It was a lively ASCO this year, as oncologists, entrepreneurs, investors, and Taylor Swift fans all descended upon Chicago for an eventful weekend! In tribute to this historical coincidence, we couldn’t help but take inspiration from some of Taylor’s biggest hits while reflecting on ASCO 2023. Drop everything now and take a look at our top five takeaways below:
1. Sweeter Than Fiction: A big HURRAY to Servier Pharma on their results for Vorasidenib
Servier Pharmaceuticals’ oral dual-inhibitor of mutant IDH1 and IDH2 enzymes has demonstrated a significant improvement in progression-free survival (PFS) for patients with grade 2 gliomas in the INDIGO trial. Grade 2 gliomas are malignant brain tumors that predominantly affect young individuals, leading to severe disability and premature death. The study involved 331 patients, and the group treated with Vorasidenib exhibited a longer median PFS of 27.7 months, compared to 11.1 months for the placebo group. This is the first clinical trial to examine a targeted therapy specifically designed to treat brain cancer.
We believe these findings hold great promise for revolutionizing the treatment paradigm for patients diagnosed with grade 2 glioma, underscoring the successful outcome of Servier’s bold acquisition of Agios Pharmaceuticals for $1.8 billion.
2. It’s a Love Story for ADCs
With multiple approvals and many more in the making, Antibody-Drug Conjugates took center-stage at ASCO. From the potential M&A of ADC pioneer SEAGEN, to eagerly awaited results pouring in from Merck, Daiichi Sankyo, BioNTech and others, the sense of hope and excitement surrounding these therapies was tangible.
It was a standing ovation for Immunogen who reported encouraging efficacy data from a Phase 3 confirmatory trial of their ADC, Elahere (mirvetuximab soravtansine-gynx). This innovative treatment, comprising a folate receptor alpha (FRα)-binding antibody carrying a potent tubulin-targeting payload, has shown a remarkable 36% improvement in PFS and a 28% improvement in overall survival compared to chemotherapy. These results have the potential to establish Elahere as the new standard of care for FRα+ ovarian cancer patients.
With several sessions in ASCO dedicated exclusively to ADCs, presenters delved into pertinent topics such as toxicity management, effective targeting of heterogenous and dynamic tumors, and intellectual property considerations. As for the next generation of ADCs, there was faith that improved linkers could make a significant difference. However, the jury is still out on which approaches will ultimately prevail.
aMoon also has a stake in the game, with our investment in Nectin Therapeutics, a company developing ADCs to target the PVR pathway. Don’t You miss out on what lies ahead as this exciting field continues to mature.
3. Rooting for the Anti Her2
At ASCO last year, AstraZeneca received tremendous applause for the presentation of Enhertu in low expressing breast tumors. This year, Enhertu continues to make strides by expanding into additional indications, including Colorectal Cancer (CRC) and a range of HER2+ solid tumors. The release of Phase II data from DESTINY showcased encouraging results, demonstrating the efficacy of Enhertu in heavily pretreated HER2-positive CRC patients who have exhausted all other therapeutic options. The treatment showed a median duration of response (mDoR) at 5.5 months, and a control rate (DCR) of 85-86.6%. Additionally, interim results from the pan-tumor arm of DESTINY revealed an impressive overall response rate (ORR) of 37.1%, with 5.6% of patients achieving a complete response (CR) and a partial response (PR) rate of 31.5%.
Numerous other companies and research institutes also presented successful assets targeting HER2 and showcased positive outcomes across a wide range of cancers, including gastric cancer, biliary tract adenocarcinomas, and other HER2+ solid tumors. Notably, our portfolio company, Ibex Medical Analytics, entered a collaboration earlier this year with AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo to develop an AI-based HER2 scoring product. We are keeping our Eyes Open and following this space as it continues to evolve and transform patient care.
In a broader context, this year precision medicine was The 1 topic on everyone’s lips. While oncologists have an increasing number of options in their arsenal, the challenge lies in selecting the best one for each patient. Our portfolio company, SOPHiA Genetics, was at ASCO to present their global, decentralized network solution and multi-modal platform aimed at accelerating the pace of precision medicine development.
4. Ready for it? Cancer Vaccines are back, and combos are everywhere!
Amidst the huge Gold Rush for combination therapies at ASCO this year, Moderna and MSD released data illustrating that their individualized mRNA-based vaccine in combination with Keytruda led to a remarkable 65% reduction in the risk of cancer spread to other organs or death in high-risk melanoma patients, surpassing the outcomes observed with Keytruda alone.
This announcement followed the earlier efficacy data published in April, demonstrating a 44% improvement in recurrence-free survival (RFS). At the 18-month mark, the combo therapy achieved an RFS rate of 79%, whereas Keytruda alone demonstrated a rate of 62%. These results not only highlight the fantastic potential of neoantigen vaccines in cancer treatment, but also underscore the power of combo therapy, as adverse side effects did not significantly increase.
In the realm of melanoma, Replimune, a clinical stage biopharma company developing virus-based cancer cell eradication, presented exciting data on a novel combo therapy. The company presented additional positive data in skin cancer patients, demonstrating clinically meaningful response rates that were both deep and durable. Moreover, they emphasized potent systemic activity in tumors that could unlock additional opportunities for oncolytic immunotherapies.
Lastly, our portfolio company KAHR Medical unveiled early yet promising results from their Phase I dose escalation study. Their novel asset, a first-in-class fusion protein targeting CD47 and 4-1BB, demonstrated encouraging outcomes in combination with Atezolizumab in patients with advanced solid tumors.
5. And for Closure… early-stage use of targeted therapies could save lives
Remarkably, for the fifth consecutive year, AstraZeneca delivered a plenary session at ASCO, unveiling groundbreaking results from the Phase 3 trial of Tagrisso in Non-small cell lung cancer. In a late-breaking plenary presentation, AZ showcased the overall survival (OS) results from the ADAURA study, demonstrating the profound impact of Tagrissoin reducing mortality among patients with early-stage epidermal growth factor receptor-mutated (EGFRm) NSCLC who have had their tumors removed, with 85% survival rate of patients treated with Tagrisso, compared to the 73% on placebo at the five-year mark.
Long Story Short, there were many more highlights, not least the active debate on health equity and disparity, and the quest to tailor and improve patient care, areas where innovation is acutely needed. We will be watching these (Blank) Spaces, and in the meantime – good health, good results, and goodbye!