Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Cellectis’


 

Leaders in the CAR-T Field Are Proceeding With Cautious Hope

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

It wasn’t a long time ago, in fact the May 26, 2014 Cover Story in Forbes entitled “Is This How We’ll Cure Cancer” with cover photo of Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez and subtitle “Will This man Cure Cancer?” highlighted the promise of CAR-T therapy as the ‘magic bullet’ therapy which will eventually cure all cancer. However, over the years, the pioneers of such therapy, while offering impressive clinical results, caution not to get to eager in calling CAR-T as the end-all-be-all cure but insist there are many issues that need be resolved.

The Allogenic Approach

In an interview for LabBiotech.eu Phillip Hemme had a discussion (and wonderful writeup) with André Choulika, the CEO of the French CAR-T miracle Cellectis on the current state of CAR-T therapy for cancer. Below is the interview in full as ther ae multiple important point Dr. Choulika mentioned, including how much is needed to be done in the field.

Cellectis’ CEO: “I’m just trying to be realistic, CAR-T is not THE miracle cure for Cancer”

 

 

Cellectis

CAR-T is solidifying in everybody’s mind as the next revolution in Cancer treatment. But there is still a lot to do…That’s basically what came out from my discussion with André Choulika, the CEO of the French CAR-T miracle Cellectis.

Cellectis is probably the most successful Biotech in France. It was founded in 1999 by Choulika himself (not alone though), following the discovery of meganucleases ability to change gene editing. Today, Cellectis is a well-known Biotech company counting over 100 employees end of October and having a market cap north of 1 Billion euros.

The company is now focused on the development of allogenic CAR-T (from generic donors  – i.e. not from the patient themself). With these universal CAR-T candidates (UCARTs). Cellectis has signed a massive partnership with the French pharma Servier, as well as Pfizer (which owns 8% of Cellectis), and has just announced two big milestones for the company within the last few weeks.

It is now able to produce it’s allogenic CAR-T in a GMP settings and it releases results from the “miracle” treatment of a 11-month old girl from the UK with multi-resistant leukemia.

 

Let’s start directly with the latest news…People seemed over-enthusiastic about UCART19…even the New York Times wrote about it. What do you think?

It’s a great news for Cellectis even though it’s still a very early result, in a single patient only. What’s important for us is that the first human patient received our treatment without showing any adverse effects (such as no cytokinetic storm) and our CAR-T cells were still active in the body 3 months after the injections.

Now, we have to expand the clinical trials to several patients and showing data from a cohort of patients. We are now on track to file the clinical trial application by the end of the year.

Your approach in the CAR-T is pretty unique. You are using donor’s cells to treat many different patients, whereas most CAR-T approaches are autologous (i.e. engineered the patient’s own cells).  Is the future in CAR-T the allogenic approach alone?

When we started to move into the CAR-T field we were pretty reluctant because there are not many examples of commercial success in the field yet. But CAR-T has still attracted many big players such as Novartis, Celgene, Juno or Kite. These each have a strong involvement in making autologous therapies work commercially (Celgene especially, which makes most of its revenue from groundbreaking and pricey cancer drugs).

On our side, we want to make this therapy accessible to a larger population and have good market access at the end. We have already pretty good reason to think it could work out well for us. We’ll see though…

Comment: Reuters published a report a few weeks ago estimating the cost of autologous CAR-T could be above $450K per treatment, which would make it economically not realistic for the healthcare payers.

CAR-T seems to be extremely hype right now. At BIO-Europe 2015, I had the impression everybody was talking about CAR-T. Do you think it could have the same impact as monoclonal antibodies?

What’s interesting with CAR-T is that you can target cells which expresses less receptors (10k receptors instead of 100k for monoclonal antibodies). This increases the targets for CAR-T and the possibilities linked.

But there are also downsides. Tissues with low expressions can become targets too and CAR-T cells would start attacking healthy cells.

People should not overemphasise CAR-T. We are still at the beginning of the beginning of this technology. And it will probably have to be combined with surgery or checkpoint inhibitors.

 

You seem pessimistic about CAR-T…?

I am just trying to be more realistic, even though I am super positive about the technology. It will bring something really great to Haematology field, but is not a cure for Cancer. It’s more of a long-haul race in the right direction as opposed to fast results, and we expect great things perhaps 20 years down the line as opposed to 2016.

But yes, it will probably not be the miracle product some people are talking about.

As for every early technology, there are many challenges associated with its development. What are the main ones worth discussing?

I would say you have four main challenges…

The administration of the cells will be challenging. We have to find way of injecting repeated doses of the product (to ensure the therapy is fully effective seeing as CAR-T cells have a limited lifespan). This is difficult because of immunogenicty against the therapy.

Secondly, combination will play an essential role too and checkpoint inhibitors should be involved.

The last two are linked to the targets.

As I mentioned before, CAR-T can be too sensitive and one way to control that would be to induce “logic gates” where the cells would only act if a combination of receptors would be present. The last challenge is to find other antigens.

Most of the CAR-T cells today target the same antigen: CD19+. We should find new antigens and many companies are on the track, including us.

 

CD19 CART

An anti-CD19 CAR-expressing T cell recognizing a CD19+ (Source: Kochenderfer et al., Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology 10, 267-276, doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2013.46)

Autologous CART therapy

Dr. Carl June of University of Pennsylvania, who has helped pioneer the field of CAR-T therapy for leukemia, has also been cautiously hopeful on the progress of the therapy. In his 2015 AACR National Meeting address, he highlighted some achievements they had with CAR-T therapy in both hematologic as well as solid tumors however it was stressed that there is much work to do with regards to optimization of the system, characterization of new tumor antigens for diverse tumor types, as well as the need to develop optimal treatment strategies to mitigate toxicities. Indeed many of the pioneers in the field have been proactive in helping to develop pharmacovigilance, safety, and regulatory strategies (highlighted in a post found here: NIH Considers Guidelines for CAR-T therapy: Report from Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee and mitigating toxicities in a post Steroids, Inflammation, and CAR-T Therapy) and much credit should be given to these researchers.

https://youtu.be/1sA_oz_1P5E

Cancer Research Institute’s Breakthroughs in Cancer Immunotherapy Webinar Series are offered free to the public and feature informative updates from leaders in cancer immunotherapy, followed by a moderated Q&A. On June 10, 2013, Carl H. June, M.D., a specialist in T cell biology and lymphocyte activation at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, discussed his groundbreaking work that has led to remarkable remissions of advanced cancer. He focused on recent and ongoing successes in developing treatments with T cells that have been genetically engineered to target cancer. Called chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR T cells), these modified immune cells have proven effective at eliminating cancer in some patients, and offer great hope for this emerging strategy in cancer immunotherapy. For more information on this webinar, or to register for upcoming webinars, please visit www.cancerresearch.org/webinars.

Below are reports from the 2015 American Society of Hematology Conference by Novartis on results from CTL109 CART therapy trials. One trial is on response rate in B-cell lymphomas and follicular cell lymphomas while the second report is ongoing trial results in childhood refractory ALL, both conducted at University of Pennsylvania.

Novartis presents response rate data for CART therapy CTL019 in lymphoma

(Ref: Global Post, NASDAQ, PR Newswire)

posted on FirstWorldPharma.com December 6th, 2015

By: Matthew Dennis

Novartis announced Sunday data from an ongoing Phase IIa study demonstrating that the experimental chimaeric antigen receptor T-cell (CART) therapy CTL019 led to an overall response rate (ORR) at three months of 47 percent in adults with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and an ORR of 73 percent in adults with follicular lymphoma. The results of the trial were presented at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting.

Findings from the study, which was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, include 15 adults with DLBCL and 11 with follicular lymphoma who were evaluable for response. Results showed that three patients with DLBCL who achieved a partial response (PR) to treatment at three months converted to complete response (CR) by six months. In addition, three patients with follicular lymphoma who achieved a PR at three months converted to CR by six months.

Novartis added that one DLBCL patient with a PR at three months experienced disease progression at six months after treatment. Further, one follicular lymphoma patient with a PR at three months who remained in PR at nine months experienced disease progression at approximately 12 months after treatment. The company indicated that median progression-free survival was 11.9 months for patients with follicular lymphoma and 3 months for those with DLBCL.

In the study, four patients developed cytokine release syndrome (CRS) of grade 3 or higher. Novartis noted that during CRS, patients typically experience varying degrees of influenza-like symptoms with high fevers, nausea, muscle pain, and in some cases, low blood pressure and breathing difficulties. Meanwhile, neurologic toxicity occurred in two patients in the trial, including one grade three episode of delirium and one possibly related grade five encephalopathy.

“These data add to the growing body of clinical evidence on CTL019 and illustrate its potential benefit in the treatment of relapsed and refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” commented lead investigator Stephen Schuster. Novartis indicated that the findings keep CTL019 on track for submission to the FDA in 2017. Usman Azam, global head of Novartis’ cell and gene therapies unit, said “we remain consistent again with the data set.”

“It’s an attractive population, it’s a population that continues to have a huge unmet need, it’s a cornerstone of our investments,” Azam remarked. Analysts expect CART therapies, once approved, to cost up to $450 000 per patient. Novartis acknowledged that prices will be high, but declined to give further details. “With any disruptive innovation that comes, initially, cost of goods is very challenging,” Azam said, adding “as time goes on, and more patients are treated, we will simplify that cost base.”

Source: http://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1338217?tsid=28&region_id=2#axzz3tfDVaT1f

 

 

Novartis AG (NVS)’s Experimental Therapy Wipes Out Blood Cancer in 93 Percent of Patients

Reported in Biospace.com (for full article see here)

Novaritis and University of Pennsylvania reported results of the CTL019 CART trials for the treatment of children with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the 2015 Annual Hemotologic Society Meeting. 55 of 59 patients, or 93 percent, experienced complete remissions with CTL019. The study did show that at the end of one year, 55 percent of patients had a remission-free survival rate and that 18 patients continued to show complete remission following one year

 

Other posts on the Open Access Journal on CAR-T therapy include

 

CAR-T therapy in leukemia

Steroids, Inflammation, and CAR-T Therapy

NIH Considers Guidelines for CAR-T therapy: Report from Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee

 

Read Full Post »