New Cancer Therapies Continue to Develop and Give Hope in Rapidly Improving Oncology Space

Oncology data leader COTA recently released a recent survey where half of the respondents pointed to “Operation Warp Speed” as evidence that cancer treatments can and should be moving forward faster. However, in many ways, 2021 has witnessed several major developments that continue to provide optimism within the oncology field, including those from Oncolytics Biotech Inc. (NASDAQ: ONCY) (TSX: ONC),Roche Holding AG (OTC: RHHBY), Merck &. Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK), Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE: BMY), and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE).

New preclinical data from Oncolytics Biotech Inc. (NASDAQ:ONCY) (TSX:ONC) is demonstrating immunotherapeutic effects of the biotech company’s flagship product pelareorep that activates the innate and adaptive immune systems and weakens tumor defense mechanisms.

At the The International Conference on Immunotherapy Radiation Combinations which recently wrapped up in Paris, France, the data demonstrated the synergistic immunotherapeutic effects of pelareorep combined with radiotherapy in a murine cancer model.

In abscopal tumors, both pelareorep monotherapy and pelareorep-radiation combination therapy led to a statistically significant increase in infiltrating anti-cancer CD8+ T cells. In terms of significance, this effect was not seen with single-agent radiotherapy in either the primary or the abscopal tumors.

Compared to single-agent radiotherapy, the pelareorep-radiotherapy combination led to a numerical increase in survival, which reached statistical significance when anti-PD-1 therapy was added to the treatment regimen.

“The observed increases in survival and in the number of anti-cancer immune cells within both primary and abscopal tumors following treatment is indicative of the synergistic immunotherapeutic effects of the pelareorep-radiotherapy combination,” said Thomas Heineman, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head of Clinical Development and Operations at Oncolytics. “This is a compelling finding that has the potential to be broadly applicable across multiple cancer indications and warrants further study. Together with prior clinical and preclinical data, these results also highlight pelareorep’s potential as an enabling technology to enhance the efficacy of a wide range of therapies.”

Results showed that in primary tumors, pelareorep monotherapy led to a numerical increase in the number of infiltrating anti-cancer CD8+ T cells, which reached statistical significance when combined with radiotherapy (a 15-fold increase compared to control).

Makers of the drug tecentriq, Roche Holding AG (OTC:RHHBY) is at the center of many of the biggest cancer developments taking place this year. In particular the hopeful combination of Tecentriq plus carboplatin plus etoposide with maintenance Tecentriq, put forth by City of Hope in California.

“Having been in practice for 30 years, we didn’t really see that kind of advancements in small cell lung cancer as compared to non-small cell lung cancer,” Dr. Ravi Salgia, a medical oncologist and Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology at City of Hope in California, said during CURE®’s Educated Patient® Lung Cancer Summit. “But immunotherapy is now giving us a ray of hope, or light at the end of the tunnel.”

However in another segment of the oncology field, FDA scrutiny, plus approvals for Merck &. Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY), allegedly led to Roche pulling Tecentriq for breast cancer patients.

Roche, the developer of breast cancer therapies like Herceptin, Kadcyla and Perjeta, originally sought to prove Tecentriq in triple-negative breast cancer early, gaining an accelerated approval for the disease in 2019. Unfortunately for Roche, that wasn’t the case.

However, the FDA recently gave full approval to Merck’s Keytruda in triple-negative disease, based on data showing the treatment plus chemotherapy could reduce patients’ risk of having the cancer return or dying. The FDA decision was seen as a milestone immunotherapy approval for Merck in early breast cancer.

As new Keytruda combinations from Merck emerge, Bristol-Myers Squibb has begun to tout 5-year kidney cancer data for Opdivo-Yervoy.

Patients on the dual immunotherapy lived a median 47 months versus 27 months for those on Sutent, the aging small-molecule targeted therapy drug from Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE). Patients who lived to the three-year mark were 79% likely to remain alive for two more years. For those whose tumors hadn’t progressed at three years, they were 90% likely to stay progression-free for another two years, BMS reported.

Pfizer made headlines back in August by announcing its intent to acquire cancer drugmaker Trillion Therapeutics Inc. for $2.3 billion. Meanwhile, Pfizer UK has partnered with Entia to partner on a home blood monitoring device for breast cancer patients. The platform is currently in late-stage development, with the required regulatory approvals expected for the UK and EU in early 2022.

“Living with cancer is hard enough for people and so it’s important that we try to relieve the burden of treatment monitoring, as well as helping our already stretched healthcare services,” said Erling Donnelly, lead, Oncology at Pfizer UK. “We’re excited to partner with Entia to do this for people living with metastatic breast cancer.”

Through Entia’s virtual oncology platform, patients are able to perform their own blood tests. The platform also enables healthcare teams to remotely monitor the results, and includes personalized training and support for patients using the device as well as data visualization tools for healthcare professionals (HCP).

Under the terms of the partnership, Pfizer and Entia will help to support HCP access to the home blood monitoring device for NHS metastatic breast cancer clinics.

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