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AACR Review - Observed Trends in Cancer Research

The 2024 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting was held in San Diego, California, April 5th - 10th. Although its topics range from in-vitro models and lab infrastructure to randomized phase III trials, the main focus are immediately pre-clinical/pre-IND studies and phase 1 trials, making this the meeting point for academic researchers, biotechs, investors and big-pharma. Some of the main topics of this year's meeting were:

Diversity is important, even in smaller trials.

There were multiple panels on diversity in clinical trials, with special interest on non-white and latin populations. It was also intersting to see thar many trials have already embraced the concept of diversity and have consistently reported on population ethnicity even in small, 20-patient trials.

Bruno Videira, Chief Business Officer at ODC present at AACR 2024

CAR-Ts will become more capable and easier to produce.

As expected, there are multiple CAR-Ts being tested against multiple targets, but the highlights were the new allogenic cellular therapies, that are not patient-specific and, therefore, can be provided off-the-shelf to patients.

Dr. Diogo Bugano, MD, Medical Director at ODC present at AACR 2024

The impact of artificial intelligence in drug development and clinical trial design.

AI, at its core, is based on making predictions/identifying patterns from large amounts of data. Some of the possible implications discussed are: automatic reading of pathology slides, to idetify biomarkers; evaluation of imaging to identify biomarkers, but also early predictors of response or toxicity; evaluation of large patient databases to define specific disease subgroups or to properly match patients with clinical trials; more efficient screen of new molecules based on their 3D structures.

ADCs are here to stay.

Antibody-drug-conjugates (ADCs) are a new type of targeted therapy and, as expected, its applications are still growing. In the pre-clinical phase, there are not only new molecules and new targets, but also companies that are able to link antibodies against any desired target to any chemotherapy for rapid pre-clinical studies. In the clinical side, novel anti-TROP2 agents have been showing activity against multiple tumor types. 

The age of single-agent immunotherapy is gone.

Anti-PD1/PD-L1 and anti-CTLA4 agents are already standard-of-care in multiple tumor types. New combinations are showing various signs of activity, but a special interest has been the new generation of cancer vaccines. Using RNA technology, it has been possible to make patient and tumor-specific vaccines to boost the effect of anti-PD1/PD-L1 agents.


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