Immuno-Oncology Studies: Optimizing Design, Recruitment and Execution

The rise of immunotherapy has been meteoric — there are now well more than 1,000 Purple DNA Strandimmuno-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

Can We Expand Companion Diagnostics Beyond Oncology?

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

Investing in the Future of Precision Medicine

In previous posts on this blog, our scientists have described the current state of precision medicine, particularly how it relates to companion diagnostics (CDx) and immuno-oncology. As an enterprise, we have been focused on this area of medicine essentially from the beginning, more than 20 years ago. LabCorp Diagnostics developed the clinical trials assay and served as the central lab for the testing of HER2-positive breast cancer during the development of trastuzumab. The company provided analytical testing data for the associated immunohistochemistry laboratory test resulting in the first companion diagnostic approved by the FDA. More recently, Covance was instrumental in supporting the drug development efforts for pembrolizumab, the therapy used successfully to treat former President Jimmy Carter’s melanoma, and its associated companion diagnostic. Continue reading

Precision Medicine in Immuno-Oncology

The NIH defines precision medicine as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person1.” In cancer patients, we can rephrase the definition to “through detailed understanding of a cancer’s biology, providing the right drug, for the right patient, at the right time.” Covance CRO Labs Blog

In order to identify the correct drug, biomarkers are used to identify patients that can be treated with the appropriate therapy for their cancer. The FDA defines biomarkers as “a defined characteristic that is measured as an indicator of normal biological processes, pathogenic processes, or responses to an exposure or intervention, including therapeutic interventions2.” Great strides have been made in the discovery and validation of biomarkers in drug development. Continue reading

The Shift Toward More-Personalized Medicine in China

image of a world map with pills placed on top. Topic: Personalized Medicine in China

Chinese biopharmaceuticals are expanding development beyond generics to focus on producing more personalized medicine, novel therapies, biomarkers and companion diagnostics. Steven Anderson, PhD, chief scientific officer at Covance, recently discussed his thoughts on biomarkers and precision medicine in China’s drug development and translational medicine landscape.

An emerging focus on biomarkers

“Efficacy of a drug therapy can vary widely and adverse effects can be common, but these parameters are not easily predicted,” explained Anderson. “That’s why biomarker-based, targeted treatments can guide therapy decision-making and better identify those individuals most likely to benefit.”

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Choosing the Best Pathway for CDx Development and Commercialization

Drug developers are increasingly incorporating a CDx development (companion diagnostic) strategy into their programs to deliver safer, more effective and appropriate therapies to the right patients. While the end result can be significantly beneficial forCovance Labs CDx Drug Development and Commercialization patients, and development partners, the path from analytical and clinical validation to demonstrating clinical utility and obtaining regulatory approval is often challenging. It requires a comprehensive understanding of clinical trial design, regulatory submission strategies both for the therapy and the diagnostic assay, and also a line of sight for successful commercialization. Continue reading

New Potentials in the Journey Ahead for Companion Diagnostics

Companion diagnostics are evolving quickly as novel technologies emerge and new drug Covance Companion Diagnostics Drug Development Journeytargets appear. Dr. Mark Roberts, Director of Diagnostics Development, recently shared his thoughts on the industry trends ahead of the World CDx Boston 2015.

How much progress has been made in the area of companion diagnostics? Continue reading

Companion Diagnostics | CDx: New Engine in a Classic Car

Covance Blog CDx

Companion Diagnostics: The New Engine
Companion diagnostics’ impact on pharmaceutical development is like dropping a new engine into a classic car. Faster speed. Better performance. More efficiency. Companion diagnostics is changing the way we develop, test and market new therapies—with full-throttle power.

Today, we often have the ability to test a patient to see what drugs will work—or not work—and watch for mutations and triggers down the road. But back up a bit: we can also design drug trials to include subjects with the correct biomarkers for the treatment. And back up a bit more: we can develop drugs and biomarker tests together for the most effective combinations of disease targets, drugs and patients.  Continue reading

Creating your Biomarker Strategy from Discovery to Development

Biomarker strategy - graphic of molecules bunched together.
In the effort to reduce attrition rates and improve approval rates of new molecular entities by regulatory agencies, there’s no doubt that biomarkers can make a big impact. But it’s not as simple as tacking on additional studies. Biomarker development requires an insightful strategy and consideration of specific opportunities and needs throughout the drug development pipeline.

A quality biomarker starts at the source—the sample itself. Sample collection and handling protocols must be standardized to specify the minimum volume requirement in the proper container along with the most optimal temperature during transportation and storage. These requirements should be backed and driven by validated processes. To further ensure biomarker stability, it’s equally critical to include the maximum allowed time in transportation. Continue reading

Understanding the Clinical Impact of Having a Companion Diagnostics Strategy

Understanding the Clinical Impact of Having a Companion Diagnostics Strategy

As the pace of companion diagnostic innovation continues to accelerate, the drug development industry faces several headwinds. Numerous patent ‘cliffs’ are affecting the sales of blockbuster drugs; competition is increasing for a limited clinical trial population in increasingly global trials; and health outcomes pressures from patients, payers and healthcare providers are transforming the drug development process.

Over the past 10 years, advances in analytical technologies have provided new tools to identify patients who are more likely to positively respond to a certain drug or, conversely, experience a negative reaction to the particular therapy. These tools, known as companion diagnostics, are laboratory tests for biomarkers that, once commercialized, are designed to be an accompaniment to the safe and effective use of a particular therapy. Continue reading