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Is 2017 set to be the year we see a CAR-T therapy approved? Let’s find out from the leaders in the field

Using your body’s own cells, engineering them to target tumors and cure cancer sounds like something from a Sci-Fi movie but it’s not, it’s happening right now! CAR-T and TCR therapies have taken the immuno-oncology/cancer therapeutics space by storm. Boasting strong 5+ year efficacy they are being hailed the 5th pillar of frontline cancer treatment.

Given this, CAR-TCR therapies have seen a whirlwind few years with 2017 set to be the year a CAR-T therapy is approved.

On a mission to find out what the future holds, we sat down with Hans Bishop, CEO, Juno; André Choulika CEO, Cellectis; Laurence Cooper CEO, ZIOPHARM and David Chang, CMO, Kite Pharma to talk shop.

What are you most excited about in the CAR-TCR space right now?

“Most exciting right now is seeing great data from Blue, Kite, Novartis, Nanging and Juno. The field now has great clinical data in 2 different diseases, showing us that CAR-T’s are now poised to change the standard of care in 2 different clinical settings with high unmet need.” – H.Bishop

“We are most excited that CAR-T therapies are now transitioning to new targets, BCMA or CD123.” – A.Choulika

“My top would be the Commercialization of CD19-specific CARs, TCR targeting neoantigens and combining CAR and TCR with cytokine signaling.” – L.Cooper

“We are most excited about witnessing anti-CD19 CAR-T therapy potentially becoming an FDA approved therapy available outside clinical trials.” – D.Chang

It’s so great to see CAR-T and TCR therapies blazing a trail for cell and gene immunotherapies. We all know hindsight is a great thing. If you could go back to the start of your journey in the CAR-TCR space, what piece of advice would you give your past self?

“Personally, hindsight is not a concept that is very helpful in navigating novel science, which is a forward-looking endeavor. What has always been important, and is still the case, is to deepen our biological understanding of what product characteristics contribute to response or relapse or toxicity.” - H.Bishop

“…it would have been to work on process development, this is very important and to think out of the box for clinical trials…” – A.Choulika

“Putting more R&D resources into next-generation technologies would have been good advice.” – D.Chang

If I were to put a crystal ball in front of you now what would your top predictions for the future of the CAR-TCR space be?

We predict that gene edited allogeneic CAR therapies will expand and take off. We believe the future is in combination therapies, CAR/TCR and various other drugs” – A.Choulika

“…the cost of T-cell therapy will need to be reduced and control of T cells after infusion will need to be implemented…” - L.Cooper

“We definitely predict that a breakthrough will occur in the solid tumor space with neoantigen directed cellular therapy. We also believe CAR-TCR therapy will become simpler and safer and made available outside specialized centers and ultimately advanced/metastatic cancers will become a curable disease.” - D.Chang

There is a lot of excitement in the field! As the CAR-TCR space matures, we are seeing some novel candidates emerging to tackle clinical efficacy in solid tumor indications. This combined with the pending FDA approvals shows that the industry is evolving into the future of cancer therapies. And, according to the leaders themselves, the future of CAR-TCR therapies is one that can be cheaply, safely and simply implemented outside specialized cancer centers.It is clear that driving R&D, biological understanding, and working on process development are key challenges that will frame the commercial success of CAR-TCR Therapies. Ensuring these are developed and invested in will help any company, at any stage of development.

The CAR-TCR space is a rapidly progressing field which is evolving almost daily, so identifying the state of the industry and ensuring all the stakeholders can collectively bring CAR-TCR therapies to market is paramount. The above leaders will be discussing their strategies, plans and future predictions at the upcoming CAR-TCR Summit in Boston, so to close off the interview, we  asked them what they are most looking forward to at the meeting:

“Having had the opportunity to be at the CAR-TCR Summit last year, we are really looking forward to learning more about the latest advances in CAR-TCR based therapies as well as watching how the field has grown and continues to grow” - D.Chang

“We can’t wait for the exchange and debate about clinical trial design and CAR-T administration” – A.Choulika

“…to build collaborations and discover new ideas…” - L.Cooper

“It is a great opportunity to catch up on the state of the nation for the CAR-TCR field.” - H.Bishop

If that’s anything to go by, there’s more exciting things to come from this field…

If you are interested in finding out more information, or seeing this year’s stellar speaker line up and agenda, go to: www.car-tcr-summit.com.

Author: Shaksita Desai, Brand Director & Senior Program Director, Cell & Viral Immunotherapies

This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.