highlights for me. Despite being on the very last day, the large hall was pretty packed and well worth waiting for. You can check availability of the AACR 2013 webcast talks here.
One of the interesting themes for that emerged for me at AACR this year was the amount of effort that is being expended on strategies to overcome drug resistance. This was particularly noticeable in metastatic melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). More on lung cancer in another post, as today I want to focus on melanoma.
In the advanced melanoma, vemurafenib is given to patients with the BRAFV600E mutation, which occurs in approximately 50% of patients. This oncogene drives activity of the tumour, but inhibition with vemurafenib (Zelboraf) has shown some remarkable effects, as the stunning before and after photos from Levi Garraway’s group demonstrate.
This year’s American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting grew by 8% to approximately 18,000 attendees with 25% from 75 foreign countries, it is truly becoming a more global event for cancer researchers.
Over the next few days I plan to cover some of my highlights (basic, translational and clinical) in depth here on the blog and also with additional notes for email subscribers. If you haven’t signed up for the PSB email alerts, there’s still time before the AACR notes go out.
Soft tissue sarcomas (STS) are relatively rare and represent about 1% of all solid tumours. There are more than 50 subtypes of STS, making it an extremely broad and diverse cancer type.
What are they?
Simply put, they are malignant tumours that arise in the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscle, fat, tendons, nerves, even the synovial tissues in joints are not exempted. As such, with the exception of those originating in muscle (leiomyosarcomas) and gastrointestinal tumours (GIST), they tend to be small and difficult to reach cancers. They differ from bone related sarcomas such as osteosarcoma and Ewings Sarcoma, which are usually considered separate categories.
Patient advocacy is something I care about and spend time actively supporting two worthwhile causes, including the lovely folks at Fight Colorectal Cancer, headed by the indefatigueable Carlea Bauman and Nancy Roach. As someone who has lost several family members to colon or rectal cancer, this is something dear to my heart. I got involved largely through being inspired by the incredible Kate Murphy, who sadly passed away last summer.
One of the interesting things about basic cancer research is that new targets emerge all the time, offering fresh opportunities for developing novel therapeutics in the quest for clinical improvement. While you see many companies chasing the same well established targets, often generating me-toos, sometimes serendipity favours the bold and the brave, as we recently saw with Pfizer’s development of crizotinib for ALK+ lung cancer.
So what’s new on the R&D front?
Bromodomain inhibition is a novel cancer target and one that I am looking forward to learning more about at forthcoming annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Washington DC.
After highlighting the interesting biomarker program associated with AVEO’s tivozanib in renal cell and triple negative breast cancers in the last post, several people wrote in asking about other biomarker programs that have piqued my interest. Regular PSB readers will know that I’m not a fan of catch-all trials at all because the population being studied is too heterogeneous – use of biomarkers can help select which patients are more likely to respond to a particular drug and thus produce greater efficacy.
Another small biotech doing some interesting and compelling biomarker work is Array BioPharma, based in Boulder, Colorado.
Following last weeks post on the phase III clinical data for tivozanib in advanced renal cell cancer (RCC), I thought it would be useful to provide an update on AVEO’s biomarker program.
I’m very excited about the work they are doing in this area and have been following them keenly since they first presented their initial work on myeloid cells in RCC at the AACR diagnostic conference back in 2010. Since then, other companies have also published work in this field, including Regeneron, who also noticed the presence of myeloid cells in their work with aflibercept in glioblastoma.