Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

After typing a short, but thoughtful, piece into the Typepad mobile app on the iPhone, it crashed into the cyber ether before I could send or save it.  Arrrgh!

It's always difficult restarting and retracing steps from scratch because the whole point of the mobile app is that it allows you to capture those sudden brainwaves and quick thoughts so easily.  Maybe next time I'll stick to audio and posting it via Posterous instead.  This made me realise that what we really need is a service that does a transcript of audio for say, a report or blog post, and allows editing before posting.  Boy, would that make my life so much easier! 

Image representing AudioBoo as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

Maybe such an app already exists on the iPhone for capturing 10-15 mins of dictation, but the ones I've tried to date either rely on shorter timescales (Jott and ReQall) or can record 5-10mins, but offer no transcript (AudioBoo, iPhone Voice Memos).  This is something that would be really useful business-wise too.

If you know of something suitable for iPhone transcription, do send me a DM on Twitter (to @MaverickNY) or post a comment below.

Anyway </rant>, the purpose of today's post was originally to look at the topline trends and strategies emerging in oncology research based on 'buzzword bingo' that fun game we all play to lighten the mood while still keeping the essence of something.

Here are some buzzwords that cropped up time and time again this week in Boston at the AACR molecular targets in cancer therapeutics meeting based on almost 60 pages of tightly written notes (or spidery chicken scratch if you prefer):

  • Heterogeneous
  • Predictive biomarkers
  • Prognostic biomarkers
  • Molecular vulnerability
  • Adaptive resistance
  • Anything on PI3K/AKT/MEK/mTOR/RAS/RAS (double points)
  • Escape route for cancer cell (triple points)

However, my favourite and probably most used phrase of the meeting was:

  • Synthetic Lethality

Turns out that the term is not new, having been first described by Dobzhansky in 1946.  It essentially describes the situation whereby:

"A genetic interaction where the combination of mutations in two
or more genes leads to cell death. The implications of synthetic lethal
screens have been discussed in the context of drug development as
synthetic lethal pairs could be used to selectively kill cancer cells,
but leave normal cells relatively unharmed."

Source: Le Meur and Gentleman, 2008

In other words, either gene alone may not have much effect, but both together lead to apoptosis.

One of the most most prominent drug classes associated with synthetic lethality this week was the PARP inhibitors, particularly olaparib, an exciting new agent from KuDos/AstraZeneca that targets BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations seen in breast and ovarian cancer. 

During one of the poster sessions, I spoke with KuDos' Chief Scientist, Mark O'Connor, who explained the concept of synthetic lethality even more simply.  He suggested thinking of the cancer cell as a table with 4 legs and then suddenly removing one leg (the two gene effect).  The result would be a rather unstable situation with a peculiar vulnerability.  I rather liked that visual metaphor.

Do check out the Pharma Strategy blog over the next few days for updated posts and commentary from AACR around new themes and research on prostate, lung, breast and ovarian cancers.

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