Each year, the American Society of Clinical Oncology gathers the cancer therapy developers during five days to present their latest results. Roche seems to be the European winner of this roundup, with amazing results of alectinib in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). 

Roche’s investigational medicine alectinib shrank tumors in nearly half of patients suffering from this specific type of lung cancer. Even more impressive, alectinib showed response rates of up to 69% in the central nervous system in people for whom the cancer had spread to the brain.

Alectinib, which has been granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation, is an investigational oral medicine created at Chugai Kamakura Research Laboratories (a company with belongs to Roche) and is being developed for people with NSCLC whose tumours are identified as ALK+.

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Roche also announced, via its american subsidiary Genentech, results from a Phase II study in people with previously treated non-small cell lung cancer. The study showed that MPDL3280A doubled the likelihood of survival in people whose cancer expressed the highest levels of PD-L1 (programmed death ligand-1) compared to standard chemotherapy. MPDL3280A, in an anti-PDL1 monoclonal antibody is designed to interfere with the protein PD-L1, which prevents tumor cells from binding to T-cells. In February 2015, MPDL3280A also received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the FDA.

Merck and Pfizer also seized an opportunity with the anti-PD-L1 via a major partnership announced last November 2014. The result was less impressive as they only announced preliminary safety and efficacy data of avelumab, their anti-PD-L1 candidate.

But the ASCO meeting gives also the chance for small companies to shine.

Headquartered in Madrid, PharmaMar is a company developing innovative marine-derived anticancer drugs. Their product PM1183 achieved 67% response rates and a progression-free survival of 4.7 months in patients with small cell lung cancer, a type of tumor with very limited treatment alternatives.

PM1183 is an investigational drug from the class of inhibitors of the enzyme RNA polymerase II, which is crucially involved in transcription. By targeting transcription, the drug inhibits the expression of factors important for tumor progression, and impairs the DNA repair system called NER, thereby enhancing tumor cell killing.

The last results we spotted are coming from the UK-based Immodulon Therapeutics. The company announced updated results of a Phase II clinical trial evaluating the combination of its candidate IMM-101 with gemcitabine (a chemotherapy molecule) as first-line treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer.

The newly released data found that the combined treatment shows improvements in the probability of survival at 12 months to 24% compared to 11.5% in the gemcitabine alone group. This difference was amplified at 18 months to 18.3% for IMM-101-treated patients compared to 2.3% in the control group and at 24 months the corresponding survival probabilities were 11% and 0%.

These results are showing promising perspectives and much hope for patients in need of new and more effective treatments! European companies are showing encouraging results in this hot field as we also have seen the last days with a high number of announcement in immunotherapies.

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