Not just a shot in the dark

Friday, July 1, 2016

In many ways, it’s a science success story: 8-year-old boy with a rare form of brain cancer is treated by one of the world’s leading experts in the disease, who collaborates with a pioneering precision medicine institute to sequence his cancer and create a first-of-its-kind tumor model replica in the lab, allowing for further analysis and treatment testing without risk of harm to the child.

Upon analysis, the physician-scientist discovers a mutation previously not known to be linked to that type of cancer — and it happens to be in the protein that his colleague has spent a career studying. He contacts the colleague to ask if there is a drug to target the protein, and it arrives the next day. Applied to the tumor model, the drug effectively kills 80-90 percent of the diseased cells.

If only the story ended there.

Unfortunately, although the drug has been approved by the FDA, it cannot be used on the young patient because it has never been tested in children, and the pharmaceutical company controlling the drug is not willing to take the risk.

“We now start the gymnastics of trying to get permission from the FDA based on compassionate use,” said Jeffrey Greenfield, M.D., Ph.D. “We’ve done it before, and it takes anywhere from 3-6 months. This boy doesn’t have 3-6 months.”

Greenfield, a neurosurgeon at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, shared the anecdote at a special event held at Weill Cornell Medicine on June 29, one of 270 across the United States convened by Vice President Joe Biden in tandem with a national summit at Howard University in Washington, DC

Biden invited regional participants to discuss the goals of the “Cancer Moonshot” mission, announced in January by President Barack Obama as a way to accelerate cancer research, foster data sharing and collaboration, and improve patient access to care — all on a five-year timeline.

Greenfield said his story summed up some of the challenges the nation will face in trying to achieve such an ambitious goal.

“The promise of precision medicine, which is enormous and which we have all bought into, doesn’t deliver in this case,” Greenfield said. “We’ve done all the work that we’ve promised to do, and we still have hurdles. The science is great, the medicine is great, but we’ve got to figure out a way to bridge the chasm between academia, pharma and clinic.”

The future is now

Rohan Ramakrishna, M.D., and Gail Roboz, M.D., at the NYC regional Cancer Moonshot Summit at Weill Cornell Medicine
Rohan Ramakrishna, M.D., and Gail Roboz, M.D.. Photo: Ira Fox

Greenfield was joined at the event by more than a dozen other distinguished researchers and physicians, as well as a standing-room only crowd of around 100.

Participants heard that in many ways, the future of medicine is already here. Silvia Formenti, M.D., discussed how she uses radiation therapy to turn patients’ own tumors into internal “vaccines,” and Ching Tung, Ph.D., director of the Molecular Imaging Innovations Institute described new ways of “seeing” cancer.

Neurosurgeon Mark Souweidane, M.D., spoke about the importance of developing new forms of drug delivery and working with industry to be able to integrate research and technology into the operating room. His colleagues Susan Pannullo, M.D., and Michael Kaplitt, M.D., Ph.D., explained stereotactic radiosurgery and the use of ultrasound technology to poke holes in the blood-brain barrier.

“These are ways we can use novel non-invasive technologies that will put us as surgeons out of business, unfortunately, but will help heal the world,” Kaplitt said.

Gail Roboz, M.D., director of the Weill Cornell Leukemia Program, described immunotherapy, and in particular the use of CAR-T cells as an emerging therapy.

“The idea isn’t new, “Roboz said. “What’s new is that we can actually do it, we are able to finally do things that were Jetsons level before.”

“In 2016, we are at an amazing inflection point in cancer therapy,” added neurosurgeon Rohan Ramakrishna, M.D. “It’s one thing to say you want to accomplish big change in five years, it’s another to be able to do that.”

But he added that the time it takes to get discoveries from bench to bedside is still too long. We need to innovate, Ramakrishna said, and we need to incentivize high-risk research.

To read the full story [go]


Weill Cornell Medical College and Cellectis Announce Research Alliance Advancing Drug Discovery and the Translation of Novel Immunotherapies in Leukemia

Collaboration Will Focus on Improving Patient Outcomes in AML Using Targeted Cellular Therapy Developed by Cellectis

June 02, 2015 05:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Regulatory News:

“Cellectis has interesting preclinical data on UCART123 and our alliance will seek to build on these findings to better understand the clinical potential of this therapy. Our patients are anxiously awaiting the start of clinical trials.”

Weill Cornell Medical College and Cellectis have entered into a strategic translational research alliance to accelerate the development of a targeted immunotherapy for patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a deadly blood cancer. The alliance will foster the development of Cellectis’ lead product candidate in AML, called UCART123.

The collaboration combines Weill Cornell’s broad expertise and resources in translational stem cell science and developmental therapeutics with Cellectis’ work in development and manufacturing of gene edited CAR-T cell product candidates, a special kind of immune cell that includes an antibody-derived receptor. The research will be led by co-principal investigators Dr. Gail J. Roboz, director of the leukemia program and an associate professor of medicine at Weill Cornell, and Dr. Monica Guzman, an assistant professor of pharmacology in medicine at Weill Cornell. Dr. Roboz is an internationally recognized leader in the field of acute leukemia and will design and implement clinical testing of UCART123 in patients with AML. Dr. Guzman is a renowned leukemia stem cell biologist who specializes in preclinical and early-stage testing to optimize the development of stem cell-targeted cancer drugs.

The alliance will seek to accelerate the development of Cellectis’ UCART123 in AML. Cellectis’ proprietary allogeneic CAR T-cell platform utilizes T-cells (immune cells) from healthy donors. The T-cells are engineered with a Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR), which enables them to detect specific proteins (antigens) expressed on malignant tumors. Large numbers of allogeneic CAR-modified T-cells are grown in the laboratory and then infused into a patient. The enhanced cells are designed to recognize and attack stem cells harboring the CD123 antigen, which is present on AML blast and stem cells. To enhance safety and minimize toxicity for patients, the company’s gene-editing process features customized control properties that seek to prevent the T cells from inappropriately attacking healthy tissues. Cellectis hopes to develop a cost-effective, “off-the-shelf” allogeneic CAR T-cell product, designed for efficient storage and distribution to patients around the globe.

Cellectis in April opened a new research and development facility in New York City, located in close proximity to the Weill Cornell campus.

“We are pleased to collaborate with Cellectis to develop and advance next-generation treatments for patients with this devastating form of leukemia,” said Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. “Cellectis’ proficiency in genome engineering and our complementary expertise in translational research will help us realize our common goal of improving human health in New York and around the globe.”

“CAR-T cells have shown remarkable promise in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” Dr. Roboz said. “Cellectis has interesting preclinical data on UCART123 and our alliance will seek to build on these findings to better understand the clinical potential of this therapy. Our patients are anxiously awaiting the start of clinical trials.”

“Weill Cornell offers unsurpassed expertise in translational research, with a wealth of leading-edge technologies and resources to help advance our pipeline of unique CAR-T product candidates,” said Dr. Mathieu Simon, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Cellectis. “We are excited by the prospect of working with Dr. Roboz, Dr. Guzman and other premier investigators in leukemia stem cell research.”

Weill Cornell’s Office of BioPharma Alliances and Research Collaborations negotiated the three-year alliance. In the program’s pre-clinical phase, Weill Cornell researchers will perform multiple analyses, including data mining of primary AML samples, immune profiling of AML patients and in vitro evaluation of allogeneically derived anti-CD123 CAR-T cells. In the alliance’s second phase, Weill Cornell and Cellectis will jointly develop protocols to facilitate early-phase testing, including phase 1 clinical trials.

“Cellectis believes the CAR-T platform has the potential to transform the way cancer patients are treated. We are confident that our broad, cross-discipline collaboration with Weill Cornell will foster creativity and speed in drug development for the benefit of clinicians and patients living with AML,” said Dr. André Choulika, chief executive officer of Cellectis.

The mission of Weill Cornell’s Office of BioPharma Alliances and Research Collaborations is to proactively generate, structure and market translational research alliances with industry in order to advance promising research projects that have commercial potential. For more information, contact Larry Schlossman at las2041@med.cornell.edu or at 212-746-6909.

About Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University’s medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances—including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and most recently, the world’s first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with Houston Methodist. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.

About Cellectis

Cellectis is a preclinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing immunotherapies based on gene edited engineered CAR-T cells (UCART). The company’s mission is to develop a new generation of cancer therapies based on engineered T-cells. Cellectis capitalizes on its 15 years of expertise in genome engineering – based on its flagship TALEN® products and meganucleases and pioneering electroporation PulseAgile technology – to create a new generation of immunotherapies. CAR technologies are designed to target surface antigens expressed on cells. Using its life-science-focused, pioneering genome-engineering technologies, Cellectis’ goal is to create innovative products in multiple fields and with various target markets. Cellectis S.A. is listed on the Nasdaq Global Market (ticker: CLLS) and on the NYSE Alternext market (ticker: ALCLS). To find out more about us, visit our website: www.cellectis.com

Contacts

Media contacts
Weill Cornell Medical College
Sarah Smith, Director of Media Relations
Phone: 646-317-7401
email: sas2072@med.cornell.edu
or
Cellectis
Jennifer Moore, Director of Communications
Phone: 917-580-1088
email: media@cellectis.com
or
BMC Communications
Brad Miles
Phone: 646 513-3125
email: bmiles@bmccommunications.com
or
IR contact
Cellectis
Simon Harnest, VP Finance and Investor Relations
Phone: 646-385-9008
email: simon.harnest@cellectis.com


Dose Escalation and Cohort Expansion Study of TEN-010 in Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Myelodysplastic Syndrome

The Weill Cornell Leukemia Program has recently opened a new clinical trial for men and women who have been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) or Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS). The study sponsor is Tensha Therapeutics, Inc. and the principal investigator at Weill Cornell is Dr. Gail Roboz. For more information about the study, please call Tania Curcio, RN at (212) 746-2571 or e-mail tjc9003@med.cornell.edu.

Key Eligibility

  • Men and women age 18 and older with a confirmed diagnosis of AML or MDS
  • Previously treated with at least one prior therapy
  • Subjects with a history of allogeneic (from another person) stem cell transplant are eligible for study participation
  • Life expectancy of at least 2 months
  • Detailed eligibility reviewed when you contact the study team

Study Details

This is a Phase 1, non-randomized, open-label, multi-center study that utilizes the investigational study drug TEN-010. TEN-010 belongs to a group of drugs called bromodomain inhibitors.  Bromodomains are found in cancer cells and bromodomain inhibitors may have promise as a therapy for patients who have cancer.  Currently, there are no bromodomain inhibitors approved by the FDA for humans. Research in the laboratory has shown that TEN 010 kills cancer cells in different types of both blood cancers.

The study is conducted in two parts; Part A and Part B. In Part A, escalating doses of TEN-010 will be administered to patients to evaluate safety and side effects that may limit the amount of TEN-010 given to patients. One of the goals of Part A is to establish the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of TEN-010. Part B is an expansion study in which patients are treated at the MTD of TEN-010 to identify safety, tolerability, and how well the disease responds to treatment with TEN-010.

All subjects participating in this study will receive the study drug TEN-010 once daily. Subjects will be assigned to one of three different dose levels ranging from 0.06 mg/kg to 0.24 mg/kg .


Dr. Gail Roboz reviews existing and evolving approaches to the treatment of patients with AML for Medscape Education

Medscape AML Presentation  To view the entire presentation and slideshow, click here.


Dr. Gail Roboz Quoted in People Magazine

Dr. Gail Roboz was interviewed by People Magazine about bone marrow donation and transplant.  To read the article click here.


Dr. Gail Roboz appears on ABC’s 20/20

LOGO_2020logo_new0912  Leukemia Program Director, Gail Roboz, M.D. interviewed on ABC’s 20/20.  To watch the interview, click here.  To read the related article, click here.


Dr. Gail Roboz appears on Good Morning America

GMA Roundtable  To view the interview, click here.