Immune to Cancer: The CRI Blog




ASCO 2022 Preview: The Latest Insights from the Front Lines of Cancer Immunotherapy

At the start of the 10th annual Cancer Immunotherapy Month (CIM), the 2022 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO22) returns in person to Chicago after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic

From June 3-7, oncologists, physician-scientists, and researchers will highlight immunotherapy’s impact in the clinic and give glimpses into what is next for the field. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies and checkpoint inhibitors have become the standard of care for certain patients with late-stage cancers, but issues remain. Most pressing, researchers are working to improve our ability to predict which patients will respond to immunotherapy as well as developing better treatment strategies for those who won’t.

The CRI-funded PRINCE trial, whose latest results in advanced pancreatic cancer will be featured in a talk during ASCO22, illustrates an effort to address both of these challenges.

The phase 1/2 trial—conducted in partnership with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Apexigen and led by the University of Pennsylvania’s Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, employs a novel CD40-targeting immunotherapy designed to boost the antigen-presenting immune cells that motivate T cells, in combinations involving PD-1 inhibition and chemotherapy.

Deep analysis of each trial participant’s immune response is also a core component of the study. This allows study researchers to track immune activity over time and how it relates to patient outcomes. Discoveries here could aid the development of biomarkers to guide doctors’ decisions in the clinic.

Moving forward, biomarkers will be crucial to improving all aspects of cancer immunotherapy care, and a variety of talks will delve into the latest science in several areas with transformative potential, most notably the gut microbiome. Factors such as age and race are also being investigated in the context of cancer and immunotherapy.

PD-1/PD-L1 and CTLA-4 pathways remain the most established immune checkpoints and are just beginning to be explored with respect to their advantages in early-stage cancers, both alone and in combination with existing therapies. In addition to these applications, conference sessions will touch on synthetic antibodies that target both PD-1 and CTLA-4 simultaneously, in cervical and kidney cancer, and will discuss the value of TIGIT, TIM-3, ILT-3, and LAG-3, a target for which the FDA recently approved an immunotherapy in melanoma. Other efforts to boost T cells as well as natural killer cells in patients involve targeting the IL-2, IL-15, and IL-27 cytokine pathways, as well as cancer vaccines targeting survivin and PSMA.

With respect to blood cancers, bispecific T cell engagers (BiTEs) and CAR T cells continue to be refined in efforts to make them safer and more effective for people with leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Of special note is a phase 1 trial with allogeneic CAR T cells, meaning that they were made from donor T cells rather than the individual patients themselves. These T cells target the CD20 protein found on the surface of cancerous B cells.

Beyond blood cancers, vast energy has been invested in developing effective cell therapies for solid cancers, and two talks will highlight this potential in the context of T cell receptor (TCR) engineered T cells that target NY-ESO-1, a protein commonly overexpressed in sarcoma, among other cancers. Due to NY-ESO-1’s ubiquity in cancer, positive news here could provide hope not just for people with sarcoma, but also others with rarer cancer types for which there are fewer promising options.

For these and more exciting updates from ASCO22, check back after the conference for our overall recap, and be sure to browse our full calendar of engaging events throughout the 10th Cancer Immunotherapy Month!

Photo by Pedro Lastra on Unsplash

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