Breakthroughs announced this week at the AACR Virtual Meeting show that the pace of cancer diagnosis, testing, and treatment hasn’t slowed despite the worldwide pandemic. Clinical trials of a new personalized cancer vaccine show promise, while researchers appear to have developed a blood test that can correctly identify types of brain tumors. There’s also good news from the world of COVID-19 vaccine development, with some analysts predicting a vaccine in testing by November. More top stories may be found in this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog.

Innovation Partners Weekly BioBlog June 28

Personalized Cancer Vaccine Plus Atezolizumab Shows Clinical Activity in Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors

A phase Ib clinical trial presented at the AACR Virtual Annual Meeting II offered promise to patients with advanced solid tumors. Treatment with the personalized cancer vaccine RO7198457, in combination with the PD-L1 inhibitor atezolizumab (Tecentriq) was well tolerated and showed clinical benefit in patients with advanced solid malignancies. Dr. Juanita Lopez commented on the study, stating that many cancers can avoid the immune system’s natural detection methods. Dr. Lopez also said that many mutations are not shared between cancers, making a personalized treatment approach that targets individual tumor neoantigens, a promising potential immunotherapeutic strategy for numerous patients with cancer.

Former Bristol Myers Squibb site marketed as the new home for an ‘onshoring’ drugmaker

Many pharmaceutical companies are examining their supply chains and moving manufacturing back into the United States in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. A former Bristol Myers Squibb manufacturing facility in New Jersey may be repurposed for onshoring activities, according to Lincoln Equities Group. This private equity group purchased the facility from BMS. Lincoln plans to market the 433-acre site to other drug companies with the slant of onshoring their production to prevent supply chain disruption in the event the pandemic once again threatens the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Diagnosing brain tumours with a blood test

Three researchers may have found a way to overcome the hurdle of correctly classifying brain cancers. Dr. Farshad Nassiri, Dr. Ankur Chakravarthy, and Ph.D. student Shengrui Feng led the study, which will be presented virtually at the Opening Plenary Session of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2020. Current methods to diagnose and establish the subtype of brain cancer based on molecular information rely upon invasive surgical techniques to obtain tissue samples. The researchers worked with Dr. Daniel De Carvalho, who had previously developed a DNA methylation-based liquid biopsy approach to profile hundreds of thousands of these epigenetic alterations in DNA molecules circulating in the blood. Combining this new technology with machine learning, his team was able to develop a highly sensitive and accurate test to detect and classify multiple solid tumours. The test is so sensitive it can pick up even a small amount of specific tumor-derived signals.

Biomarker Test Highly Accurate in Detecting Early Kidney Cancer

Scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report a breakthrough in the detection of kidney cancer. A novel liquid biopsy method can detect kidney cancers with high accuracy, including small, localized tumors, which are often curable but, until now, couldn’t be detected early. If validated in larger trials and applied widely, the non-invasive test could find more early kidney cancers when they haven’t spread, thus reducing the disease’s mortality. About 73,750 new kidney cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2020, and around 14,830 will die of the disease. About 35 percent of cancers are diagnosed only after they have spread beyond the kidney and are more challenging to treat. Small, early kidney tumors usually cause no symptoms. They are typically found during other abdominal scans. With this test, it is hoped that such tumors can be detected early enough for effective treatment.

Karyopharm Announces FDA Approval of XPOVIO® (selinexor) for the Treatment of Patients with Relapsed or Refractory Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma (DLBCL)

Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc. announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved oral XPOVIO® (selinexor), a Selective Inhibitor of Nuclear Export (SINE) compound, for the treatment of adult patients with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), not otherwise specified, including DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma, after at least two lines of systemic therapy. This indication was approved based on the response rate under the FDA’s Accelerated Approval Program, which allows them expedited approval of drugs that fill an unmet need. XPOVIO is now the only single-agent oral therapy approved for the treatment of this particular lymphoma. It is expected to be commercially available immediately.

FiercePharmaPolitics—FDA could approve ‘at least one’ COVID-19 vaccine before election: analyst

Some analysts are predicting that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available before the November 2020 elections. Healthcare strategist Jared Holz believes that “multiple vaccines” might get FDA authorization before November. Moderna and AstraZeneca, two companies with promising vaccine development pipelines, have already told the analysts an approval on or around November is likely. The hope is that having a marketable vaccine will quell fears of a second wave of the pandemic.