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.

Professor Coukos is at the forefront of innovative translational research into ovarian cancer, and in particular how to make cancer immunotherapy more effective in this disease.

Work from his research published back in 2003 showed that “the presence of intratumoral T cells correlates with improved clinical outcome in advanced ovarian carcinoma.”  Link to The New England Journal of Medicine paper.

If you don’t have an immune response – you need T cells to be present in the tumor for this to take place – then you will likely have a worse outcome.

At ESMO 2016, Prof Coukos talked about ovarian cancer biomarkers and discussed novel new cancer immunotherapy combination trials that may yield insights into how to overcome the immunosuppressive microenvironment seen in many women with ovarian cancer.

On the podcast he says that we are entering an era of hope for ovarian cancer patients:

“I think we are at the beginning of a new era and great hope in terms of developing effective therapies. There are a number of great opportunities coming up, for example the PARP inhibitors may turn out to be very important drugs, not just for patients with BRCA mutations but all those patients who have homologous recombination, one way or another combinations might provide serious benefit for these patients. PARP inhibitors are perfect partners for immunotherapy.”

Interview with Dr Rebecca Kristeleit, University College London

Dr Rebecca Kristeleit is a Consultant Medical Oncologist at University College London. At ESMO 2016, she presented the latest clinical trial data for the PARP inhibitor rucaparib (Clovis Oncology):


As Dr Kristeleit notes on the podcast, what makes this data important is:

dr-rebecca-kristeleit-ucl“1) That you’re using rucaparib as monotherapy, and the other well known studies are using their PARP inhibitors as maintenance therapies so with chemotherapy.

2) And the second important finding is that olaparib has a license in platinum sensitive ovarian cancer and the maintenance studies have all been looking at platinum sensitive ovarian cancer.

So we have here, a data set that actually expands to show benefit in platinum partially sensitive, platinum resistant and platinum refractory disease.”

There’s an unmet medical need for new treatment options in ovarian cancer, particularly for platinum resistant and refractory disease.

Dr Mirza presenting at ESMO 2016 Press Briefing

Dr Mirza presenting niraparib NOVA trial data at ESMO 2016 Press Briefing

Update: On December 19, 2016 the FDA granted accelerated approval to rucaparib for treatment of patients with deleterious BRCA mutation (germline and/or somatic) associated advanced ovarian cancer who have been treated with two or more chemotherapies.

Interview with Dr Johnathan Lancaster, Myriad Genetic Laboratories

dr-johnathan-lancasterDr Johnathan Lancaster is Chief Medical Officer at Myriad Genetic Laboratories, a gynaecological cancer expert, he was formerly Chair of Women’s Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL.

The Myriad myChoice HRD test was used in the NOVA trial for another PARP inhibitor, niraparib (Tesaro).

The results of the NOVA trial were presented at ESMO 2016 by Dr Mansoor Mirza, and simultaneously published in The New England Journal of Medicine (link).

On the podcast, Dr Lancaster discusses the results of the NOVA trial and some of the key issues around using biomarkers to identify patients most likely to respond to PARP inhibitors such as niraparib.

Several of the points he makes about biomarkers go beyond ovarian cancer and PARP inhibitors:

“Identifying patients who are not going to respond isn’t about withholding therapy, it’s about opening the door to new therapies, to additional opportunities for those patients that are statistically more likely to benefit than the therapy in hand.”

Podcast Sponsorship

Genentech Corporate LogoThis episode of the podcast was sponsored by Genentech. We’re grateful for their support.

Sponsors have no control over the topics we cover, who we talk to, or the questions we ask.

Dr Priti Hegde GenentechInstead of reading a corporate message, for Genentech sponsored episodes, we’ve been doing mini-interviews or vignettes with company scientists.

For this episode, Executive Producer Sally Church, PhD talked with Priti Hegde, PhD who at the time of this interview led the cancer biomarker program at Genentech.

Dr Hegde discussed a poster on ovarian cancer biomarkers presented at ESMO 2016.  It reported findings from a cohort of ovarian cancer patients in the phase 1 trial of the PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab.

Earlier this year, Dr Hegde and colleagues published a paper in the AACR journal Clinical Cancer Research:The Where, the When, and the How of Immune Monitoring for Cancer Immunotherapies in the Era of Checkpoint Inhibition.

Update: In August 2019, Dr Hegde joined Foundation Medicine as Chief Scientific Officer.

Bella Center Copenhagen

Bella Center Copenhagen where ESMO 2016 was held

soundcloud-two-scientists-walk-into-a-bar-podcastIn case you missed it, Genentech have launched their own podcast aimed at making their scientific research accessible to a mainstream audience.

“Two Scientists Walk into a Bar” features interviews with company researchers. Here’s the link to listen on Soundcloud.

Biotech Strategy Blog Interviews

All the interviews on the podcast were previously published on Biotech Strategy Blog (BSB). It’s a subscription publication that provides commentary and analysis on cancer new products in development. On BSB you can find a transcript for all interviews featured on the podcast, along with more than 200 posts on immuno-oncology.

Podcast Music

The music at the start and end of the podcast is “Tango Ricardo,” it’s a track on the Quiet Life Motel album by electric violinist David Schulman.


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