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Patients Remain the Focus for the Future of Personalizing Oncology

February 9, 2015
The 17th Annual BIO CEO & Investor Conference, being held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, kicked off this morning with an interactive panel of industry heavyweights discussing the growing trend to personalize oncology treatments with molecular diagnostics. Moderated by Michael King, Managing Director, Senior Research Analyst, JMP Securities. Michael helped steer the group of experts as they discussed enabling broader matching of patient-cancer-therapy, lessons learned from the Cancer Genome Atlas and the potential for re-evaluation of oncology clinical trial designs.

​Mike opened the conversation with a look ahead, asking the group what we can expect CAR-Therapy to take us in the future. Arie Belldegrun, MD, FACS, Chairman, President & CEO, Kite Pharma jumped in enthusiastically with the proclamation, "We at Kite feel as if we can help revolutionize cancer." Further, Arie felt as if the data provided by clinical trials is helping move industry into the right direction to the find an injection that can last five, ten years. In his opinion, CAR-T is the future of curing cancer.

Jean Zenklusen, PhD, Director, The Cancer Genome Atlas, National Institutes of Health, next entered the conversation to discuss the importance of clinical trials. In his estimation, many of the drugs that fail a clinical trial the first time around will see better results after a follow-up trial.

The conversation quickly turned to neo-antigen's and Arie graciously defined the term for those of us in the audience who were unfamiliar with the terminology, present company included. Neo-antigen is defined as removing the cancer from the patient and sequencing to find the most common antigen in the patient. At present time, the National Cancer Institute has made this procedure their biggest priority as evidenced by the recent paper they published on this very topic.

Laura Richman, DVM, PhD, Diplomate, ACVP, Vice President, R&D-Translational Sciences, MedImmune chimed in that the immune status of a patient is vital in determining if a patient will respond to a specific therapy or treatment. With this in mind, the patient selection approach is imperative to pre-clinical work.

Next, attendees heard from Jean as he discussed how the genome has changed medicine. He reminded us that while the standard chemo treatment has been in use for 70 years, the genome has only been in play the past 10 years and already, it has led to cures and is on the brink of finding several more cures.

In conclusion, all of the panelists agreed that the patient is what will help lead industry to the next big thing. Laura reminded the group that so long as industry remains hypothesis driven and focuses on the data of patients and patient therapy, there is limitless opportunity.