The rise of immunotherapy has been meteoric — there are now well more than 1,000 immuno-oncology (IO) trials ongoing according to clinicaltrials.gov. Finding and enrolling the appropriate patients for these potentially revolutionary treatments has presented a profound challenge, one that was recently covered in the aptly titled New York Times article: A Cancer Conundrum: Too Many Drug Trials, Too Few Patients. Another piece of the puzzle is clinical trial design, which can be especially elaborate when testing combination treatments in IO. Exacerbating these issues, IO trials are an increasingly competitive race to market. There is great value assigned to reducing development times and being the first drug approved within a class or for a specific indication.
This blog article discusses the current state of immuno-oncology studies, strategies for enhancing patient recruitment, the role of companion diagnostics and solutions for dealing with the complexity of IO combination studies. Continue reading
The majority of today’s approved companion (and complementary) diagnostics (CDx) support personalized medicine efforts in oncology, a testament to researchers’ growing knowledge regarding the genetic pathways impacted in various cancers. That understanding increases our ability to convert such knowledge of biology into treatments that specifically target disease based on a tumor’s genetic makeup. This has led to significantly improved outcomes for many patients.
But can we leverage the knowledge of the biology of other disease states along with the appropriate technical progress into successful CDx expansion beyond oncology? Given that nearly 50% of all compounds in clinical development are dropped for lack of efficacy, CDx may represent a viable approach to improve this statistic and boost the efficiency of drug development efforts. Promising clinical areas where CDx may play an important role include immunology, rare and orphan diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading
Following the rebrand and restructure of the Chinese regulatory body, the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), in 2013, the regulation process now includes inspections for all multi-national and local pharmaceutical companies with drug filings in China.
As a continued commitment to meet clients’ needs and conform to local Chinese regulations, the Covance Central Laboratory Services Shanghai team (Covance CLS Shanghai) provides guidance to our clients to navigate CFDA inspections. Backed by more than 10 years of experience in China, the Covance CLS Shanghai team delivers a deeper understanding of CFDA regulatory and operational requirements and helps clients with a standardized process and corresponding documentation.
When it comes to novel drug discovery and development, flow cytometry is known for being both a powerful and versatile technology. It can deliver valuable information to advance early biomarker development, tolerability, clinical studies and even companion diagnostics. But leveraging flow cytometry technologies to answer analytical questions and empower decision making from the research lab to the clinic requires a deep knowledge of cutting-edge approaches.
Virginia Litwin, PhD, principal scientist, hematology/flow cytometry at Covance and her team are examining current trends in rare event analyses assays to ensure that performance is well characterized and fit-for-purpose – particularly in regulated environments. They are also addressing the various hurdles associated with analyzing cellular biomarkers for immunotherapy and adoptive cell therapy. Continue reading
Over the past several years, the scientific community has made tremendous progress in advancing our understanding of the immune system, from the basic functions of its various components to molecular pathways that operate within those components. With new, state-of-the-art tools and technologies, immunologists now have the ability to better understand the mechanisms of immune response to various antigens, thereby aiding them in the development of novel approaches to treat immune-system-related diseases and better design vaccines to combat infectious agents and cancer.
Currently, one of the most sensitive techniques available for the detection, measurement, and functional analysis of immune cells is the enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay. Covance uses the ELISPOT technique in applications such as evaluation of vaccine efficacy and immunogenicity of biological products.
A recent study by Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, based on a survey of 2,000 physicians and nurses primarily in the United States and Europe, found that 91% of physicians feel ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ comfortable discussing the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial with patients, but actually refer less than 0.2% of their patients into clinical trials.1 In conjunction, more than 80% of patients say they are willing to participate in clinical research studies, but only around 10% actually do so.2 It is further reported that while 85% of patients are generally comfortable presenting any clinical research information they find to their doctor, only 17% have actually done so.3 And what of those patients that are interested in participating in a clinical study only to find they are ineligible? When queried on next steps after finding out he/she did not qualify, 36% stopped looking for a clinical research study to participate in.3 This latter fact is a staggering waste of potential when you consider that there are currently >130 planned or ongoing industry-sponsored Phase II-III rheumatoid arthritis (RA) studies to choose from (>210 when you consider any type of study sponsor).4
Biopharmaceutical companies both big and small have witnessed the shift toward patient-centric practices in the current healthcare landscape. As a result, many are now including or planning to incorporate the voice of the patient in their drug development strategy.
How do clinical research organizations (CROs) respond and support this increasing focus on patient-centric practices? We recently spoke to Jonathan Zung, PhD, group president, clinical development and commercialization services at Covance to understand his view on the patient centricity imperative and how it impacts clinical development activities.
Clinical trials are becoming increasingly complex and competitive, so attracting the best investigator sites to participate in a trial is a crucial step in meeting patient enrollment targets.
Delaying approval by even one day can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, depending on the drug. This means that timely trial implementation, including patient enrollment, may add significant value.
Meeting patient enrollment milestones in cooperation with investigators has traditionally been viewed as the responsibility of the contract research organization (CRO). Now, important new data show that a sponsor’s choice of a central lab impacts the willingness of investigators to work with a sponsor on clinical trials. Continue reading
Overcoming Design Challenges
ICH E14 REGULATORY GUIDANCE 2005 AND 2015
It has been one year since the International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) updated its 2005 cardiac safety guidelines. The 2015 update allows for specific QT interval analysis based upon concentration effect modeling up to supratherapeutic during Phase I as a reasonable substitute for a Thorough-QT (TQT) dedicated trial. These Phase I data along with preclinical results are submitted to the FDA prior to Phase III as a waiver request from a separate TQT study. This is good news! A dedicated TQT study involving time-wise comparisons of baseline corrected data is an expensive and lengthy endeavor. It typically takes place after proof of concept but before Phase III. Collection of QT information during an existing Phase I study costs substantially less and can provide go/no-go decisions much earlier. Continue reading
Whether large or small, vaccine studies differ from standard drug development in many ways. Sarah Slette, Sr. Study Manager, Vaccines & Novel Immunotherapeutics at Covance, explains the unique challenges her team faces and their solutions to rapidly deliver customized vaccine kits to sponsors’ sites across the globe.