Making marks at AACR

Reading biomarker signals at AACR 2017

Biomarkers that could stratify patients, point to treatment combinations or predict toxicity were a major part of the conversation at this year’s AACR conference, where they emerged as potential difference makers for a range of high-profile technologies in immuno-oncology and other anticancer approaches.

This year’s conference of the American Association for Cancer Research saw the biomarker field grow beyond its niche as a tool for precision medicine and diagnostics, and adopt a status as an enabler of a broad range of leading-edge therapies.

The excitement centered on the idea that new molecular or cellular biomarkers could greatly expand the reach of therapies that have so far proven successful in only a limited subset of patients, or that carry substantial toxicity risk.

The advances fell into three broad applications: first, pinpointing likely responders, including patients with otherwise non-responsive indications; second, helping identify resistance mechanisms in non-responders that can be overcome by finding the right therapeutic combinations; and third, defining the risks and mechanisms of adverse events, which could help develop strategies to avoid toxicity.

At least 21 companies presented data on markers of antitumor response, resistance or toxicity to their therapies (see “Companies on the Mark”).

Table: Companies on the mark

At the 2017 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), at least 21 companies presented research on biomarkers of therapeutic effects, resistance, toxicity and pharmacodynamics for compounds in their pipelines. Below is a list of selected abstracts authored or co-authored by companies that report biomarkers for the companies’ immunotherapies (top section) or other anticancer compounds (bottom section). Source: 2017 AACR abstracts

CompanyCompoundCompounds targetBiomarker study indication(s)Biomarker study statusBiomarker study resultsAbstract Number
Kite Pharma Inc. (NASDAQ:KITE)Axicabtagene ciloleucel (KTE-C19)CD19Diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL)RegistrationIn DLBCL patients, Grade 3 or higher neurological events were associated with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell expansion, while grade 3 or higher cytokine release syndrome was associated with a broader array of serum markers, many linked to systemic myeloid activation.CT020
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL)RegistrationIn NHL patients, polyfunctional CAR T cells that secreted a wide array of cytokines were associated with objective response to the therapy.2990

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