Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

Next I’ll be off to the European Cancer Congress (ECC) in Amsterdam. This meeting alternates each year between ECCO and ESMO hosting the event at a different European city.

The last couple of years have seen some nice data that missed the ASCO deadline, other years can bring an update of the already familiar ASCO data. I suspect that this year will be one of those events, with updated PD-1 and PD-L1 data.

If you missed my colleague Pieter Droppert’s ECCO highlights yesterday, you can catch them here, including details of the iPad app and abstracts.

Recently, I came across an exciting new development in a Nature publication and couldn’t resist teasing my Twitter followers with this terse statement:

Naturally, this mischievous tweet set off a lot of folks frantically trying to guess what I was referring to and the @replies came in thick and fast.

The National Science Foundation defines transformative as:

Yesterday, Gilead announced on their 2Q Earnings Call that they plan to file their PI3K delta inhibitor, idelalisib (formerly CAL-101), with the FDA later this year in indolent non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (iNHL). Discussions with both FDA and EMA have already been initiated based on the phase II results in CLL and iNHL.

Many of you will recall the CLL data presented at ASCO by Dr O’Brien (MD Anderson) and Jennifer Brown (Dana Farber), followed by the iNHL data update presented in Lugano by Dr Salles (Lyon Sud).

At the recent ASCO 2013 meeting in Chicago, I had the great pleasure to interview Susan M. O’Brien, MD who is the Ashbel Smith Professor in the Department of Leukemia at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and someone who is making a difference to the lives of CLL patients.

ASCO 2013 Dr Susan O'BrienI first met Dr O’Brien over ten years ago when I was at Novartis Oncology in new products working on bringing to market what was then known as STI571, and subsequently became Gleevec.

It’s that time of the year when the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) hurtles around with alarming speed out of nowhere and everyone in Pharmaland goes, “ASCO, what already? Is it really June?!” Suddenly the month becomes the focus for many frantic hives of activity.


The last two years have seen some unprecedented changes in new therapies emerging to treat several different tumour types, both liquid and solid.  One of the new trends that has begun to emerge is the new class of immunotherapy agents called checkpoint regulator inhibitors.  These include:

  • CTLA-4 (ipilimumab)

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.

Understanding how PD-1 and PD-L1 immunotherapy works.

Source: Roche


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.

error: Content is protected !!