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Metabolite Markers -- Heard in the Halls: Voices From the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting
Elizabeth O'Day, Ph.D., CEO and founder of Olaris Therapeutics
June 1, 2019

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Dr. Liz O'Day talks about a test her company is developing that uses metabolites in blood to assess whether a person with metastatic breast cancer will respond to CDK4/6 inhibitors.

Running time: 3:35

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Liz O’Day: Hi. I’m Liz O’Day. I’m the CEO and founder of Olaris. We are a precision medicine company that tries to develop patient stratification tools to help figure out which drug will actually work for which patient. Our area of focus is in breast cancer. Breast cancer is still, I would say, a scary diagnosis. I think we all probably know someone who has been diagnosed with it. But I think we’re actually really fortunate to live in an era when there are truly great drugs. You and I are seeing many here today at ASCO, but unfortunately we’re still not great at figuring out which drug will work for which patient, and there’s still a lot of trial and error. My brother had cancer when we were kids, and anytime you watch someone going through cancer treatment you’re just like, “God, fix them,” you know?

What our company tries to do is try to provide data so that you can get on the most optimal drug treatment. So what we do is we get a patient blood sample, and we measure the metabolites. Metabolites are sort of the small molecules that swim around that make you you and me me. They’re like, you know those people that can eat whatever they want and they stay thin and we hate them? [laughs] It’s not me so we can be friends. They have a unique metabolism, right? But those metabolites provide all of the energy and biomass for life to exist. And the rate at which people sort of make and break these metabolites helps explain why some people respond to one drug and certain people do not respond to another drug. So that’s what our company does. So the date that we’re presenting here today is looking at metastatic breast cancer. And metastatic breast cancer, despite a growing arsenal of drug treatment options, survival is only 22%. And a lot of that has to do with because it’s really hard to figure out which drug is going to work for patients, and you have a very short amount of time to get them on that drug. So what we did, with a study with MGH, we did a 24-person/patient study. We got metastatic breast cancer patients that were treated with these CDK4/6 inhibitors, which are great drugs, but unfortunately 20% of patients will not respond. So that’s 1 out of every 5 women that gets this drug, we’re simply not helping her at all.

Jamie DePolo: Or sometimes, they stop responding.

Liz O’Day: Yes, and eventually, because cancer is constantly mutating, all patients will acquire resistance to these drugs, and so with our test we identified these metabolite biomarkers that could predict, before you ever started treatment, with 95% accuracy, are you one of the women that’s going to benefit from this drug or not. And now what we’re doing is we’re also monitoring patients that started off benefiting from the drug but now resistance has happened. And being able to detect that as soon as possible will let us sort of cycle on new therapies and improve outcomes. I’m very optimistic that we can “cure cancer,” but I would say “cure” to me is staying one step ahead of it. I’d say biomarkers, like what Olaris is doing, but a lot of the other companies here, too, are really going to be a part of the effort.

Jamie DePolo: I know you said you needed more patient samples to kind of validate this. Do you, can you see a timeline for when this might be available?

Liz O’Day: Yeah, thanks, that’s a great question. So we need to validate this in more patient samples so that we are 100% confident that it has the clinical utility to improve lives. So we’re doing a 200-person patient study now that’ll probably take about a year. We’ll probably want to do one or two more. So probably in the next 3 years we aim to have this available. For me, I think of that though, so there’s 122,000 metastatic breast cancer patients that get diagnosed every year. I want to get our test to them as soon as possible. So the more patient samples we can get the faster we get to market, so we can show, gosh, golly, it works. So that’s where we are.

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