China, R&D

Nanjing Legend wows ASCO researchers with early data on a BCMA-targeted CAR-T contender

China’s Nanjing Legend Biotech is a virtual unknown in the CAR-T field. But it gained marquee status at ASCO today with stellar early multiple myeloma data on a drug targeted at B-cell maturation protein, or BCMA.

Among 35 relapsed, drug-resistant patients, 33 — 94% — demonstrated clinical remission ranging from a complete to a partial response. There was a 100% objective response rate, according to investigators.

The investigators also flagged some promising signs of durability.

Of the first 19 patients to reach the four-month mark specified in the trial, a remarkable 14 achieved a “stringent” complete response (sCR), which is associated with longer survival times. And 5 patients who hit the one-year mark were still in the sCR stage.

Xiaohu (Frank) Fan

Looking past the CD19 biomarker, BCMA offers one of the most promising targets in CAR-T. And this is, to date, the largest patient group yet reported on. There are, however, some significant caveats to point out. Its BCMA rival bluebird bio points out that these patients evidently weren’t as sick as the ones they treated, with fewer earlier drug failures.

But you can be sure that there will be plenty of analysts pouring over the data today to start calculating how the leaders all line up.

The same safety issues that have plagued investigators for years now were evident in the study. 85% of the patients in the study experienced cytokine release syndrome, with two experiencing a grade 3 case that required Actemra to tamp down on the inflammatory response. All those patients recovered.

And no matter who is doing the work, CAR-T appears to be more promising than ever for this group of patients.

“While it’s still early, these data are a strong sign that CAR T-cell therapy can send multiple myeloma into remission,” said ASCO Expert Michael S. Sabel in a statement. “It’s rare to see such high response rates, especially for a hard-to-treat cancer. This serves as proof that immunotherapy and precision medicine research pays off. We hope that future research builds on this success in multiple myeloma and other cancers.”

Pictured: Nanjing, China on April 27th, 2017 / Shutterstock

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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