publication date: Sep. 28, 2018

In Brief

NIH receives $2B raise as House passes FY19 spending package

The House of Representatives Sept. 26 passed the fiscal year 2019 “minibus” funding bill, increasing the NIH appropriation by $2 billion to $39.1 billion—a 5.4 percent boost over the current level.

Of the proposed $2 billion, $190 million in new money would trickle down to NCI. The combined Defense, Labor-HHS appropriations package brings NCI’s budget to a total of $6.1 billion, including $400 million in Moonshot funding (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 21).

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill before the end of the fiscal year.

With the completion of this package, Congress will have approved 75 percent of all annual discretionary funding prior to the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30—a critical step in returning to the regular federal funding process, and an achievement that has not occurred in over two decades. This is also the first time in over 20 years that Congress has passed a Labor-HHS bill prior to the end of the fiscal year, and the first time in over 10 years it has passed a Department Of Defense bill prior to the end of the fiscal year.

“This package also includes a short-term continuing resolution to keep the federal government open and operational until all 12 Appropriations bills can be signed into law,” House Appropriations Chairman, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), said in a statement. “This will avoid the threat of any government shutdown, and allow for time for work on the remaining funding bills to be completed.”

Passage of the measure before the end of the current fiscal year is noteworthy, and congressional leaders should be commended for their commitment to advancing the bill in a timely fashion, said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America.

“The $2 billion increase for NIH builds on the momentum to accelerate research into precision medicine, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and other health threats,” Woolley said in a statement. “Funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to support health services research is critical to addressing inefficiencies and waste in our health care system. The measure will also enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to step up efforts to combat antibiotic resistance, and the opioid epidemic through research, treatment and prevention.”


NIH memorial service for Alan Rabson scheduled for Oct. 30

A memorial service for Alan Rabson will take place on Oct. 30, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Ruth L. Kirschstein Auditorium, Natcher Conference Center in Bethesda, MD.

Rabson, a premier cancer pathologist whose most recent title at NCI was scientist emeritus, died on July 4. He was 92 (The Cancer Letter, July 6).

A reception, hosted by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, will follow the service, “Alan S. Rabson, MD: Celebrating a Life in Science Leadership, and Patient Care.”

Register here. To share memories or photos, visit the Sentiments page.


Heidi Nelson named medical director of the American College of Surgeons Cancer Programs

Heidi Nelson, a colorectal surgeon from Mayo Clinic, was named medical director of Cancer Programs in the American College of Surgeons Division of Research and Optimal Patient Care.

Nelson succeeds David Winchester as he transitions from the position he has served in for more than 30 years. Nelson comes to the ACS from her position as chair, and vice chair for research, of the department of surgery, Mayo Clinic, as well as professor of surgery, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Sciences, Rochester, Minn. She has master’s faculty privileges in clinical and translation science at the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

As the Fred C. Andersen Professor for the Mayo Foundation and a consultant for Mayo Clinic’s division of colon and rectal surgery, Nelson is internationally renowned for her research in the field of colon and rectal cancer.

Nelson’s work has also helped reduce the cancer burden in patients with locally advanced and recurrent rectal cancer through studies examining the role of complex surgeries and intraoperative radiation therapy. Nelson will be starting at the ACS later this month.


American Cancer Society honors John Ruckdeschel with St. George Award

The American Cancer Society recognized John Ruckdeschel, director of the University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Institute and professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, for his work and his continuing support of the ACS.

ACS presented the St. George National Award to Ruckdeschel during a ceremony in Jackson on Sept. 20.

Ruckdeschel commended the ACS for its work on the Gertrude C. Ford Hope Lodge in Jackson, currently under construction adjacent to UMMC. The Hope Lodge is scheduled to open in early 2019 and will provide rooms for patients being treated at Jackson-area cancer centers and their family members. Lodging and transportation to treatment are free.

Conceived in 1949 by Charles S. Cameron, former ACS medical and scientific director, the St. George National Award has been presented annually to ACS volunteers nationwide. Nominees must have served as leaders in the community, mission delivery and/or governance in more than one area of focus for a minimum of four continuous years and must represent ACS in a manner that advances the cause and expands community presence. The St. George National Award Task Force reviews all nominations and shares the award winners with the ACS Board of Directors.

Ruckdeschel is a medical oncologist with a focus on thoracic malignancies.

He is a former CEO at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, leading it to a NCI comprehensive designation. He later served as CEO of the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit and the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas.


Carlos Arteaga awarded $600,000 to study breast cancer therapy resistance

The Susan G. Komen organization has awarded a $600,000 research grant to Carlos Arteaga, director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and associate dean of oncology programs at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The grant to Arteaga is part of a $62 million investment by the Komen organization for research on drug resistance, triple negative breast cancer, and new treatments such as immunotherapies, as well as funding to reduce cancer health disparities.

Arteaga will study how estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers become hormone-independent and develop resistance to current anti-estrogen therapies. The research could lead to more precise treatment plans for breast cancer patients, potentially involving combinations of drug therapies to prevent the development of drug resistance.


ASCO recognizes Rep. Kevin Yoder with 2018 Congressional Leadership Award

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has presented Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) with the 2018 Congressional Leadership Award.

Each year, ASCO presents this award to a member of Congress who has continuously supported legislation that promotes an improved practice environment for the oncology community and improves the quality of care for cancer patients.

A member of the House Appropriations Committee and Co-Chair of the House Cancer Caucus, Rep. Yoder has worked tirelessly over the last three years to build support for sustainable funding increases for NIH and NCI.

He signed the Dear Colleague Letter to HHS in October 2017, which called for a correction to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System score adjustment to ensure the score is not applied to Part B Drug payments. The issue was resolved in February 2018.

Rep. Yoder continues to demonstrate his support for individuals with cancer through co-sponsorship of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research Act of 2017 (H.R. 820), the Palliative Care, Hospice, Education, and Training Act (H.R. 1676), the Cancer Drug Parity Act (H.R. 1409), and the Restoring Patient’s Voice Act of 2017 (H.R. 2077).


NCCN moves global headquarters to Plymouth Meeting

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has moved into new headquarters in Plymouth Meeting, PA, near Philadelphia, from Fort Washington, PA. The new location will allow for greater hosting capacity for meetings, guests, and a growing staff.


Cuomo announces U.S.-Cuba venture to develop new cancer treatments

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has formed the Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance S.A., the first-ever biotech venture between the U.S. and Cuba.

The joint venture gives Roswell Park access to CIMAvax and three Cuban-developed cancer immunotherapy treatments not previously accessible to U.S. patients or researchers: IL-2 mutein, VSSP and another investigational immunotherapy that targets tumor-associated gangliosides.

While these agents are still investigational therapies in the U.S., evidence to date strongly suggests that all four are worthy of further study in several cancer types.

This joint venture biotech company, Innovative Immunotherapy Alliance S.A., will be based in Cuba and will be operated jointly by CIM’s commercial affiliate, CIMAB S.A., and by a Roswell Park subsidiary, GBCT II LLC.

This initiative will move forward in accordance with permissions issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of Treasury, the Bureau of Industry and Security of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. FDA.

Roswell Park expects to initiate additional clinical trials, enrolling more than 100 patients in the U.S. within the next three years with plans for additional clinical studies to follow. Nearly $4 million in donations is funding Roswell Park’s initial CIMAvax clinical trials.

Aside from CIMAvax, these cancer drugs have never been studied before in U.S. patients. The Cuban phase II and phase III clinical trials of CIMAvax have shown increased overall survival and improvement in quality of life for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

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