June 12, 2024
5 mins

It’s a wrap on ASCO 2024

Key highlights and takeaways from Owkin’s team at ASCO

The theme for this year's ASCO meeting, “The Art and Science of Cancer Care,” was selected by ASCO President Lynn M. Schuchter, MD, Chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania. During her inspiring opening session, Pr. Schuchter reminded us that ASCO has made reducing the global burden of cancer a priority, from comfort to cure. 

We were especially pleased to hear Pr. Schuchter highlight the use of Artificial Intelligence in selecting the best treatment for individual patients – which is our focus at Owkin. As we continue to fight cancer, “let us embrace AI as a new tool” Pr. Schuchter advised. 

Owkin was among the 44,000 oncology professionals worldwide gathered for last week's 60th edition of the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting. We were present with a solid team to meet partners and present our latest AI-driven solutions powered by multimodal patient data from our network of over 60 leading research centers. 

This year marks an exciting moment for us: We unveiled our drug pipeline in oncology and immunology, including an exclusive global licensing agreement with Idorsia to develop and commercialize OKN4395, a clinic-ready, best-in-class dual inhibitor of prostanoid receptors EP2 and EP4. Additionally, we presented a poster on our PHAROS study, in collaboration with Janssen, to understand the disease pathway of patients with high-risk localized and locally advanced prostate cancer who are receiving radical treatment. 

Here are the highlights from ASCO, as shared by myself and our Head of Biomedical Discovery, Elodie Pronier. We begin with the Antibody-Drug Conjugates sessions, where biomarkers, resistance, and toxicity continue to be key topics.

The role of payload and antibody in predicting resistance to ADCs

Patricia LoRusso, DO, Associate Center Director for Innovative Medicine at the Yale Cancer Center, discussed how we often think of ADCs as a single compound. Still, they have multiple components, making understanding resistance mechanisms very complex. In fact, resistance may be patient/tumor-specific and may have multiple mechanisms for the same ADC. 

Pr. LoRusso mentioned that a key challenge with ADCs is their relatively narrow therapeutic window, which limits the dose levels that can be safely delivered. She emphasized the need for careful evaluation of dose optimization to achieve the best benefit/risk ratio, concluding by highlighting the potential of combination therapies to maximize the therapeutic benefit of ADCs and overcome resistance. However, she also pointed out the challenge of determining the optimal timing for implementing these combination strategies, making pursuing novel drug development and clinical trials highly important.

Dynamic evaluation of biomarkers in patients treated with ADCs

In his talk, Pr. Emil Lou, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation at the University of Minnesota, focused on the heterogeneity and dynamic nature of targets for ADCs. 

He mentioned the need to analyze the basic cell and molecular biology of tumors and ADC targets in tandem to understand how to optimize treatment efficacy and how to monitor this efficacy over time. Because of the dynamic nature of ADC targets, in addition to identifying appropriate ADC-targeting biomarkers at baseline, capturing and monitoring biomarker changes in real-time will be critical in selecting patients for ADC treatment and thus improving efficacy. The technology is there - liquid biopsies, spatial genomics or molecular imaging present novel opportunities for quantifying ADC treatment success - but understanding how to deploy it and how to interpret it are still central questions.

The rise of oncology vaccines

Vaccines aren't just for preventing infectious diseases anymore—they're also carving out a crucial role in cancer prevention. From the proven success of HPV vaccines in preventing cervical cancer to exciting new efforts in cancer prophylaxis, vaccines are making waves. The big questions now are how to improve access to these life-saving shots and explore novel targets, like those in Lynch syndrome, to prevent cancer from developing. These strides could eventually lead to vaccines that not only prevent but also cure cancer.

Breaking new ground with innovative drug modalities

The quest to drug the "undruggable" is gaining momentum with cutting-edge approaches like protein glues, chemical proteomics, and PROTACs (Proteolysis targeting chimeras). These techniques are opening up a new world of targets for drug development, including notoriously difficult ones like transcription factors. The future looks incredibly promising as we explore these new frontiers in cancer treatment.

More generally, many sessions highlighted the need to identify biomarkers of response, resistance, and toxicity to guide treatment optimization. What everyone agreed on is that one size does not fit all. Many emphasized the importance of integrating spatial omics technologies for recognizing and proactively assessing intra- and inter-tumor heterogeneity. Lastly, most recognized the need for data, not just data but “good data” - as highlighted by Maryellen Giger, Professor at the University of Chicago, in her talk on using AI to improve cancer detection - and the lack of high-quality datasets. 

At Owkin, we are excited to tackle these challenges, and we believe that starting from high-quality multimodal patient data is critical to enabling precision oncology. This is why we have launched the MOSAIC initiative: we are creating the largest multi-omic dataset in oncology that incorporates spatial transcriptomics and single-cell modalities, together with bulkRNAseq, WES, H&E, and clinical data. More than 700 patients have been included so far, and we plan to reach 5,000 by 2025. Combining our AI expertise with this high-quality dataset and the possibility to zoom into the tumor microenvironment will allow us to discover novel targets, identify patient subgroups and the best biomarkers to characterize these subgroups. In particular, MOSAIC can help us understand resistance mechanisms to ADCs.

Indeed, one size definitely does not fit all, and at Owkin, we are committed to finding the right treatment for every patient.

We look forward to reconnecting at ESMO 2024 in Barcelona next September!

Ariane Peyret, Owkin's Discovery Solutions Manager, Pharma BD

Dive deeper into our key learnings with our ASCO wrap up video.

Ariane Peyret
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It’s a wrap on ASCO 2024

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