How our genes will change cancer

Doctors, researchers and audience gather at breakfast to learn about genetics, data and how working together will help beat cancer.

The time is 8:15. Many have started to file in and shuffle to their seats while chatting and occasionally sipping their first morning coffee. As it starts to quiet down, the lights are dimmed, the audience wake up and the breakfast meeting begins.

An air of seriousness with a hint of respect changes the atmosphere, and the audience watches as the first guest speaker steps in and introduces the concept of genes and their relation to cancer.

– Cancer is brought on by errors in our genes. Most of the time, cancer is a result of the unlucky, says Borge, who is the director at the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board.

This is the start of his talk on genes and cancer, where the audience is introduced to that which defines us most: DNA, the molecule of life.

To the moon and back
– 20,310 recipes in our genetic material. 2 meters of DNA in every cell. 10 Billion cells, of which 20 billion meters of DNA is found. If you do the math, astonishingly it amounts to 26,015 trips back and forth to the moon, Borg says, as he shows us a visual representation on the powerpoint slide. (See video in Norwegian.)

It’s this incredibly long strand of genetic material where things can go horribly wrong. If there’s a genetic error, or mutation in the DNA that happens to take place between the double helix and if there’s enough errors, cancer happens. This is the unfortunate fate for many of us.

– However, we may not have come a long way in finding the ultimate cure for cancer, but what we have accomplished is the ability and possibility of analysing, and ultimately predicting, cancer through genome sequencing, Borge says.

It was the best of times…
This message, as a central theme to the breakfast meeting taking place, shines a hopeful light in an otherwise frightful and serious subject. With genome sequencing, or list of our genes, scientists and doctors will have greater accuracy to predict genes that are potential carriers, and highly susceptible to, different cancers.

However, this requires a large amount of genome sequences: we need an army of genome data.

From terminal to chronic
To set further example, the next speaker to take the stage is oncologist Odd Terje Brustugun. He stresses the importance of personalized treatment for lung cancer patients, even those with metastatic cancers. These patients can be tested today to see if they are viable to receive new kinds of treatmemt, such as targeted therapy. This was the case for lung-cancer patient, and survivor for five years, Kari Grønås.

Kari Grønås was able to participate in a clinical study. She was treated with targeted therapy instead of the ordinary treatment for lung cancer patients at that time: chemotherapy.

– I feel I have gone from feeling like I have a terminal disease to a chronic one, she says from the podium.

Beating cancer: the story of us
This personalized approach is arguably what worked for Kari, setting the example and potential for the future. If we can analyse our own genes for potential cancer, then we are both able to prevent and provide personalized medicine catered to the individual. This is why genome sequencing is important for the future.

However, this cannot be done alone. To get a representable treatment for the individual, we need data. And data does not come reliably from one individual, but from the many.

– It is not your genes that are the key for tomorrows cancer research, it is ours. It is collaboration where large amounts of data and correlation will give us the knowledge that ensures the right path towards the future. A future with better cancer treatment for all, says Ole Johan Borge.

Vaccibody moves forward with HPV-study

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody is moving forward with the first vaccination of a patient with the human papillomavirus, HPV-virus, in a phase IIa study using the company´s immunotherapy platform. 

The primary objectives of the phase IIa study are to assess T cell mediated immune responses in the peripheral blood and to evaluate early signs of efficacy.

-We have been encouraged to see the outcome of the phase I trial and are excited to initiate this phase IIa clinical study. This offers a chance to get information on how patients respond to the Vaccibody immunotherapy platform, says Principal investigator, Prof. Dr. med. Karl Ulrich Petry, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Klinikum Wolfsburg.

Moreover, the treatment can potentially also cure the underlying HPV infection, Petry comments, and thereby prevent recurrence and may protect from other HPV induced cancers.

 

Will outlicence the vaccine after phase II

– We are pleased to announce the vaccination of the first patient. Surgery is currently the only available therapy to remove abnormal cervical lesions caused by HPV-virus, and thereby stop the progression to cervical cancer, says Martin Bonde, CEO Vaccibody.

Bonde says that the plan is to have enough patients recruited by the end of Q3 and hence the first read out of the data in Q1, 2018.

-As of now we see that we will need a phase IIb/III study involving more patients, maybe up to 150-200. As of now we plan to out licence this product if we see the right responses, says Bonde.

 

About Vaccibody AS

Vaccibody is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel immunotherapies, prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines which target cancer and infectious diseases, for human and veterinary use. Vaccibody’s lead program is focused on VB10.16, a therapeutic DNA vaccine against HPV16 induced pre-malignancies and malignancies. Vaccibody also has a strong focus on so-called cancer neoantigen vaccines and is in late preclinical development with this program.

www.vaccibody.com

 

About Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN) and Cervical Cancer

Per year approximately 530,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide and over 275,000 women die of the disease annually. Invasive cervical cancer is preceded by a long phase of pre-invasive disease called Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN). Globally the number of high grade lesions (CIN 2/3) the immediate precursors to malignancy, is estimated to be in the range of 10 million.

Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by high risk HPV types. Among the different high risk HPV types known, HPV16 has been reported to be the most common genotype in high grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. It can be detected in up to 60 % of all cervical cancers, especially in younger women and it has also been found to play an essential role in the development of several other cancer types (approximately 90% of anal cancers; 40% of penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers; 25% of oral cavity cancers and 35% of oropharyngeal cancers).

Current standard therapy for CIN 2/3 varies between countries and regions and often involves surgical removal of the affected tissue. These invasive procedures are associated with bleeding, infection, cervical stenosis, scarring and most importantly pre-term deliveries in subsequent pregnancies. As a result, there is a significant need for an effective therapeutic vaccine to treat existing HPV infection and associated pre-malignancies and malignancies of the cervix and thereby prevent the development of cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus.

 

 

 

Targovax ASA moves share listing to Oslo Børs

Targovax ASA’s shares have been accepted to list on Oslo Børs, the main Oslo Stock Exchange. 

Targovax is a clinical stage company, developing immuno-oncology therapies to target treatment-resistant solid tumors. Immuno-oncology is currently one of the fastest growing therapeutic fields in medicine.

Øystein Soug, Chief Executive Officer of Targovax, said in their press release this week:

“This move marks another exciting step for Targovax. Being part of the main market is an important development for the future of the company, giving us access to a larger investor base and helping enhance our visibility. We are pleased to have had the support from the Axess market and are delighted to have been accepted on to the Oslo main market.”

Several milestones
The company has achieved several milestones since it listed its shares on Oslo Axess in July last year:

  • Encouraging top line two-year survival data from the TG01 clinical trial in resected pancreatic cancer patients. Data showed a survival rate of 68 % from the first patient cohort compared to published historical rate of 30-53 %. This suggests a signal of clinical efficacy for the drug candidate.
  • Granting of European patent for ONCOS-102, protecting Targovax’s ONCOS platform lead product until 2029.
  • Strengthening the team with the appointment of Øystein Soug as Chief Executive Officer and the appointment of Erik Digman Wiklund as Chief Financial Officer.
  • Presenting at a number of scientific and investor conferences.

For further information, please contact:
Renate Birkeli, Investor Relations
Phone: +47 922 61 624
Email: renate.birkeli@targovax.com

 

 

 

BerGenBio enters collaboration with MSD

Oslo Cancer Cluster member BerGenBio enters collaboration with MSD focused on clinical evaluation of BGB324 in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in advanced lung and breast cancer.

BerGenBio ASA is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing novel, selective Axl kinase inhibitors for multiple cancer indications. The company recently announced that it has entered into a collaborative agreement with Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA (known as MSD outside the US and Canada) , through a subsidiary, focused on the clinical evaluation of BGB324 with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

BerGenBio’s lead candidate BGB324 is a first in class, highly selective, potent and orally available small molecule Axl kinase inhibitor in clinical development in a variety of cancer indications. The Axl tyrosine kinase is a key driver of cancer spread, immune evasion and drug resistance – the cause of the majority of cancer-related deaths. Increased understanding of the role of Axl in suppressing innate immunity supports the rationale for evaluating BGB324 in combination with KEYTRUDA.

Under the terms of the collaboration with MSD, BerGenBio will conduct two international Phase II studies to evaluate the potential clinical synergy of combining BGB324 with MSD’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA. Details of the studies are as follows:

  • BGBC007 – A Phase II multi-centre study of BGB324 in combination with KEYTRUDA in patients with previously treated, locally advanced or unresectable TNBC.
  • BGBC008 – A Phase II multi-centre study of BGB324 in combination with KEYTRUDA in patients with previously treated unresectable adenocarcinoma of the lung.

Biomarker studies will be conducted in parallel to the above studies with the goal of developing companion diagnostics to identify patients who would be most suitable for treatment with the BGB324/KEYTRUDA combination.

The clinical trials will be sponsored by BerGenBio while MSD will provide the trial with KEYTRUDA. The rights to the study results will be shared. No further details are disclosed.

BerGenBio is investigating BGB324 in multiple cancer indications based on preclinical and early clinical findings. Phase II studies with BGB324 as a single agent in relapsed acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) and myeloid dysplastic syndrome (MDS); and in combination with erlotinib (TARCEVA®) in advanced EGFR-positive NSCLC are in progress.

Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, commented: “We are delighted to enter this collaboration with MSD, a leader in developing novel cancer therapies. This new agreement gives us the opportunity to evaluate the clinical potential of BGB324 in combination with KEYTRUDA in advanced lung and breast cancer; two of the areas of significant unmet medical need. We believe that BGB324 is a unique drug candidate that addresses a critical cancer mechanism responsible for promoting immune evasion. We believe the clinical utility of BGB324 in combination with immunotherapies has enormous potential. BerGenBio is excited to advance BGB324 in combination with KEYTRUDA into Phase II trials and we anticipate results in mid-2018.”

About BerGenBio ASA
BerGenBio (Bergen, Norway) is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing a pipeline of first-in-class Axl kinase inhibitors to treat multiple cancer indications. The Company is a world leader in understanding the central role of Axl kinase in promoting cancer spread, immune evasion and drug resistance in multiple aggressive liquid and solid cancers.

BerGenBio’s lead product, BGB324, is a selective, potent and orally available small molecule Axl inhibitor in Phase II clinical development in three major cancer indications. It is the only selective Axl inhibitor in clinical development. BGB324 is being developed by BerGenBio as a single agent therapy in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)/myeloid dysplastic syndrome (MDS) and in combination with TARCEVA® (erlotinib) in advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC); and in combination with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab) in advanced NSCLC and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) in collaboration with MSD.

The Company is also developing a diversified pre-clinical pipeline of selective Axl inhibitors including BGB149, anti-Axl monoclonal antibody.

For further information, please visit: www.bergenbio.com

About NSCLC
It is estimated that more than 220,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2017 and it is the leading cause of cancer death. 65% of NSCLCs are of adenocarcinoma pathology. Although various treatments exist for NSCLC, they are often curtailed by acquired resistance to therapy and immune evasion. Novel treatments overcoming these mechanisms in NSCLC are urgently required.

About TNBC
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women – it is estimated that more than 250,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the US in 2017. 20% of breast cancers lack receptors for three common hormones (estrogen, progesterone and HER2) and are thus called triple-negative breast cancers (TNBC). Treatment options for TNBC are limited to intense chemotherapy, but despite therapy recurrences are frequent and aggressive. Consequently, novel treatment strategies for TNBC are of high need.

KEYTRUDA® is a registered trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc. TARCEVA® is a registered trademark of OSI Pharmaceuticals, LLC.

 

Podcast on cancer research and development

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Radium Hospital Research Foundation, Radforsk, has launched their own podcast. The podcast is named Radium, and is about cancer research and development of new cancer treatments, as well as updates on Radforsk´s portfolio companies.

Radium has so far made nine episodes, and the ambition of Jónas Einarsson, CEO Radforsk and Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, communication manager in Radforsk, is to make one new episode a week. The podcasts are in Norwegian, if they do not interview people from abroad, as they did in the Cancer Crosslinks special.

Einarsson and Andersen is usually joined by guests in the studio, and so far they have had guests from Oslo Cancer Cluster members; PCI Biotech, Ultimovacs, Targovax, Vaccibody, Oncoinvent, as well as Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland, talking about Algeta, Nordic Nanovector and Oncoinvent.

Upcoming epiosodes will include guests such as Professor Håvard Danielsen from Institute for Cancer Genetics and Informatics, Anne Lise Ryel, General Secretary in the Norwegian Cancer Society and CEO, Kjetil Hestdal in Photocure.

Here you may find all podcast episodes launched so far.

Record high attendance at Cancer Crosslinks – watch and dowload presentations

Cancer Crosslinks is now one of the most relevant meetings for Norwegian oncologists, with 300 delegates attending this year.

The 9th Cancer Crosslinks meeting took place at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park January 26. It was a great success, gathering the Norwegian Oncology Community with a record high attendance of 300 delegates. They came to learn from each other.

– We strongly believe in bringing oncology professionals from various fields together, so that they can exchange knowledge and get to know one another. In doing so, Cancer Crosslinks could contribute to developing new cancer treatments, since this requires collaboration across both medical disciplines and country borders, says Ketil Widerberg, general manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The delegates were mainly oncologists and hematologists. These two professions have traditionally had little interaction, and there is a need to exchange knowledge between these two groups. In addition, there were many other researchers in oncology among the participants, as well as participants from biotechnology companies that develop cancer treatment.

 

Download the presentations

For those of you who missed the event or would like to revisit:

You may watch most of the presentations here:

You can download presentations from the meeting here:

  • Jerome Galon : Opening Keynote – Cancer and Inflammation.
    Prof. Jérôme Galon, Ph.D., Research Director at INSERM; Leader of the INSERM Integrative Cancer Immunology Laboratory, Cordeliers Research Center, Paris, France
  • Seth Coffelt: International Keynote – Inflammation lights the way to metastasis.
    Dr. Seth B. Coffelt, Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, Institute of Cancer Sciences, University of Glasgow,
  • JRMarchesi: International Keynote – The gut microbiota, inflammation and cancer
    Prof. Julian Marchesi, Imperial College London, UK
  • WWierda: International Keynote: Hematological cancers: how individualized can we treat patients today?
    Prof. William G. Wierda, M.D., Ph.D.; Department of Leukemia, Division of Cancer Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, USA
  • Anna Schuh: International Keynote: The role of clinical -omics for precision medicine approaches in hematology
    Dr. Anna Schuh, Director of Molecular Diagnostics in the Department of Oncology; Honorary Consultant Hematologist at Oxford University Hospitals Trust, UK
  • Guttorm Haraldsen: Inflammation Research in Norway –  core expertise and collaboration opportunities
    Prof. Guttorm Haraldsen, KG Jebsen Inflammation Research Center, Oslo

 

Cancer  and the micro environment
They came to listen to and learn from leading Norwegian and international experts from the US and Europe. One of them was professor Julian Marchesi from Imperial College in London. He gave an exciting talk about the research on cancer, inflammation and the gut microbiota, showing results of how what we eat can affect the gut microbiota and hence cancer development.

Professor Jerome Galon from INSERM Integrative Cancer Immunology Laboratory, Cordeliers Research Center in Paris added to the discussion with a key note talk on the immune micro environment on cancer and a method called Immunoscore[3] .

– Immunoscore is a way to classify cancer patients based on immune parameters . It is then possible to classify patients into high- and low risk groups, says Galon in the podcast Radium.

 

The best treatment for each patient

Professor William G. Wierda from MD Anderson Cancer Centre was another keynote speaker. As an expert in leukemia, he gave insight to the field of precision medicine within hematological cancers. He raised a debate on the question: how individualized can we treat patients today?

Norwegian projects and approaches were also discussed at the meeting. Professor Guttorm Haraldsen, head of KG Jebsen Inflammation Research Center in Oslo gave an overview of Norwegian research and core expertise in the inflammation area. He highlighted opportunities for collaboration with the oncology field.

Another Norwegian example is a project between Dr. Yngvar Fløisand, Senior Consultant, and Dr. Jorrit Enserink, group leader at Oslo University Hospital. They introduced the screening of samples from patients with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (ALM), to identify the best treatment for each patient. Finally, there was a panel discussion with leading Norwegian experts on the ways forward from data generation to clinical use.
On the previous evening, the delegates participated in thematic roundtables and meetings between Norwegian and international experts. This provided some insight into possible international collaboration in and across their fields of expertise.

 

10 years anniversary next year

This 9th Cancer Crosslinks meeting was kindly sponsored by Oslo Cancer Cluster members  Bristol-Myers Squibb  and AbbVie.

You can look forward to the upcoming Cancer Crosslinks Anniversary Editions: The next Swedish Cancer Crosslinks  meeting will be held in Lund, October 25th (the date will be confirmed) this year and the 10th Norwegian edition will be in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovations Park in January 2018.

Targovax with full year report

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Targovax will announce its fourth quarter and full year 2016 results on Thursday, 16 February 2017. A presentation by Targovax’s management to investors, analysts and the press will take place in Oslo at 10:00 CET.

The results report and the presentation will be available at www.targovax.com in the Investors section from 07:00 CET.

Presentation

The presentation will take place at 10:00 CET at Hotel Continental. The presentation will also be webcast live and can be accessed through www.targovax.com.

 

 

 

About Targovax

Targovax is a clinical stage company focused on developing novel immuno-oncology therapies to target, primarily, treatment-resistant solid tumors. Immuno-oncology is currently one of the fastest growing therapeutic fields in medicine.

 

The Company’s development pipeline has arisen from two novel proprietary platforms:

The first platform, ONCOS, uses oncolytic viruses, an emerging class of biological therapy. ONCOS exclusively uses an adenovirus that has been engineered to be a tumor-targeted immune activator. The platform has the potential to generate therapies with superior efficacy and safety compared to the first approved oncolytic virus therapy, Imlygic, recently launched by Amgen. We expect proof of concept data related to immune activation in tumor tissue in 2017 from the clinical trial of ONCOS-102 in combination wih CPI in patients with refractory malignant melanoma.

The second platform, TG-Peptides, solely targets tumors that express mutated forms of the RAS protein. Mutations to this protein are common in many cancers and are known to drive aggressive disease progression and treatment resistance. There is a high unmet medical need for therapies that are effective against tumors that express these mutations. The TG platform’s therapeutic potential stems from its ability to enable a patient’s immune system to identify and then destroy tumors bearing any RAS mutations.

The development pipeline has three novel therapeutic candidates in clinical development covering six indications and has already demonstrated promising safety and tolerability data and early signs of clinical response.

Both platforms are protected by an extensive portfolio of IP and know-how and have the potential to yield multiple product candidates in a cost effective manner. Our portfolio of future opportunities comprises a number of early stage development candidates in addition to the three outlined above.

In July 2016 the Company listed its shares on Oslo Axess, securing funding for further development of the Company’s ongoing and planned trials.

 

 

Lytix Biopharma granted 15.9 MNOK from The Norwegian Research Council

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Lytix Biopharma has been awarded a NOK 15.9 million grant from The Norwegian Research Council (User-driven Research-based Innovation) to support the investigation of LTX-315’s ability to make ’’cold tumors hot’’ and Phase II trial in Triple Negative Breast cancer (TNBC).

Recent developments in immunotherapy have demonstrated a significant clinical impact in the field of cancer treatment. However, it is well known that immune therapy works better when there are immune effector cells present in the tumour microenvironment compared to if they are absent. When the tumour lacks immune effector cells, they are called “cold” and when immune effector cells are present they are named “hot”. Preclinical studies have shown that the Lytix compound LTX-315 has the potential  to make cold tumours hot and thus increase the overall patient response of combinations with other cancer treatments, for example immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Forty-two patients have so far been treated with LTX-315 alone, in two Phase I trials, and positive signals from these patients form the basis for this project. The primary objective for this project is to document in both preclinical and clinical studies that LTX-315 increase the infiltration of immune effector cells in the tumour and make the “cold” tumour “hot” in combination with immunotherapy. The clinical study will be performed in patients with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a subtype of breast cancer. These patients have today limited treatment possibilities and the medical need for better treatments is high.

Håkan Wickholm, CEO of Lytix Biopharma says: ‘We are very pleased that the Research Council shares our view of the potential of LTX-315 and supports our work to give cancer patients a better treatment response.’’

www.lytixbiopharma.com

PCI Biotech granted NOK 13.8 million from the Research Council

Our member PCI Biotech has been granted NOK 13.8 million to the project “Photochemical vaccination – novel immunotherapy concept for treatment of cancer and infectious diseases”.

The main goal of the project is to document in a proof-of-principle clinical study in cancer patients that PCI Biotech’s photochemical internalization (PCI) technology can be used to improve the efficacy of a therapeutic cancer vaccine. Other important aspects of the project is to develop the PCI technology for use in vaccination against certain types of viral and bacterial infections, and to explore the technology for use with mRNA-based vaccination.

‘This grant supports further development of the promising fimaVacc technology, as well as the important vaccination application of the fimaNAc technology. Both of these applications are well suited for the development of new types of immunotherapy against cancer, and also for the prevention and treatment of some types of infectious diseases, including certain types of chronic virus infections. We are very pleased to see that the expert evaluators and the Research Council share our view on the potential of these technologies.’ says CEO in PCI Biotech, Per Walday.

The project will be initiated in Q3 2017 and run for three and a half years. The grant will cover up to 35% of the project costs and the project will be implemented in the company’s current plans. The grant is subject to final contract negotiations.

Established in 2006, the BIA programme is the largest industry-oriented programme at the Research council of Norway (Forskningsrådet). This broad-based programme supports high-quality R&D projects with good business and socio-economic potential.

About PCI Biotech
PCI Biotech is a biopharmaceutical company focusing on development and commercialisation of novel therapies for the treatment of cancer through its innovative photochemical internalisation (PCI) technology platform. PCI is applied to three distinct anticancer paradigms: fimaChem (enhancement of chemotherapeutics for localised treatment of cancer), fimaVacc (T-cell induction technology for therapeutic vaccination), and fimaNAc (nucleic acid therapeutics delivery).

www.pcibiotech.no

The Economist & Oslo Cancer Cluster: War on Cancer Nordics

Oslo Cancer Cluster is proud to be partner of The Economist Events War On Cancer Nordics.

The War on Cancer Nordics 2017 in Oslo will gather leaders in oncology from the Nordic region and beyond, to discuss the region’s primary challenges in cancer care and control. The event will bring together policy makers, NGOs, academia, research and health care professionals, patient groups and cancer control institutes with private sector business leaders.

 

Questions we will answer

  • How much does cancer cost the Nordic countries per year both in terms of treatment costs and its impact on the labour market?
  • Would a unified Nordic oncology framework be desirable? 
  • What can be learnt from countries that have made more progress in prevention initiatives? 
  • How could research in immuno-oncology be scaled across the region to improve outcomes for patients? 
  • What role will new technologies play in shaking up cancer care, from prevention, through diagnosis, to treatment and to optimise symptoms and quality of life?

 

Founding sponsor: The Research Council og Norway and silver sponsor: Roche