Data from preclinical and clinical studies with immune modulating agents is expanding our understanding of the role of the immune system in the regulation of tumor growth. Many strategies for enhancing immune responses to various cancers have been, or are being, attempted. This presentation will illustrate how clinical studies with the anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody Keytruda have demonstrated a role for the PD-1 pathway in regulation of immune responses in cancer.
Recent data highlight the activity of PD-1 blockade in a number of tumor types, including malignant melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, triple negative breast cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A better understanding of tumor microenvironment biology in both anti-PD-1 responsive and non-responsive settings should result in improved efficacy of anti-PD-1 based therapeutic regimens. Furthermore, Merck has partnered with a number of companies with assets in the oncology space to study the activity of Keytruda in combination with both investigational and marketed therapeutics. Targets within the tumor microenvironment have also been identified that will be interrogated with novel therapeutic entities. This enhanced understanding may lead to the rational design of combination strategies consisting of anti-PD-1 with chemotherapeutics and/or other biologics with enhanced anti-tumor activity.
Gary Starling leads the Biologics Discovery Operations group at Merck Research Laboratories in Palo Alto, where he is responsible for the discovery pipeline of biologics across Merck's therapeutic areas. His career has focused on the discovery and early development of biologics therapeutics in the areas of immunology/inflammation and oncology.
Following post-doctoral work in immunogenetics at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and subsequent studies on dendritic cell maturation, Gary joined Bristol-Myers Squibb PRI in Seattle. He worked on discovery stage small molecule therapeutics at BMS in Princeton NJ, before leaving big pharma for CuraGen, a Genomics-based biotech. He moved to California in 2005 to head up the autoimmune and inflammatory diseases at PDL BioPharma. PDL BioPharma spun out Facet Biotech, where Gary was Senior Director of Research, responsible for translational research focused on oncology biologics programs (including elotuzumab, currently in phase 3 trials for treatment of multiple myeloma) and led a preclinical autoimmune disease mAb program. Following the acquisition of Facet Biotech by Abbott Labs, Gary became Director, Oncology Biologics, and formed and led the Costimulation Early Biology Unit.
In his current role, Gary is responsible for Merck’s Discovery pipeline of Biologics across all of Merck’s disease areas.
Gary received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Otago. He was awarded a Fogarty International Fellowship from the US National Institutes of Health for post-doctoral studies.