In the wake of an unprecedented number of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals for cancer immunotherapy agents, particularly immune checkpoint inhibitors, the field is poised for further advancement. An associated program of SITC’s 31st Annual Meeting in November 2016, the ‘New Cancer Immunotherapy Agents in Development’ session was organized through collaboration between the SITC Annual Program Committee and the SITC Industry Committee.
The goal of the program was to provide an opportunity to address challenges faced by experts in industry, government, and academia who are working to deliver better outcomes for patients with cancer. The recent focus on combination therapies has increased the complexity of this task and raises important mechanistic considerations as to how each additional agent affects the underlying biology of the cancer as well as the immune system of the individual. Moreover, logistical aspects of the application of cancer immunotherapy such as the use of biomarkers, optimal duration of treatment, determining the most appropriate clinical endpoints, and how many drugs to use in combination have yet to be determined.
To facilitate the conversation about drugs on the cancer immunotherapy horizon, program co-chairs Adrian Bot, MD, PhD (Kite Pharma, Inc.), Daniel S. Chen, MD, PhD (Genentech/Roche), Roger D. Dansey, MD (Merck & Co., Inc.), Ramy Ibrahim, MD (The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy), and Salil Patel, PhD (Bristol-Myers Squibb) divided the program into three sessions: (1) Clinical New Agents in Development; (2) Pre-Clinical New Agents in Development; and (3) Strategic Considerations of Combinations and Biomarkers in New Agent Development. The third session closed the program with an extended panel discussion featuring expert representatives from clinical, translational, and government backgrounds to provide unique perspectives on the development of cancer immunotherapeutics.
The concepts and strategies presented at the SITC 2016 New Cancer Immunotherapy Agents in Development program highlighted creative and elegant approaches in a rapidly-evolving field. A common thread throughout all presentations was a need for a deeper understanding of the mechanisms by which current immunotherapies exert their effects in order to continue to improve cancer outcomes.
Mechanistic approaches can then potentially lead to rational combinations of two or more agents that exert an immunologic effect as well as provide potential predictive biomarker candidates to help identify those patients most likely to benefit from a particular approach. Many presenters also expressed the opinion that no single agent was likely to be the “magic bullet” that has been long sought-after in the fight against cancer; rather, combination approaches that provide a multi-pronged intervention are expected to yield the greatest clinical success.
Adusumilli PS, Cha E, Mark Cornfeld, Davis T, Diab A, Dubensky Jr. TW, et al. New cancer immunotherapy agents in development: A report from an associated program of the 31st annual meeting of the society for immunotherapy of cancer, 2016. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer 2017;5:50. DOI 10.1186/s40425-017-0253-2