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A Rush to a Targeted Therapy

Translated from a text by Renée Bernatchez

Going from fundamental research discoveries to a drug involves many steps. John Stagg is currently taking and living these steps.

From a fundamental discovery to a drug 

In the halls of the CRCHUM, Dr. Stagg is hard to find. If he’s seen, he’s in transit between his lab and his office. He also teaches in the Faculty of Pharmacy at Université de Montréal. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Stagg is a consultant. Since 2010, it’s the rush to translate his discovery into a clinical application.

On September 21, 2021, Astra Zeneca presented interim results on a clinical trial testing combinations of anti-PDL1 immunotherapies (standard of care for lung cancer treatment) and an anti-CD73 therapy at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) conference. Dr. Stagg has himself identified the proof of concept for the anti-CD73 therapy. The study is the first randomized trial published on adenosine pathway inhibitors.

Dr. Stagg was the first to publish on the role of CD73 and that blocking its activity had a therapeutic effect.

Identifying the target and then proving the concept are only preliminary steps in drug development. In order to validate the work in a clinical setting, the right people with the proper resources need to be convinced that it is an exciting avenue to explore. Astra Zeneca took the lead. 

For several years now, Dr. Stagg’s work has been made possible through the generosity of patients who have donated their samples for research. As a result, the team collaborates with the CHUM oncology clinical team.

Having a laboratory in a hospital that provides cancer care is an incredible asset. Dr. Stagg is convinced that he would not have been able to conduct such studies anywhere else but at the CRCHUM: “Since we are close to the surgeons and those who collect the samples, we can collaborate more easily, that’s for sure.”

Learn more about his journey by reading the November 17, 2021, article on the CRCHUM website or Astra Zeneca’s publication on the COAST Phase II study.

“Setting up networks like the Terry Fox Network, the Marathon of Hope, the Quebec Cancer Consortium, helps us get closer to the clinic.”

Dr. John Stagg