Issue 31 - Aug. 5, 2016
  • MD Anderson (Again) On Top
    of U.S. News and World Report Ranking

    The U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best cancer hospitals for 2016 brought no great surprises. The top four remained unchanged from last year:

    1) MD Anderson Cancer Center

    2) Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

    3) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

    4) Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center

    There was a change in the No. 5 slot: UCLA Medical Center. Last year, the Seattle Cancer Alliance and University of Washington Medical Center held that position. MD Anderson placed first nine times in the past 10 years.

  • News Analysis

    The Quantified Impact of Reputation On the U.S. News Best Hospital List

    League tables like those published by U.S. News and World Report should probably be taken with a pinch of salt in any case, but it is the self-marketing of these tables that is just a bit problematic.

    USNWR underlines that “rankings were developed…to help consumers determine which hospitals provide the best care…” and are based on “hard data.” That may be a stretch.

  • An Appreciation

    Gregory Curt, Clinician and Drug Developer, Dies at 64

    Greg Curt died last Sunday. For us in oncology, this one was especially personal. He was a wonderful, generous young man. Greg was a beloved friend and colleague. He was an accomplished cancer researcher and leader in oncology who died of the disease we treat.

    The standard obituary reads that he was born in 1952 in Fall River, Mass. He graduated from Providence College and the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He did residency at New England Deaconess Hospital and a fellowship in medical oncology at the NCI.

  • Nature Editorial Urges Congress To Pass RACE for Children Act

  • In Brief

    • UT Southwestern receives $11 million SPORE grant for kidney cancer program
    • Dana-Farber to get over $100 million for PD-L1 royalty interests
    • University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute gets NCI preclinical research contract
    • Pierre Massion to direct Vanderbilt-Ingram’s early detection initiative
    • Christopher Manley and Kristen Scully Manley join Fox Chase
    • Natascia Marino named Breast Cancer Research Foundation Investigator at Indiana University
    • Vanderbilt-Ingram receives $3 million grant from Kleberg Foundation
    • Community Oncology Alliance launches Advanced Practice Provider Network
  • Drugs and Targets

    • FDA grants Breakthrough Designation to LEE011 in metastatic breast cancer
    • FDA and CMS to undergo parallel review of FoundationOne genomic assay
    • Advanced Accelerator Applications and NCI form clinical trial agreement
    • Cellectar Biosciences Inc. receives second-phase of NCI SBIR award

    The Cancer Letter will return Sept. 2, after a short publication break

Special Report - Aug. 1, 2016
  • MD Anderson (Again) On Top
    of U.S. News and World Report Ranking

    The U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best cancer hospitals for 2016 brought no great surprises. The top four cancer centers did not change from last year:

    1) MD Anderson Cancer Center,

    2) Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,

    3) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. and

    4) Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

    There was a change in this year’s No. 5 slot: UCLA Medical Center. Last year, it was the Seattle Cancer Alliance and University of Washington Medical Center

    Though the system used by U.S. News isn’t regarded as scientific, directors of cancer centers and folks in marketing pay close attention to even the smallest of changes in the standing of their institutions.

Issue 30 - Jul. 29, 2016
  • Foundation Medicine Contributes 18,000 Cases to NCI’s Genomic Data Commons

    When the Genomic Data Commons opened June 6, the $20 million portal that consolidates NCI’s datasets contained genomic information from 14,500 patients.

    Before the end of the month, that number jumped to 32,500, as a result of a contribution from Foundation Medicine Inc., a molecular information company founded in 2011.

    The GDC was announced in June by Vice President Joe Biden as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

    “We’re adding 18,000 cases from Foundation,” said Louis Staudt, director of the NCI Center for Cancer Genomics. “Many important cancer genes, up to 287, have been sequenced by Foundation in these cases. We applaud their public spirit, and we are really glad that they anted up.”

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Pellini: Data Sharing Central to Mission At Foundation Medicine

    Making data broadly available to clinicians and researchers has always been a part of the mission for Foundation Medicine Inc., said Michael Pellini, the company’s CEO.

    “We are proud to say the data that we contributed represents an important part of the GDC in terms of its sheer size,” said Pellini, discussing FMI’s decision to contribute 18,000 de-identified patient cases to NCI’s Genomic Data Commons.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Staudt: Foundation Medicine’s “Philanthropy of Data” More Than Doubles GDC Portfolio

    Foundation Medicine approached NCI with the idea to make their data useful in the public domain.

    “They had heard through a variety of mechanisms that we were doing the Genomic Data Commons, and they thought this was a good possible fit,” said Louis Staudt, director of the NCI Center for Cancer Genomics. “In the end, it did turn out to be good for both of us.”

    Foundation donated the data from 18,000 de-identified cases, more than doubling the GDC’s total, up to 32,500.

  • Funding Opportunity

    Shire, ACMG Foundation Offering Fellowships in Medical Genetics

    Applications are being accepted for the ACMG Foundation/Shire Laboratory Geneticist Fellowship Awards and Clinical Genetics Residency Program. The program will facilitate 10 one-to-two-year training awards for medical geneticists over the next three years, after a $1.65 million commitment from Shire.

    Applications are available online and will be due in early September for residency programs accredited by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics, beginning in July 2017.

  • Drugs and Targets

    • CHMP issues positive opinion for Onivyde 
    • EMA grants PRIME designation to DNX-2401
    • Mylan and Biocon submit marketing application to EMA for biosimilar Pegfilgrastim
Issue 29 - Jul. 22, 2016
  • Health Centers Limit Reach of Texas Law Allowing Guns on University Campuses

    This may not be the sort of targeted therapy Texas healthcare institutions wish to be known for, but starting Aug. 1, visitors to designated areas at MD Anderson Cancer Center, UT Southwestern, and UT Health Science Center at San Antonio will be able to carry their guns.

    Texas Senate Bill 11, colloquially known as “campus carry,” decrees that “concealed handgun license holders can from now on carry handguns in a concealed fashion at institutions of higher education.”

    Controversy in Texas is fueled by belief of some that gun-carrying, law-abiding citizens are owed the opportunity to defend themselves.

    On the other side of this debate are doctors who—if an MD Anderson survey is an indication—don’t welcome the opportunity to pack heat, and believe that guns would, in fact, make them less safe in the workplace.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Weber: We Cannot Completely Ban Guns From MD Anderson’s Campus

    In response to Texas concealed carry laws, MD Anderson proposed a plan that would allow guns only in designated buildings—the rest, specifically areas of worship and hospital facilities, are gun-exclusion zones.

    The UT System Board of Regents approved the cancer center’s recommendations on campus carry July 15.

    “We cannot invoke a policy that explicitly or implicitly bans guns from campus, so the primary message was we are going to follow Texas law,” said Max Weber, associate vice president and deputy chief compliance officer at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “I think we sort of fell into this law incidentally…

    “We are a comprehensive cancer center. We are in the business of healing and curing cancer. We’re not a traditional school or university.”

  • Speaking of Guns

    MD Anderson Faculty, Staff Responses to Gun Survey

    MD Anderson surveyed 450 faculty, trainees and staff Sept. 29 through Nov. 10, 2015, to gather their opinions on campus-carry gun laws. Here’s what they said:

    “The American Medical Association has identified gun use and gun violence as a major medical problem in the US. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us as a health care institution to reflect the medical priorities and the values of those of us who have taken oaths to care for the health of others.”

  • BSA and NCAB Approve Three Concepts

    At a June 21 joint meeting, the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors and the National Cancer Advisory Board approved three concepts and deferred one.

  • In Brief

    • UC Santa Cruz receives $2.5 million grant from St. Baldrick’s for Treehouse initiative
    • Susan Pitt receives young investigator award from UW Carbone Cancer Center
    • Charles Simone II named medical director at Maryland Proton Treatment Center
    • Abishek Aphale named assistant professor of dermatology at Fox Chase
    • Rajeswari Nagarathinam joins Fox Chase department of pathology
    • Vy Dinh and Mariana Khawand-Azoulai join Miami Cancer Institute
    • NIH to work with Wondros communications firm for Precision Medicine Initiative
    • Merck to build new campus in Burlington, Mass.
  • Drugs and Targets

    • Health Canada approves Imbruvica in untreated CLL
    • CHMP issues positive opinion for Kisplyx in renal cell carcinoma
    • GlaxoSmithKline and University of Leicester to form collaboration
Issue 28 - Jul. 15, 2016
  • New NCI Clinical Trials Program Will Automate Matching Through Third-Party Data Software

    NCI is developing an open-source application intended to make it easier for patients and physicians to get information on clinical trials supported by the institute.

    Vice President Joe Biden endorsed the initiative June 29 at the National Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C., saying it will “strengthen participation in cancer research studies to help accelerate medical discoveries and treatments for cancer.”

    When the institute’s application programming interface—a set of routine definitions, protocols, and tools for building software—is completed, data companies and programmers will be able to incorporate information on NCI-sponsored trials into their bioinformatics software. This enables physicians to search NCI’s clinical trials database via a more targeted and intuitive process eventually provided by any third-party software that uses the API.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Kibbe: Anyone Can Build Search Interface With Open-Source NCI Clinical Trials API

    Vice President Joe Biden announced a new NCI application programming interface June 29 that will enable third-party developers to connect their bioinformatics software to NCI’s clinical trials database.

    When completed, the API is expected to improve access to the data available from NCI on cancer clinical trials that are supported by the institute.

  • Capitol Hill

    House Committee Approves Spending Bill Cutting Funding for CDC Anti-Smoking Programs

    The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would fund the Department of Health and Human Services through 2017, including the NIH, NCI and other related agencies.

    Released last week, the bill includes $161.6 billion in discretionary funding—a $569 million reduction below levels enacted for the 2016 fiscal year. However, the bill increases funding for the NIH by $1.25 billion and the NCI by $264 million.

    The bill contains several provisions to defund implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and prohibits the use of new discretionary funding for the president’s signature health care law. The committee considered more than 30 amendments over two days before approving the bill in a 31-19 vote July 14.

  • Capitol Hill

    Bill Introduced to Mandate Pediatric Clinical Trials

  • Obituary

    Alfred Knudson, Author of Two-Hit Hypothesis, Dies at 93

    Alfred G. Knudson Jr., the creator of the “two-hit hypothesis,” and a director of the Institute for Cancer Research at Fox Chase Cancer Center, died July 10. He was 93.

    The two-hit hypothesis postulates that cancer is produced by accumulated mutations in a cell’s DNA. The hypothesis explains the relationship between the hereditary and non-hereditary forms of cancer, and predicted the existence of tumor-suppressor genes that can suppress cancer cell growth.

  • In Brief

    • NCI announces 13 winners of its Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award winners
    • Jeff Boyd receives ovarian cancer research award from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance
    • Daniel Shasha joins Northside Radiation Oncology Consultants
    • Michelle Russell-Einhorn joins Schulman IRB
    • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals names three winners of its Regeneron Prize for Creative Innovation
    • American Society for Radiation Oncology elects five officers to board of directors
    • Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Van Auken Private Foundation announces team award winners
    • USC Norris and Trovagene to collaborate on liquid biopsy testing
  • Drugs and Targets

    • FDA approves Roche cobas HPV test with BD SurePath specimen vial
    • Health Canada approves Tagrisso in non-small cell lung cancer
    • FDA grants Rare Pediatric Disease Designation to ABT-414
    • FDA grants Orphan Drug Designation to TK216
    • FDA approves premarket supplement application for Novocure’s second-generation Optune system
    • U.K.’s NICE recommends use of Firmagon in prostate cancer
    • Guardant Health and OncoMed Pharmaceuticals to collaborate on custom blood test
    • Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim to collaborate in metastatic breast cancer
Issue 27 - Jul. 8, 2016
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  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Stanford Cancer Institute Earns NCI Comprehensive Center Designation

    Stanford Cancer Institute earned the NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, becoming the eighth institution in California to earn this highest level of recognition.

    Nationwide, the number of comprehensive cancer centers now climbs to 47. Earlier this summer, the University of Maryland also received the comprehensive designation.

  • Slamming the Door

    Part XIV: How Al Got It Right 

    Gilman’s resignation enabled him to retain the most precious of all privileges: the ability to look at himself in the mirror.

    By slamming the door loudly and publicly—and by triggering an impossible-to-ignore resignations of scientists who conducted peer review at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas—he made it clear that the institute’s scientific review was in danger of being subverted, and that its funds were at risk of being raided by politicians.

    “I built something I am proud of, and now it’s being taken apart,” Gilman said to me at the time. “I can’t work for people who are pushing their own interests at the expense of the interests of cancer patients.

    “A wise and experienced friend said to me: ‘This is always the way it works when you put a large amount of public money on the table. The vultures and the hyenas lie low for two or three years to see how the system really works. And then they come in for their feast.’”

  • Capitol Hill

    House Appropriators Propose $1.25 Billion Budget Increase for NIH in FY 2017

    The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS marked up a bipartisan spending bill July 6 that gives NIH a $1.25 billion increase in the 2017 fiscal year.

    NCI is to receive a $264 million increase over FY 2016.

    The measure boosts the NIH budget to $33.3 billion and now moves to consideration by the full House appropriations committee.

    The Senate Committee on Appropriations June 9 marked up a spending bill, which would provide a $2 billion funding increase for NIH and $216 million increase for NCI in FY 2017.

  • In Brief

    • Mark Socinski named executive medical director of the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute
    • ASTRO names 2016 class of fellows
    • University of Michigan to collaborate with Trovagene Inc.
  • Drugs and Targets

    • European Commission approves Kyprolis in mulitple myeloma
    • FDA grants Fast Track Designation to seribantumab (MM-121) in NSCLC
    • FDA grants 510(k) clearance to HARMONIC HD 1000i surgical device
Issue 26 - Jul. 1, 2016
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  • News Analysis

    Biden’s Moonshot Goals are Flexible Enough to be Realistic

    After a year of trying to understand the biology and politics of cancer, Vice President Joe Biden admits that he has a stronger grasp on the nuts and bolts of Washington than the evolutionary mysteries known collectively as cancer.

    Hosting the National Cancer Moonshot Summit at Howard University on June 29, Biden delivered a wide-ranging speech, even as his main initiatives remain what they have been from the start of his cancer odyssey:

  • Biden Announces FDA Center of Excellence

    Vice President Joe Biden announced the formation of the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence, which is intended to consolidate the agency’s cancer portfolio and streamline regulatory pathways for cancer-related drugs, biologics, and devices.

    Richard Pazdur, currently the director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products, will serve as acting director of the agency’s new cancer center.

    Biden’s June 29 announcement at the National Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C. follows months of lobbying by oncology professional societies, advocacy and patient groups.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Pazdur Named Acting Director of FDA’s New Cancer Center

    Richard Pazdur, currently the director of the FDA Office of Hematology and Oncology Products, will serve as acting director of the newly formed FDA Oncology Center of Excellence.

    The exact structure, budget and staffing for the program will be determined in an ongoing process, Pazdur said to The Cancer Letter.

    “Because I will be working to develop the structure of the OCE with input across all centers, it would be premature to speculate about what the ultimate structure of the OCE will be,” Pazdur said. “The framework of the OCE will evolve over time, so as not to disrupt the ongoing work in each center.”

  • Biden: What I Learned About Cancer

    A transcript of Biden’s speech at the National Cancer Moonshot Summit at Howard University.

  • In Brief

    • Haakon Ragde named 2016 Honorary Member of ASTRO
    • Steven Paul elected chairman of Foundation for the NIH
    • Stephen Burley named leader of cancer pharmacology research at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
    • Firas Eladoumikdachi named program director at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Hamilton
    • Joel Katz received Spirit of Life Award from City of Hope
    • American Cancer Society plans to double research budget in five years
    • Research!American launches 2016 election blog
    • Mount Sinai and Valley Health System to form partnership
    • IBM Research to collaborate with Melanoma Institute Australia
    • Wistar Institute enters agreement with Christiana Care Graham Cancer Center
  • Drugs and Targets

    • FDA approves Epclusa for chronic hepatitis C
    • FDA grants fourth breakthrough designation to Imbruvica
    • FDA grants fast track designation to TK216 in Ewing sarcoma
    • Hetero launches generic bevacizumab in India
    • Novartis enters into agreement with Xencor
    • OmniSeq receives New York State CLEP approval
Slamming the Door - Jul. 1, 2016
  • Slamming the Door

    How Al Gilman Taught Texas a Lesson in Science 

     This series re-examines the concurrent controversies at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and MD Anderson Cancer Center. This examination is possible in part because of new insight provided by Alfred Gilman, the Nobel laureate who served as the first scientific director of the state institution that distributes $300 million a year. Gilman died on Dec. 23, 2015.

     

    Alfred Gilman’s approach to distributing public funds wasn’t particularly difficult to understand: he wanted to pay for the best science available. Period.

    The pot of money entrusted to Gilman was vast. In 2007, Texas voters approved the largest investment in cancer research outside the federal government: $3 billion, to be spent over 10 years. By way of comparison, NCI grants going to Texas researchers and institutions added up to $240 million a year. CPRIT more than doubled that money. Only Texans were eligible to apply.

  • Part II: Cancer’s Butt

    CPRIT’s review process appeared to have become a major annoyance to those who wanted to redraft the criteria for dispensing the princely sum of $300 million a year. Texas geography and Texas politics did matter—a lot.

    The cross-state competition between MD Anderson Cancer Center and UT Southwestern Medical Center proved to be especially important.

  • Part III: 18,000 Bosses

    Between the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2012, I watched MD Anderson from afar, and I didn’t think about CPRIT at all.

    Friends who attended early meetings with Ronald DePinho soon after he became MD Anderson’s president said that he was literally grading presentations made to him by faculty members and administrators.

    “This was a C-,” he would say.

    It was difficult to get a B.

  • Part IV: Nobel Laureate in Crosshairs

    In early 2012, Gilman was under the impression that CPRIT was functioning smoothly.

    Then, to his surprise, the first of a series of controversies surfaced.

    CPRIT’s peer reviewers had evaluated 40 applications for Multi-Investigator Research Applications, the largest CPRIT grants designed to fund team science, recommending that seven of these project receive funding. This was no small undertaking. The applications described multiple projects and core facilities.

    Proposals for these projects—abbreviated as MIRAs—take a long time to write and a long time to review. The CPRIT committees worked hard to complete the review, but committee members were enthusiastic. There was a lot of good science on the table. In fact, one of the grants received the best score ever for an application of that type.

  • Part V: Gilman’s Resignation

    Gilman’s letter of resignation, dated May 8, 2012, concludes with a hard slam:

    “The purpose of this letter is to indicate my intention to resign from CPRIT, effective (with your permission) on October 12, 2012. At that time I will have worked for CPRIT for over three years—I believe longer than originally anticipated.

    “During that time we have launched strong programs because funding decisions have been based on high-level competitions, where the judges have been some of the best cancer researchers and physicians in the country—free of conflicts of interest and all coming from outside of Texas.

  • Part VI: The Provost’s Choice

    After my conversation with Gilman, I called MD Anderson and asked to talk with somebody about the $18 million grant for a biotech incubator.

    First, folks at the press shop told me that they view the controversy arising from the application as CPRIT’s problem.

    Let’s see: the wife of president of MD Anderson gets a grant seemingly out of turn, causing a political disaster, and this is not an MD Anderson problem?

    DePinho was initially silent on the controversy, but after the Houston Chronicle published a hard-hitting editorial that laid out a series of questions about the grant, he responded with a letter that portrayed the central question in the controversy as a “difference of opinions.”

  • Part VII – DePinho’s Stock Tip Revisited

    On May 25, 2012, I received an email from Len Zwelling:

    Paul: It can’t get worse than having our President pushing his own stock on TV. Len

    I clicked on the provided link to CNBC. What I saw was indeed difficult to process: a video of Ron DePinho, extolling the virtues of the stock of AVEO Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company he co-founded.

    On the CNBC program “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo” May 18, DePinho brought up AVEO in the context of the upcoming meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

  • Part VIII – A Conversation with DePinho

    The $18 million never made it from Austin to Houston.

    MD Anderson’s initial stance was to deflect all CPRIT-related questions to CPRIT, but this didn’t make the controversy go away. So, the cancer center suggested that the grant undergo scientific review, as well as commercial.

    Recently, I asked Dan Fontaine, MD Anderson’s executive chief of staff why the money never changed hands.

  • Part IX – “Furnituregate”

    I first heard something about a red sofa that cost an impressive amount of money soon after I started to cover the controversy at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

    The sofa, I was told, was to be purchased with MD Anderson funds for the office of Lynda Chin. I wanted to look into it, but I want to look into many things, and some take precedence over others. This seemed to be fun, but it was undeniably trivial.

    The sofa in question was intended for the same entity CPRIT was being asked to fund. Had I been able to get it through my thick skull that the furniture was a part of the same story that was causing the ungluing of CPRIT, I would have filed my freedom of information requests sooner.

    When it finally appeared, my friends referred to this story as “furnituregate.”

  • Part X – Silencing Faculty Voice

    In the fall of 2012, just before Al Gilman’s departure, MD Anderson officials cracked down on internal critics.

    On Sept. 26, 2012, Raphael Pollock, head of MD Anderson’s Division of Surgery, was summoned to the office of Thomas Burke, then the executive vice president and physician-in-chief, and was relieved of his duties.

    Pollock, who is Jewish, was fired on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

  • Part XI: Gilman’s Teachable Moment

    During our first conversation in the spring of 2012, Gilman said that he would go public unless he received assurances that CPRIT would retain its integrity after his departure.

    He wanted guarantees that the structure he built would not be turned into a political pigsty. With guarantees being hard to come by, it was obvious that he would end up slamming the door hard. Publicly.

  • Part XII: Scientists Vote with Their Feet

    In their op-ed piece, Gilman and Sharp stated what it would take to fix CPRIT’s problems. That was the polite version of the Gilman Plan.

    The spoken version was more blunt: get rid of the “assholes” on the oversight board, jettison the administrators, then—maybe—CPRIT’s credibility would be restored.

    Maybe the place will become functional someday, but only the oversight committee is sent packing and after the Gogolesque characters are kicked out of CPRIT’s offices in Austin. Until that occurred, an effort to rebuild would require CPRIT to turn to the scientific establishment on some other planet.

  • Chair of CPRIT Oversight Committee: “Better to Get Them All Out of the Way Now”

    What were Texas politicians and CPRIT officials thinking as they were pounded by blistering letters of resignation?

    Condemnation seemed to be rolling off their backs as they marched toward what they thought was their great triumph.

    Jimmy Mansour, chairman of CPRIT’s oversight committee, mistakenly hit Reply All, sending an especially contemptuous email to a scientist who was announcing his resignation from CPRIT. In the email that came into public view because of his sloppiness, Mansour, a telecommunications entrepreneur, belittles scientists and the peer review process.

    The email is also remarkable because it illustrates the reluctance on the part of CPRIT officials to recognize that the institute that distributes $300 million a year in state funds is, in fact, in the midst of a crisis.

  • Slamming the Door

    Part XIV: How Al Got It Right 

    Gilman’s resignation enabled him to retain the most precious of all privileges: the ability to look at himself in the mirror.

    By slamming the door loudly and publicly—and by triggering an impossible-to-ignore resignations of scientists who conducted peer review at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas—he made it clear that the institute’s scientific review was in danger of being subverted, and that its funds were at risk of being raided by politicians.

    “I built something I am proud of, and now it’s being taken apart,” Gilman said to me at the time. “I can’t work for people who are pushing their own interests at the expense of the interests of cancer patients.

    “A wise and experienced friend said to me: ‘This is always the way it works when you put a large amount of public money on the table. The vultures and the hyenas lie low for two or three years to see how the system really works. And then they come in for their feast.’”

Issue 25 - Jun. 24, 2016
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  • Stanford, Intermountain and Providence Use Syapse Platform to Integrate Their Data

    Three health systems—Stanford Cancer Institute, Intermountain Healthcare and Providence Health and Services—have agreed to eliminate the electronic barriers between their medical records, tumor registries and genomics databases.

    The three entities said they have started to use a common IT platform to achieve interoperability and guide clinical decision-making.

    That platform is Syapse, a startup that is emerging as an important player in the ongoing conversation on bioinformatics and data sharing in oncology, led by Vice President Joe Biden and the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

    • Related Coverage of the Cancer Moonshot

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Hirsch: I Dropped Out of Stanford to Start Syapse

    Jonathan Hirsch was studying neuroscience at Stanford University when he wandered into two oncology classes and saw an opportunity to change the way health systems handle genomic data.

    “I started getting really immersed in molecular oncology, and the challenges in implementing molecularly guided treatment started coming together with the challenges in utilizing complex data,” Hirsch said to The Cancer Letter.

  • Joint BSA-NCAB Meeting

    The Moonshot’s Metric for Success: Avoiding a Single, Tangible Endpoint

    How will the success of the moonshot be measured? NCI Acting Director Doug Lowy touched on the subject during the joint meeting of the institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors and the National Cancer Advisory Board June 21.

    The moonshots of the 1960s were essentially engineering problems that had tangible goals. Cancer is an evolutionary problem, and the stated goal of the moonshot in cancer research, led by Vice President Joe Biden, is perhaps deliberately vague: to achieve a decade’s worth of progress in just five years.

    “Has there been any discussion of an endpoint that you can point to—like planting the flag on the moon, or sequencing the three-billionth base pair of the genome project?” asked BSA member Lincoln Stein, director of the Informatics and BioComputing Platform at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, during the meeting. “Something that looks like an achievable endpoint?”

  • Funding Opportunity

    SU2C, Merck Taking Proposals for Keytruda

    Stand Up To Cancer announced a request for proposals under SU2C Catalyst, a program supporting clinical trials and translational research.

  • In Brief

    • NCI Surgery Branch resumes enrollment in immunotherapy trials
    • Rajesh Garg named president and CEO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America
    • Prostate Cancer Foundation names 24 Young Investigator Award winners
    • Shuanzeng “Sam” Wei and Phillip Pancari join Fox Chase
    • MIT’s Tyler Jacks, Susan Hockfield, and Phillip Sharp publish report on convergence
    • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network lobbies Congress for research funding
    • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Society of Hematology to collaborate on promoting AML treatment research
Issue 24 - Jun. 17, 2016
  • Moonshot May Play Role in $400 Million Annual Contract to Run NCI’s Frederick Lab

    The contract for operations and technical support at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research could be accepting proposals as early as next month—but NCI advisors said they are hoping to slow the recompetition process to reform the laboratory’s mission.

    Moreover, NCI should consider how the laboratory could contribute to Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, members of the Frederick National Laboratory Advisory Committee said at a recent meeting.

  • Task Force Adds Tests to Colon Screening Guideline

    The final version of guidelines for colorectal cancer screening by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force differ substantively from the group’s draft version published last October.

    The final version—unlike the draft—lists CT colonography and FIT-DNA as screening methods that are equal to others.

    It’s unclear whether political pressure had any role in prompting the panel to broaden its list of detection strategies from three to seven in the past six months.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Guideline Edits Rooted in Science, Former USPSTF Member Says

    “I don’t see this recommendation as differing in any substantial way from some others that we’ve made, where we suggested that patients talk with their clinicians, and the important messages here is that colorectal cancer screening works, that colorectal cancer screening reduces deaths from colorectal cancer,” said Douglas Owens, a who has rotated off the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and was involved in developing the colorectal cancer screening guideline published earlier this week.

  • In Brief

    • President Obama names six appointees to the NCAB
    • Stand Up to Cancer to host fifth-biennial televised fundraiser
    • Kety Duron joins City of Hope as chief human resources officer
    • Miami Cancer Institute takes delivery of 220-ton proton therapy cyclotron
    • Takeda and M2Gen to collaborate on ORIEN genomic data
    • Mayo Clinic and Kiyatec to collaborate on ovarian cancer care
    • St. Jude receives pathology accreditation through College of American Pathologists
  • Drugs and Targets

    • Canadian review agency delivers positive opinion for Opdivo in NSCLC
    • Genomic Health launches Oncotype SEQ Liquid Select biopsy test