I attend a handful of conferences each year to stay up to date on trends in cancer research, and ASCO’s annual event is the one I look forward to the most. This massive meeting of global oncology experts and business leaders offers an incredible opportunity to connect with peers, hear about new research, and to find new opportunities to collaborate on new projects. However, this event is more than just a social network. It is a groundbreaking forum, where researchers from across the industry share the latest updates on their work, celebrate their successes, and talk about the lessons they’ve learned when their research didn’t pan out. While we all keep track of these advances through news reports and published papers, listening to their presentations and visiting their booths provides a chance to put it all into perspective.
Unlike many other industry events, ASCO is rooted firmly in the science. Every session, poster, and networking opportunity focuses on the scientific progress being made in our industry, and every one of the roughly 40,000 global participants is there to learn and exchange information.
Progress in combination therapies
Every year I learn something new about the work being done in oncology research, and this year will be no exception. ASCO’s 2018 event, held in Chicago the first week of June, will offer sessions on a variety of research trends and issues that touch on the work we do, including CAR-T therapy, Precision Medicine, and the need to balance innovation and value in oncology care. Of particular interest are the several sessions dedicated to trends in combination therapies, which is a topic of particular interest to me and our teams at IQVIA. These include Friday’s educational session, “Rational Combinations with an Immuno-Oncology Backbone,” which features several experts discussing trends on combining immunotherapies and novel checkpoint/targeted therapy combinations; and the poster session on Developmental Therapeutics in Immunotherapy.
Trials exploring immune modulating combination therapies for cancer treatment have gained considerable attention – and funding – in recent years as industry organizations seek out combinations of treatments that together accelerate their antitumor impact.
This area of research has elicited exciting successes as well as some surprising disappointments. For example, in 2017, several research teams published papers on combination therapies where classic chemotherapy agents induce immunological effects rendering tumors immunogenic and responsive to immunotherapy modulators. However, certain combinations of immunomodulators have also been found to generate unexpected autoimmune syndromes, which may interfere with desired immunomodulatory effects in ways not seen in animal models. Such outcomes have been gaining more attention in the past year, driving this research in new directions.
A particularly interesting approach is one that includes using real-world data to identify the best potential therapies for combinations. With so many potential pairings out there, using real world patient data to identify combinations with the most promise could help us accelerate progress in this space and deliver exciting new treatment solutions to market. Our ability to tap vast data sets using leading edge analytics capabilities is advancing the conversation and creating ways to make better decisions about problems that vex the industry.
Human Data Science for therapy development
The experts at IQVIA are uniquely positioned to touch every aspect of clinical research, from advising protocol design, to designing late phase research, to leading commercialization efforts as products come to market and to supporting marketed products. IQVIA experts lead the way in providing this support. ASCO offers a superlative opportunity to meet with program leaders and participants and to help with supporting them. Wherever a team may be in their research journey, we look forward to talking with them at ASCO about how we can help.
More about Dr. Eric Groves
Dr. Eric Groves is Vice President of Strategic Drug Development for R&D Solutions at IQVIA. He is Board Certified in oncology and internal medicine, and has 29+ years of experience in drug development as corporate officer/senior manager, clinician and researcher. He provides drug development guidance to a wide variety of clients both small biotech and large pharma, and has held leadership roles in development partnerships with Eisai, AstraZeneca, Merck-Serono, and Baxalta focusing on oncology and for Novartis on bone and muscle building agents.