Novel Targets Podcast

Bringing to Life the Science around Innovative New Drugs, Gene and Cell Therapies

Welcome back to Season 3!

In this episode we’re tackling one of the hottest topics in cancer research, why do cancer immunotherapies work in some people, but not in others? Why do they stop working? If we want to obtain long durable responses, then we have to understand and overcome resistance. Some of the meaty topics covered on this episode include:

  • Initial resistance
  • Acquired resistance
  • Immune escape
  • How we may be able to turn non-responders into responders
  • Overcoming immuno-suppression within the tumor microenvironment.

For the Season 2 finale, we’re at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). You’ll hear from Dr Alexis Thompson, Dr Brian Druker, Dr Bruce Cheson and Dr John Leonard on some of the latest developments in hematology.

ASH16 Sand Sculpture on Curing Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Disease – Interview with Dr Alexis Thompson

Dr Alexis Thompson at ASH16Alexis A Thompson MD MPH is Professor Pediatrics (Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation) at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. A Vice President of the American Society of Hematology (ASH), she will become President in 2018.

In this episode we’re targeting ovarian cancer: PARP inhibitors, biomarkers and novel immunotherapy combinations. You’ll hear from  Professor George Coukos, Dr Rebecca Kristeleit and other ovarian cancer experts about some of the data presented at the 2016 Congress of European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) in Copenhagen.


Interview with Professor George Coukos, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Professor George CoukosProfessor George Coukos is Head of the Department of Oncology at the University of Lausanne and Director of the Swiss branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

How do we make CAR T cell therapy more safe and effective? How can we target solid tumors? In this episode we hear from two cell therapy pioneers: Dr Michael Jensen & Dr Michel Sadelain.

Dr Michel Sadelain Biotech Strategy Blog Interview

Interview with Dr Michel Sadelain

Dr Michel Sadelain (pictured) is Director of the Center for Cell Engineering at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He’s spent the last 25 years pioneering new approaches to adoptive cell therapy.

Dr Sadelain and colleagues at Memorial were responsible for the development of what is known as the second generation Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell construct and for identifying CD19 as a target.

This episode comes from ASCO 2016 in Chicago, the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. In it, you’ll hear experts such as Dr Johanna Bendell, Dr Jérôme Galon, and Dr Stephen Liu talk about some of the latest cancer immunotherapy data.


Dr Jérôme Galon ASCO 2016

Dr Jérôme Galon presenting Immunoscore data at ASCO 2016


One of the ASCO presentations featured in this podcast episode was by Dr Jérôme Galon (INSERM), who presented the results of a global clinical trial that validated Immunoscore as a prognostic marker in Stage I/II/III colon cancer (ASCO 2016 abstract #3500).

At the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) one topic that attracted a lot of attention and debate was the use of mouse models to guide cancer immunotherapy drug development strategy.

Dr Bernie Fox AACR 2016 New Orleans

Bernard A. Fox, PhD (pictured above) is Chief, Laboratory of Molecular and Tumor Immunology and holds the Harder Family Chair for Cancer Research at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Cancer Center. He’s also President and CEO of UbiVac.

You can follow him on Twitter at @BernardAFox.

We’re excited to start season 2 of the Novel Targets Podcast with an episode on the Cancer Immunity Cycle!

While in New Orleans for the 2016 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), we rented a studio at WWNO New Orleans public radio to talk with Dr Daniel Chen and Dr Ira Mellman.

Novel Targets Recording at WWNO

Dr Chen (pictured left) is an oncologist and an immunologist. He leads the cancer immunotherapy product development group at Genentech and Roche.  Dr Mellman (pictured right) is Vice President of cancer immunology at Genentech in South San Francisco.

At the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) we heard about some of the latest data in blood cancers such as AML, CLL and Multiple Myeloma.

Dr Ian Flinn ASH15Ian W. Flinn MD, PhD (pictured above) is the Director of the Blood Cancer Research Program at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, TN.

At ASH, Dr Flinn presented the results for a CLL trial that combined obinutuzumab, an anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, with venetoclax, a BCL-2 inhibitor. In this episode, he discusses the rational for the combination, some of the challenges with venetoclax and the future direction in the CLL landscape.

In this episode we’re looking at how to make therapies that target our immune system more effective.

Could it be as simple as changing the composition of the bacteria in the gut, the intestinal microbiome that contains a gazillion bugs?

Dr Tom Gajewski

Dr Tom Gajewski from the University of Chicago (pictured above) talks about research from his lab, recently published in Science, that shows the composition of gut bacteria can impact the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors in animals.

Could this be part of the reason some people respond to checkpoint inhibitors and others don’t?

A pioneer is someone who helps develop something new and prepares the way for others to follow.

We want to harness our immune system to fight and cure cancer. In this episode you’ll hear from two (of the many) pioneers in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Dr Stephan Grupp CHOP

Dr Stephan Grupp (pictured above) from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is leading the way in developing CAR T cell therapy for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Dr Grupp is a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania.

This episode is from the European Cancer Congress that took place in Vienna, Austria from September 25-29, 2015.

Prof Tom Powles ECC 2015 Atezolizumab

You will hear leading experts talk about the latest cancer immunotherapy data. Professor Tom Powles (Barts, London) discusses the exciting data presented for renal and bladder cancer.

Dr Martin Reck ECC 2015Dr Martin Reck (Grosshansdorf, near Hamburg) talks about the lung cancer immunotherapy data presented in Vienna and the new checkpoint inhibitor data at the meeting. He offers his perspective on the importance of quality-of-life in clinical decision making, and what role biomakers may play in Europe.

This episode features excerpts from an interview with Dr Holbrook Kohrt who was leading the way in researching the potential of immune agonists targeting 4-1BB (CD137). It is with great sadness that we must report that since this episode aired, Holbrook Kohrt is no longer with us. He died, aged 38, on February 24, 2016.

Dr Holbrook Kohrt Stanford

In-Memorium Holbrook Kohrt 

This episode features interviews with two Titans in the field of adoptive cell therapy: Dr Carl June from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) and Dr Steven Rosenberg from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Adoptive cellular therapy is where you take T lymphocytes – T cells, “the immune warriors in the body” as you’ll Dr Rosenberg describe them, out of a patient, manipulate them in some way in the laboratory, then expand them in terms of numbers and give them back to the patient.

Dr Carl June UPenn

Dr Carl June talks about one way of manipulating a T lymphocyte through the insertion of a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) to create a CAR modified T cell.

Checkpoint inhibitors do not work well in cancers where there is no underlying immune response. One example of such a non-inflamed tumor is prostate cancer.

So a key question is how do we convert a non-inflamed tumor (where few T Cells present) into an inflamed one (T cells are plentiful and active)? 

In this latest episode, using prostate cancer as an example, Dr James Gulley from the National Cancer Institute (pictured below at ASCO 2015) talks about how therapeutic cancer vaccines may achieve this effect.

Dr James Gulley NCI

Giving a cancer vaccine first could make checkpoint inhibitors more effective.

Photo by © ASCO/Todd Buchanan 2015

Photo by © ASCO/Todd Buchanan 2015

Lung cancer is the No 1 cause of cancer related death in the United States.

Which is why the whole of this episode is devoted to the latest lung cancer data presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) that took place recently in Chicago.

In the podcast you’ll hear from Dr Jack West (pictured right) a medical oncologist at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and Dr Ross Camidge, Director of Thoracic Oncology at the University of Colorado.

Dr West is the President/Founder of GRACE (Global Resource for Advancing Cancer Education).

We’ve heard about the promise of cancer immunotherapy and in particular checkpoint inhibitors, but not everyone responds. It’s typically around 25-30% in most cancers.

So how do we identify those patients that are likely to respond, and perhaps more importantly, how can we increase the percentage of patients that do respond?

Immune biomarkers are key to answering both those questions, and understanding the rationale for where we go beyond giving just one checkpoint inhibitor, i.e. monotherapy.

In Ep 2 you’ll hear interviews conducted at the recent American Association of Immunologists (AAI) annual meeting in New Orleans.

The promise of cancer immunotherapy and in particular checkpoint inhibitors that target the PD1 PDL1 signaling pathway is the topic of this episode.

We hear about the latest data presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Philadelphia.

Interviews with Dr Julie Brahmer (Johns Hopkins), Dr Leisha Emens (Johns Hopkins) and Dr Ira Mellman (Genentech) take us on a journey that highlights some of the challenges and opportunities.

Dr Leisha Emens Johns Hopkins

We also hear from Dr Suzanne Topalian (Johns Hopkins), Dr Antoni Ribas (UCLA) and Dr Pasi Jänne (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute).

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

Dr Roy HerbstPersonalized Immunotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer was the title of an outstanding presentation by Roy Herbst MD PhD, at last year’s annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).

Following his talk, Dr Herbst kindly shared his thoughts on lung cancer immunotherapy, and his experience of participating in clinical trials of checkpoint inhibitors that target the PD-1 (and it’s ligand PD-L1) cell signaling pathway.

This is the third prologue that “sets the scene” in cancer immunotherapy prior to the launch of the first episode of Novel Targets in a few weeks time.

Daniel Chen MD PhD Photo Credit: Genentech

Daniel Chen MD PhD, Photo Courtesy of Genentech

Cancer Immunotherapy is one of the topics we will be talking about a lot on the podcast. As we gear up to the first episode, we thought we would share a few stories that set the scene, what we are calling a prologue.

In this audio piece, you will hear Daniel Chen MD PhD (pictured right), Cancer Immunotherapy Head at Roche Genentech talk about how our immune system can be used to fight cancer.

The interview took place at the 2014 annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).