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Across the CEO's Desk: February 2015 Roundup

February 27, 2015

The field of cancer immunology and immunotherapy is bursting with numerous articles about the latest developments in the field—so much so that it has become hard to keep up. Below are some of the articles I found interesting, which spotlights the exciting advances in cancer immunotherapy, most often thanks to much of the research led by Cancer Research Institute scientists. Happy reading!

Celldex Receives FDA "Breakthrough Therapy" Designation for Patients with Brain Cancer

(Feb. 23, 2015) Celldex Therapeutics announced its “Breakthrough Therapy” Designation from the FDA for its cancer immunotherapy rindopepimut (Rintega®), for the treatment of adult patients with EGFRvIII-positive glioblastoma.

Cancer Immunotherapies Give Investors a Shot in the Arm

(Feb. 22, 2015) I am quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about the surge of new investments in companies developing cancer immunotherapies.

The Company You Keep: Scientists Reveal Dual Role for Key T Cell Factor

(Feb. 12, 2015) When fighting chronic viral infections or cancers, CD8+ T cells sometimes lose their ability to effectively fight foreign invaders. Now, a team of researchers—including Anjana Rao (1981 CRI postdoctoral fellow and Scientific Advisory Council member), Shane Crotty (2002-2003 CRI postdoctoral fellow), and Vigo Heissmeyer (2004-2005 CRI postdoctoral fellow)—report that the shift is masterminded in part by NFAT, short for nuclear factor of activated T cells.

Amgen Announces FDA Advisory Committees to Review Talimogene Laherpaerpvec for the Treatment of Patients with Metastatic Melanoma

(Feb. 11, 2015) Amgen announced that the Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee and the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee of the FDA will jointly review the Company’s Biologics License Application for the oncolytic virus immunotherapy talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC).

Changing Cancer Treatment

(Feb. 10, 2015) Immunotherapy has shown remarkable gains in treating cancer by harnessing the body’s own immune system. Listen to the radio interview on The Leonard Lopate Show featuring Jedd Wolchok (associate director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council and director of CRI’s CVC Trials Network) and Mary Elizabeth Williams (CRI patient advocate), who explain how immunotherapies work and how they could change the way cancer is treated.

Roche Leukemia Drug Gazyva Succeeds in Lymphoma

(Feb. 4, 2015) Roche’s leukemia drug Gazyva (obinutuzumab) has shown significant benefit in a phase III trial for refractory indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, meeting its primary endpoint early. It was FDA approved in 2013 for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It targets CD20 expressed on B cells.

Researchers Discover New Mechanism of Acquired Resistance to Breast Cancer Drugs

(Feb. 2, 2015) In the search for new approaches to treat HER2-positive breast cancers that have become drug-resistant, Manabu Kurokawa (2007-2009 postdoctoral fellow) showed that HER4 is a driver protein in HER2-postive breast cancers and is crucial for the survival of resistant, but not naïve, HER2-positive breast cancer cells.

CRI Scientists Win Wolf Prize in Medicine

(Feb. 2, 2015) Jeffrey V. Ravetch (Scientific Advisory Council member and Clinic and Laboratory Integration Program (CLIP) grantee), Philippa Marrack (Scientific Advisory Council member and predoctoral sponsor), and John Kappler (predoctoral sponsor) were named the recipients of the 2015 Wolf Prize in Medicine. The three winners were selected for their work on the molecular basis of the immune response.

FDA Grants "Breakthrough Therapy" Designation for Genentech's Cancer Immunotherapy in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

(Feb. 1, 2015) Genentech announced its second “Breakthrough Therapy” Designation from the FDA for its cancer immunotherapy MPDL3280A (anti-PD-L1). Bryan A. Irving, a 1996-1999 CRI postdoctoral fellow who joined Genentech in 2001, led studies that culminated in the generation of MPDL3280A.

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*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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