This year’s ASH Annual Meeting kicked off with stimulating panel discussions on topics ranging from emerging cell therapy approaches to clinical trial design; data announcements from multiple leading companies targeting hematologic diseases; and a messy morning of snow and slush that rerouted some conference-goers’ travel plans.
The Be the Match BioTherapies team felt right at home in the snow, as we braved the wintry weather to sit in on a number of cell therapy-related panels – there were more than 130 in this year’s program.
A few of our favorite meeting highlights:
First, the data – ASH 2017 saw many companies report promising trial results across the CAR-T drug development lifecycle, including extremely positive results from bluebird bio and Celgene’s Phase 1 trial of bb2121, a CAR-T therapy in development for multiple myeloma that put more than half of patients in the study into remission. The biotech also reported positive results of its LentiGlobin gene therapy for patients with beta-thalassemia and sickle cell disease. Meanwhile, Juno and Celgene released additional data from their Phase 1 study of JCAR017 in patients with relapsed or refractory aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which has many analysts suggesting the drug has the potential to be a best-in-class treatment for the cancer. Finally, follow-up results from Yescarta and Kymriah demonstrated that both CAR-T drugs lead to durable remissions over the long term.
We were particularly pleased to see positive results from one of our partners, Magenta Therapeutics. Magenta announced positive preclinical results for its targeted antibody drug conjugate conditioning program, CD117, which aims to limit systemic toxicity for transplant patients and additionally reduce tumor burden in transplant patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Congrats, Magenta – we look forward to seeing what comes next!
Managing the toxicity of CAR-T therapies – Scientists, physicians and patients alike are well-acquainted with the often serious side effects of existing cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and antibody drug conjugates. But what about CAR-T? Don’t miss the details of this talk by Dr. Cameron Turtle of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, regarding the clinical trial results that identified potential biomarkers associated with the development of toxic results to CAR-T. The researchers believe the results of this study, and others like it, could ultimately help doctors reduce the risk of severe side effects associated with CAR-T therapies.
Supporting institutions offering CAR-T cell therapies – With interest in CAR-T cell therapies booming, hospitals and other health care institutions are gearing up to support physicians prescribing these therapies, and the patients receiving them. In a particularly fascinating session that included representatives from the University of Michigan, the University of Texas MD Anderson and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, experts in CAR-T discussed emerging issues regarding the new therapy – in particular, how best to support institutions treating patients with CAR-T. Topics included the accreditation of facilities offering the new therapies, including training faculty and staff; how best to manage and track patients with longer-term complications of CAR-T cell therapy; and the financial and reimbursement challenges associated with CAR-T.
According to Susan Leppke, director of Public & Payer Policy, National Marrow Donor Program®/Be The Match®, “The current landscape of therapy development is including more and more CAR-T therapies. This uncharted territory will bring reimbursement challenges for both health care providers and policy makers – proactivity will be vital, as the industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace. We need to stay in front of the ball with CAR-T.”
In addition, in this video from Dr. Navneet Majhail, the director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Majhail gives a brief overview of what it takes to become a CAR-T therapy center. We’ll be keeping a close eye on each of these emerging issues in the year to come.