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The drug companies engineering T-cells to recognize and kill cancer, otherwise known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, or CAR-Ts, will be busy at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in June. Investors, however, won't find much new CAR-T data in the ASCO research abstracts released Wednesday night.

Bluebird Bio (BLUE) - Get bluebird bio, Inc. Report , Juno Therapeutics (JUNO) and Kite Pharma (KITE) submitted placeholder abstracts that largely rehash old data, choosing to wait for the actual meeting to provide significant updates.

Novartis' (NVS) - Get Novartis AG Report CAR-T unit is sidestepping ASCO and will instead use the International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma (ICML) later in June to present the highly anticipated results from the JULIET study of CTL019 in patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

The ASCO abstract describing the Bluebird CAR-T known as BB2121 rehashes multiple myeloma data presented last October. Updated results from the BB2121 clinical trial -- more patients and longer follow up, are being presented at the ASCO meeting on June 5. Bluebird is developing BB2121 in partnership with Celgene (CELG) - Get Celgene Corporation Report .

Juno last presented in December an update on its JCAR017 TRANSCEND study in non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Wednesday's ASCO abstract doesn't shed new light on the JCAR017. New data were preserved for presentation at the actual ASCO meeting, Juno said. JCAR017 is co-owned by Celgene.

Kite is waiting for the FDA to render an approval decision on KTE-C19 (axi-cel) in relapsed/refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma, based on data from the ZUMA-1 study. At ASCO, Kite will be updating results from the ZUMA-3 study of KTE-C19 in adults with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (R/R ALL). Wednesday night's ASCO abstract contains data last seen in December.

One more intriguing abstract of note: Nanjing Legend Biotech, a Chinese drug company, snagged a late-breaker abstract and presentation for an anti-BCMA CAR-T targeting multiple myeloma. This is the same cancer-killing target and tumor type that Bluebird and Celgene are pursuing with BB2121. ASCO keeps late-breaker abstracts under wraps until the start of the meeting.

Here are the relevant ASCO abstracts released tonight:

Abstract #7513 (Juno Therapeutics)

CR rates in relapsed/refractory (R/R) aggressive B-NHL treated with the CD19-directed CAR T-cell product JCAR017 (TRANSCEND NHL 001).

Background: JCAR017 is a second-generation, CD19-directed, 4-1BB CAR T cell product comprising CD8 and CD4 CAR T cells in a 1:1 ratio. A multicenter phase 1 trial of JCAR017 in R/R B-cell NHL (NCT02631044) is underway. Methods: Patients with R/R DLBCL, PMBCL, FL grade 3B, or MCL and adequate organ function are eligible. There was no minimum ALC requirement for apheresis; no test expansion was required. Treatment includes lymphodepletion with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, followed by JCAR017. Multiple dose levels (DLs)/administration schedules of JCAR017 are being evaluated. Study objectives include safety, PK, and antitumor response. Results: As of November 23, 2016, 28 patients have been treated and are evaluable for safety and efficacy. Nineteen were male, 9 female; 25 DLBCL, 2 MCL, and 1 FL grade 3B. Median age was 63 years (range 37-79), median number of prior therapies was 4 (range 1-8), 23 (82%) were refractory to their last chemotherapy, and 16 (57%) had prior transplant. No severe cytokine release syndrome (sCRS) was observed; 10 patients had grade 1-2 CRS (1 received tocilizumab). Five patients developed neurotoxicity, including 4 grade 3-4; all events resolved in the 4 patients who had adequate follow up. Median onset of CRS and neurotoxicity were 5 and 11 days, respectively. Four deaths after disease progression occurred, none related to JCAR017. In 20 patients treated at DL1 (5107 cells), the RR was 80% with 60% achieving CR. One patient with secondary CNS involvement achieved CR without neurotoxicity. JCAR017 was detected at 3 and 6 months in responding patients, including some who relapsed; higher mean peak levels were detected in patients with durable response at 3 months.. Conclusions: Treatment with JCAR017 results in high CR rate in patients with heavily pretreated R/R DLBCL. Relapses can occur despite persistence of JCAR017, suggesting tumor immune evasion mechanisms may contribute to relapse. Observed toxicities are manageable and occurred at rates lower than those reported for other CD19-directed CAR T cell products.

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Abstract #3010 Bluebird, Celgene

First-in-human multicenter study of bb2121 anti-BCMA CAR T-cell therapy for relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma: Updated results.

Background: To test the safety and efficacy of the CAR T cell modality in relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma (MM), we have designed a second-generation CAR construct targeting B cell maturation antigen (BCMA) to redirect T cells to MM. bb2121 consists of autologous T cells transduced with a lentiviral vector encoding a novel CAR incorporating an anti-BCMA scFv, a 4-1BB costimulatory motif and a CD3-zeta T cell activation domain. We will report updated safety and efficacy following initial results (Berdeja et al, ENA 2016). Methods: CRB-401 (NCT02658929) is a multi-center phase 1 dose escalation trial of bb2121 in patients with relapsed and/or refractory MM who have received ≥ 3 prior regimens, including a proteasome inhibitor and an immunomodulatory agent, or are double-refractory, and have ≥ 50% BCMA expression on plasma cells. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells are collected via leukapheresis. Patients undergo lymphodepletion with Flu (30 mg/m2) / Cy (300 mg/m2) daily for 3 days then receive 1 infusion of bb2121. The study follows a standard 3+3 design with planned dose levels of 5, 15, 45, 80 and 120 x 107 CAR+ T cells. Results: As of November 18, 2016, 11 patients had been infused with bb2121 in the first 4 dose cohorts, and 9 patients had reached at least 1 month of follow-up. As of data cut-off, no dose-limiting toxicities and no > Grade 2 neurotoxicities or cytokine release syndrome (CRS) had been observed. Grade 1-2 CRS had been reported in 8/11 (73%) treated patients. All patients treated with doses of 15.0 x 107or higher remained on study and the overall response rate (ORR) in the 6 evaluable patients at these doses was 100%, including 2 sCRs and 2 MRD-negative responses (1 sC, 1 VGPR). CAR+ T cell expansion has been demonstrated consistently. An additional 6 months of follow up on previously reported results and initial data from an additional ~10 patients will be presented. Conclusions: bb2121 shows promising efficacy at dose levels above 5 x 107 CAR+ T cells, including 2 sCRs and ongoing clinical responses at 6 months, with mild and manageable CRS to date. These initial data support the potential of CAR T therapy with bb2121 as a new treatment paradigm in MM. Study sponsored by bluebird bio.

Abstract #3024 Kite Pharma

Updated results from ZUMA-3, a phase 1/2 study of KTE-C19 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, in adults with high-burden relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (R/R ALL).

Background: Promising results have been observed with KTE-C19, an anti-CD19 CAR T cell therapy, in refractory aggressive NHL in the ZUMA-1 trial (Blood 2016;128:LBA-6). We present here updated results from the ZUMA-3 phase 1 trial of KTE-C19 in adult patients (pts) with R/R ALL. Methods: Adult (≥18 y) pts with R/R ALL (Ph+ eligible), ≥25% bone marrow (BM) blasts, adequate organ function and ECOG status 0-1 received 1 or 2106 CAR T cells/kg after conditioning with cyclophosphamide + fludarabine. Phase 1 primary endpoint is incidence of dose-limiting toxicity (DLT). Secondary endpoints include efficacy outcomes and biomarker associations. Results: As of Nov 1, 2016, 11 pts were enrolled; 10 received KTE-C19. One pt had a serious adverse event (SAE) prior to dosing and was not treated. KTE-C19 was successfully manufactured in all pts across a broad range of baseline absolute lymphocyte counts in 6 days in a centralized facility, with an approximate 2-week turnaround time. Pts were 60% men with 1-4 prior lines of therapy and high disease burden (median, 70% BM blasts). No pt (0/3) experienced a DLT at the 2106 dose. Phase 1 was expanded to 6 pts at the same dose; 1 grade (Gr) 5 AE (multiorgan failure due to cytokine release syndrome [CRS]) was observed. Subsequent pts (4) received 1106CAR T cells/kg. Overall, the most common Gr≥3 AEs were cytopenias (80%), febrile neutropenia (50%), pyrexia (40%), and transaminitis (40%). Gr≥3 CRS and neurologic events (NEs) were reported in 20% and 40% of pts, respectively. Cerebral edema was not observed. All CRS (except Gr5) and 5 of 6 NEs (1 Gr3 ongoing at cut-off) resolved. Of the 8 efficacy evaluable pts, 6 achieved an MRD-negative (MRD-) complete response (CR, or CR + partial or incomplete hematopoietic recovery). Updated results will include additional pt follow-up and biomarker data. Conclusions: No DLTs were observed with KTE-C19 in adult pts with high BM disease burden; one pt had G5 CRS after the DLT cohort. Manufacturing was successful in all pts; most pts achieved an MRD- CR. Based on these results, ZUMA-3 continues to enroll pts with additional measures implemented to further enhance safety.

Abstract #LBA3001 Nanjing Legend Biotech

Durable remissions with BCMA-specific chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cells in patients with refractory/relapsed multiple myeloma.

[Text of abstract not yet available.]

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