TS Picks: June 6, 2016

American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting edition 

Jun 6, 2016
Jef Akst


Highlights from the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), being held in Chicago:

  • Liquid biopsies promise to improve diagnosis and treatment of diverse types of cancer. At the meeting, Philip Mack, director of molecular pharmacology at the University of California Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, presented the results of a study evaluating the outcomes of more than 15,000 liquid biopsies performed by the Silicon Valley startup Guardant Health. Guardant’s test, which looks at mutations in 70 cancer-related genes, yielded results similar to those gleaned from tumor biopsies. “I think this study really demonstrates the veracity of the liquid biopsy approach,” Mack, who has been a paid speaker for Guardant, told The New York Times.
  • Another hot topic at the meeting is the advance of precision (or personalized) medicine, which aims to target treatments for patients based on the genetics of their tumors, The Guardian reported: “A number of studies will present results at ASCO showing that this approach can extend survival in many different cancer types.”
  • The meeting also premiered data on a drug that likely prompted AbbVie’s $5.8 billion acquisition of Stemcentrx. According to a presentation on Sunday (June 5), Stemcentrx’s rovalpitzumab tesirine shrunk tumors in patients with small-cell lung cancer, especially those with high levels of the DLL3 protein, Business Insider reported. “Although these results are preliminary, rovalpituzumab tesirine seems to be the first targeted therapy to show efficacy in small cell lung cancer, and we may have identified DLL3 as the first predictive biomarker in this disease,” Charles Rudin, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who led the study, said in a press release. As FierceBiotech noted, however, only 11 of 60 (18 percent) of treated patients experienced tumor shrinkage; AbbVie’s shares dropped by 5 percent this morning, following the presentation of these results.  
  • Juno Therapeutics presented data at ASCO showing that 77 percent of patients with advanced acute lymphoblastic leukemia achieved cancer remission following a combination of chemotherapy the company’s chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy, Reuters reported; 90 percent of patients with minimal disease saw a similar response. Kite Pharma is also advanced its CAR-T therapy, KTE-C19, for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, with a recent study showing that 8 of 19 patients achieved remission when treated in combination with low-dose chemotherapy. “Some of these responses are amazing in patients who would never have responded to anything,” ASCO President Julie Vose told Reuters.