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.

Dr Thompson is a leader in sickle cell disease (SCD) and at #ASH16, she introduced the plenary presentation by Dr Kenneth Ataga on crizanlizumab for the prevention of pain crises in sickle cell disease. Link to NEJM paper

While treating the symptoms of sickle cell disease (SCD) are important, the hope is that in the future we will be able to cure the disease.

SCD is at the vanguard of research using gene therapy and gene editing techniques.

Dr Thompson presented data at ASH16 on gene therapy for sickle cell disease (Abstract 1175).

Although still only at the preclinical research stage, there was a lot of data at ASH on gene editing techniques such as CRISPR.

Gene editing offers the potential to cure sickle cell disease – expect to hear a lot more about this in the future.

Beat AML Trial – Interview with Dr Brian Druker

Dr Brian Druker at ASH16Brian J Druker MD is Director, Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University; JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr Druker is well known for his pioneering research in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which led to the development of the targeted therapy imatinib (Gleevec/Glivec) and a revolution in how this blood cancer was treated.

He’s now turning his expertise to acute myeloid leukemia (AML), where there’s a high unmet medical need for new effective treatments in patients over 60.

Dr Druker is one of the lead investigators in the Beat AML trial sponsored by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS). This is a collaboration of multiple partners:

LLS Beat AML Partners

One of the innovative features of this adaptive trial is that the LLS are the investigational new drug (IND) holders with the FDA. Could this be a model for other advocacy organizations to follow?

If you are looking for a detailed discussion of the initial targets selected for the BEAT AML, then check out the review on Biotech Strategy Blog (subscription required): “How the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Plans to Beat AML.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia – Interview with Dr Bruce Cheson

Dr Bruce Cheson at ASH16Bruce D Cheson MD is Professor of Medicine, Head of Hematology, and Director of Hematology Research at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University.

In his interview, Dr Cheson talks about some of the challenges with giving targeted therapies upfront (first-line) to younger CLL patients. These include issues of compliance, expense and adverse events associated with long-term daily use until progression; something that may be years in the future.

Will combination strategies allow a discontinuation of targeted therapy in those patients that develop a deep and lasting remission, and who are MRD (minimal residual disease) negative?

Due to time limitations, the podcast only features selected excerpts from the interview with Dr Cheson. Subscribers can read more on Biotech Strategy Blog, “The Changing CLL Landscape Part 1.

Lymphoma – Dr John Leonard shares #Leonardlist

Dr John Leonard at ASH16John P Leonard MD is the Richard T. Silver Distinguished Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Like many hematologists, he’s also active on Twitter: @JohnPLeonardMD. Do follow him if you don’t already.

A Top 10 list was a regular feature on “Late Night with David Letterman,” so in the spirit of Letterman, you’ll hear Dr Leonard take us through his Top 10 list (#Leonardlist) of lymphoma abstracts that caught his attention.

If you want to read more, here are the 10 #ASH16 abstracts mentioned:

  • No 1: (930 Nivolumab (Anti-PD1) Therapy for Relapsed/ Refractory Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma and Primary Testicular Lymphoma)
  • No 2: (469 Phase III Randomized Study of R-CHOP Versus DA-EPOCH-R and Molecular Analysis of Untreated Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma: CALGB/Alliance 5030)
  • No 3: (1217 Ibrutinib As Treatment for Chemoimmunotherapy-Resistant Patients with Follicular Lymphoma: First Results from the Open‑Label, Multicenter, Phase 2 DAWN Study)
  • No 4: (182 Brentuximab Vedotin Demonstrates Significantly Superior Clinical Outcomes in Patients with CD30-Expressing Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma Versus Physician’s Choice (Methotrexate or Bexarotene): The Phase 3 Alcanza Study)
  • No 5: (1104 Vitamin D Insufficiency Is Associated with an Increased Risk of Early Clinical Failure in Follicular Lymphoma)
  • No 6: (2989 GDPT Versus CHOP in Newly Diagnosed Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma: A Prospective Randomized Controlled, Open-Label Study)
  • No 7: (6 Obinutuzumab-Based Induction and Maintenance Prolongs Progression-Free Survival (PFS) in Patients with Previously Untreated Follicular Lymphoma: Primary Results of the Randomized Phase 3 GALLIUM Study)
  • No 8: (145 Rituximab Maintenance after Autologous Stem Cell Transplantation Prolongs Survival in Younger Patients with Mantle Cell Lymphoma: Final Results of the Randomized Phase 3 LyMa Trial of the Lysa/Goelams Group
  • No 9:  (3034 Time from Diagnosis to Initiation of Treatment of DLBCL and Implication for Potential Selection Bias in Clinical Trials);
  • No 10: (LBA-6 Kte-C19 (anti-CD19 CAR T Cells) Induces Complete Remissions in Patients with Refractory Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL): Results from the Pivotal Phase 2 ZUMA-1).

Note: these are not in any rank or order.

There is additional commentary on these on Biotech Strategy Blog,”LeonardList showcases 10 Lymphoma abstracts at ASH16.” (subscription required).

Dr Leonard introduced the ASH16 plenary presentation of data for obinutuzumab in Follicular Lymphoma – No 7 on his list.

Dr John Leonard introduces ASH16 Plenary Presentation

At the end of the Novel Targets segment with Dr Leonard, you’ll hear a reference in passing to the iconic, “Desert Island Discs“, a concept created and originally hosted by Roy Plomley, which first aired on 29th January 1942. It’s Britain’s longest running radio show and is well worth a listen.

Update: Dr Leonard started his own podcast, CancerCast, in July 2018. Do check it out if you’d like to hear the latest #LeonardList. You can find links on his Twitter account @JohnPLeonardMD.

Podcast Sponsorship – Vignette with Dr Michael Wenger, Genentech

Genentech sponsored this episode of the podcast. We’re grateful for their support!

Dr Michael Wenger GenentechInstead of reading a corporate message, for Genentech sponsored episodes, we’re doing mini-interviews or vignettes with company scientists.

For this episode, we spoke with Michael Wenger MD PhD, who is a Senior Group Medical Director at Genentech (now at Novartis). At the time of the interview, he headed up the development of three products, including the novel antibody drug conjugate (ADC) polatuzumab vedotin, which targets CD79b.

In his vignette, Dr Wenger talks about an ASH16 poster in aggressive lymphomas (abstract 1853), presented by Prof Herve Tilly (Rouen).

Dr Wenger gave a presentation on the ASH polatuzumab data at a Roche analyst event in San Diego (Link).

Here’s the mechanism of action from his presentation:

Polatuzumab vedotin MOA

Source: Roche

Update: The FDA in June 2019 granted accelerated approval to polatuzumab vedotin in combination with bendamustine and a rituximab product for adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), not otherwise specified, after at least two prior therapies. (FDA press release)

Dr Wenger moved in June 2019 to Novartis where he is a Vice President and Therapeutic Area Head Oncology Solid Tumors.

Podcast Music/Sound Effects

In the episode, the royalty free sound effects are courtesy of an Apple software license for Final Cut Pro X. The music is by David Schulman, from his album Quiet Life Motel.


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