Expanding faster than the largest supernova, cancer biomarker development has become the priority of every single public and private entity performing cancer research nowadays. Evidence of this expansion comes in the form of multiple scientific conferences covering the topic. One of these conferences, IQPC’s “Oncology Biomarkers,” took place in Philadelphia late last year. Attendees discussed topics ranging from biomarker discovery to companion diagnostics.
Ann Kapoun, Ph.D., director of translational medicine at OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, described OncoMed’s approach to targeting cancer stem cells using the first drug in its pipeline, an antibody raised against DLL4—a ligand of Notch signaling that signals stem cell self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation.
Dr. Kapoun also revealed OncoMed’s cancer biomarker strategy, specifically how “we use these models to develop pharmacodynamic markers, predictive biomarkers, as well as gene signatures that potentially can be used as cancer stem cell biomarkers.”
OncoMed essentially performs preclinical studies in its own cancer xenograft tumor models to identify and develop biomarkers that could be integrated and translated into early clinical trials. Dr. Kapoun shared data that followed pharmacodynamic markers in xenograft tumors as well as in different surrogate tissue types, such as blood, plasma, and hair follicles. “The markers that we are investigating represent the underlying response to the antibody against DLL4 activity, in other words, the markers are mediators of that signaling pathway.”
The xenograft models are part of OncoMed’s tumor bank, which is derived from primary patient specimens. “One of the main strengths of our tumor bank is that we can correlate data from preclinical studies with data from clinical studies and potentially identify patient stratification markers based on responders and nonresponders that we were seeing in these preclinical xenograft models,” Dr. Kapoun said.
She also presented preclinical data on the antitumor activity of OncoMed’s anti-DLL4 antibody, which is currently being tested in a Phase I trial. According to Dr. Kapoun, this antibody was active in a broad spectrum of human tumors in OncoMed’s xenograft models, including colon, breast, pancreatic, and lung cancers. The drug showed this activity as a single agent as well as in combination with different standard of care agents.