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ISSUE 41 – OCT. 31, 2014PDF

How Elite Institutions Were Affected By A Decade of Constricted Funding

The ten-year period of erosion that followed the doubling of the NIH budget has hit some research institutions harder than others.

NIH appropriations figures provide a glimpse of the state of science funding in the U.S., but they don’t shed light on how individual institutions and areas of research are affected.

To conduct an exploratory analysis of levels of funding at specific institutions, The Cancer Letter compiled NIH and NCI funding figures from 2003 to 2013 for eight freestanding cancer centers and nine other research institutions that include cancer centers. A focus on freestanding cancer centers provides a snapshot of funding at institutions engaged primarily in basic and clinical cancer research.

 The Impact of Triple Calamities: Flat Funding, the End of ARRA, and a Dramatic Loss of Purchasing Power

The Cancer Letter asked leaders of cancer centers, professional societies, and science advocacy organizations to comment on declining levels of NIH and NCI funding at freestanding cancer centers and selected academic institutions that include cancer centers.

Guest Editorial
The Academic Difference: George Weiner On How America’s Cancer Centers Are More Valuable Than Ever

“The nation’s academic cancer centers are a national resource that will increase in value as remarkable changes continue in biomedical research, cancer care, and health policy.”

Bennett, Federal Prosecutors Reach $475,000 Settlement

Charles Bennett, an oncologist and cancer researcher whose work focuses on adverse events caused by pharmaceutical products, settled a federal complaint brought by a whistleblower alleging irregularities in the management of R01 research grants administered by Northwestern University. 

Northwestern paid $2.93 million in 2013 to settle allegations of mismanaging five of Bennett’s R01 grants. 

Funding Opportunity
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Launches Myeloid Program

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society launched a program to fund research projects focused on myeloid diseases, such as myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative neoplasms, both of which can progress to acute myeloid leukemia. 

photoIn Brief

  • City of Hope launches Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute

  • Lisa Richardson named director of CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control

  • Milan Mrksich named associate director for research technology and infrastructure at Lurie Cancer Center

  • Ronan Swords receives Pap Corps Endowed Professorship

  • Laura Brod named CEO of GeneSegues Therapeutics

  • Merck Serono names three grant winners

  • Martine Extermann receives top award from International Society of Geriatric Oncology

  • Aptose Biosciences Inc. joins Beat AML consortium

  • Meridian Health and Hackensack University Health Network to discuss merging health systems

  • Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University launches statewide program

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology endorses AUA/ASTRO Guideline

photoDrugs and Targets

  • FDA extends Lymphoseek label to include mapping in solid tumors

  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network approves VeriStrat predictive proteomics test

  • Myriad Genetics establishes European laboratory

  • Case Medical Center and Seidman Cancer Center select GenomOncology for workflow management

  • Qiagen and Astellas Pharma to collaborate on companion diagnostics

20141031 - Oct. 31, 2014
October 2014PDF

 Lung Cancer

Gilotrif Increases PFS Compared to Erlotinib In LUX-Lung 8 Phase III Head-to-Head Trial


Phase III data from the LUX-Lung 8 head-to-head trial, evaluating Gilotrif versus erlotinib in patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, demonstrated superior improvement in progression-free survival with Gilotrif.

The trial demonstrated that Gilotrif (afatinib) significantly reduced the risk of disease progression by 18 percent when compared to erlotinib and delayed tumor growth (PFS by independent review: 2.4 vs. 1.9 months; HR=0.82; p=0.043). Overall survival data are not yet mature.

Treatment with Gilotrif showed improvement in the secondary endpoint of disease control rate compared to erlotinib, 45.7 vs. 36.8 percent, respectively (p=0.020). Objective response rate was 4.8 percent in the Gilotrif arm compared to 3.0 percent in the erlotinib arm (p=0.233). 

 Melanoma

Cobimetinib-Zelboraf Therapy Increases OS In BRAF V600 Mutation-Positive Disease

A phase III trial showed that people with previously untreated BRAF V600 mutation-positive advanced melanoma who received the MEK inhibitor cobimetinib plus Zelboraf (vemurafenib) lived significantly longer without their disease worsening or death compared to Zelboraf alone.

The combined therapy reduced the risk of disease worsening or death by half (HR=0.51, 95% CI 0.39-0.68; p<0.0001), with a median PFS of 9.9 months for cobimetinib plus Zelboraf compared to 6.2 months with Zelboraf alone. 

 Prostate Cancer

Zytiga and Prednisone Extends Overall Survival in mCRPC Trial

A final analysis of a phase III trial showed that Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) plus prednisone significantly prolonged overall survival compared to an active control of placebo plus prednisone, in men with chemotherapy-naïve metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.

The study demonstrated a 19 percent reduction in risk of death in this study population, with a median OS of 34.7 compared to 30.3 months respectively (HR= 0.81 [95% CI, 0.70-0.93]; p = 0.0033), after a median follow-up of more than four years (49.2 months).

 Thyroid Cancer
Study: Angiopoietin-2 Levels May Predict Lenvatinib Response
 Head and Neck Cancer
Afatinib Delays Tumor Growth In LUX-Head and Neck 1 Study
 Cachexia
Anamorelin Increases Body Mass In Two Global Phase III Trials
 NCI CTEP-Approved Trials for the Month of October
 Drugs and Targets

  • Velcade Injection approved in Mantle Cell Lymphoma

  • Akynzeo approved for nausea and vomiting following chemotherapy

  • European Commission approves Imbruvica in MCL and CLL

  • CMS publishes two draft local coverage determinations for prostate cancer tests

  • FDA grants aldoxorubicin orphan drug designations in three indications

  • Blinatumomab granted priority review in ALL

20141030 - Oct. 30, 2014
ISSUE 40 – OCT. 24, 2014PDF



40 Years Later
Doctor and Patient Reflect on the Cure

On Oct. 21, 1974, John Cleland lay in a hospital bed at Indiana University Hospital.

At 23, he had just graduated from Purdue University and just married.

He was also three weeks into a fourth-line chemotherapy regimen for advanced metastatic testicular cancer. The disease had spread to his lungs.

Lawrence Einhorn, Cleland’s doctor, told him that this was the end of the road.

Conversation with The Cancer Letter
Einhorn: “I Still Harbor Hope For Similar Success Stories”

The Cancer Letter asked Lawrence Einhorn, distinguished professor of medicine and the Livestrong Foundation Professor of Oncology at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, to reflect on one of the most spectacular successes in the history of cancer research—his development of the curative regimen for testicular cancer.

Caris Life Sciences Lays Off Estimated 20 Percent of Staff

Caris Life Sciences Inc. last week reduced its workforce by 50 people—about 20 percent, sources said.

While a 50-person reduction in force is small by pharma industry standards, the development could be significant because Caris is a key player in the emerging market for molecular therapies.

HRSA: Discounts Owed on Some Orphan Drug Uses

The Health Resources and Services Administration last week warned pharmaceutical companies that they must continue to offer 340B Drug Pricing Program discounts on some uses of orphan drugs.

Cancer Support Community Reports on Patient Experiences

Cancer Support Community released the findings report from the first year-and-a-half of the Cancer Experience Registry.

Institute of Medicine Elects 80 New Members

The Institute of Medicine named 70 new members and 10 foreign associates during its 44th annual meeting.

New members are elected by current active members through a selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care, and public health.

photoIn Brief

  • Benjamin Neel named director of NYU Cancer Center

  • Brad Pollock named chair of public health department at UC Davis

  • Richard Zellars named chair of radiation oncology at IU School of Medicine

  • David Mauro named chief medical officer and VP of Advaxis Inc.

  • James Tulsky receives award from American Cancer Society

  • Mary Kozik named senior director of development at Winship Cancer Institute

  • Northwestern Mutual and Alex’s Lemonade Stand fund eight young investigators

  • Association of Community Cancer Centers receives gift from Bristol-Myers Squibb

  • Stand Up To Cancer epigenetics dream team receives $7.5 million from Van Andel Research Institute

photoDrugs and Targets

  • EU approves Imbruvica in MCL, CLL

  • CMS publishes two draft coverage determinations for molecular prostate cancer tests

  • Priority Health to cover FoundationOne genomic profiles

  • Celgene and Sutro Biopharma to collaborate on antibody-drug conjugates

20141024 - Oct. 24, 2014