Genentech Gears Up for ASCO, Pushing Data on Personalized Cancer Medicine

5/18/11Follow @xconomy

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that antibodies are Y-shaped genetically engineered proteins, with two arms, designed to bind specifically with a target found on cancer cells (and hopefully rarely found on any healthy cells).

In the case of certain forms of advanced lung cancer, scientists have been searching for a way to shut down the activity of a protein called MET. The big problem here, Bishop says, is that the way MET works, traditional two-arm antibodies that bind with it can get metabolized in a way that is thought to actually accelerate the activity of the biologic pathway—and make the cancer worse.

Since that’s probably not going to impress doctors or the FDA, Genentech’s engineers went to work on different protein structures that would shut down MET more effectively. That’s how they came up with a one-arm antibody.

The MET protein is thought to be a culprit in a number of cancers, but it’s particularly egregious in non-small cell lung cancer, Bishop says, so that’s where Genentech tested it first. The big study to watch at ASCO will be OAM4558G, highlighted in abstract #7505.

This trial was designed to enroll as many as 180 patients who were randomly assigned to get either a placebo or erlotinib (Tarceva) in tandem with MetMab. Importantly, researchers have been able to see that patients with MET mutations who got the MetMab did better than patients who low-level activity of MET, Bishop says.

“There’s some neat engineering here,” Bishop says.

Those are the big programs to watch, although Genentech will have plenty more to say, with more than 300 abstracts coming out online today about 30 different tumor types. There won’t be any major data presentations at this year’s meeting on a couple of Genentech’s high-profile antibody programs that we’ve covered here before—T-DM1 and pertuzumab.

For people who want more information on those drug programs for breast cancer, you’ll all just have to sit tight, and perhaps wait for another future ASCO. As Bishop says, everyone wants immediate results, but this cancer drug business takes time.

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