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ISSUE 19 – MAY 9, 2014PDF

Oregon Center Launching $1 Billion Program To Identify Lethal Cancers Before They Kill

Brian Druker has some awesome jobs to fill.

As many as 30 scientists and their teams will get to focus on cancer research without having to worry about applying for grants.

“It’s about bringing 20 to 30 people together, giving them sufficient funding—almost like [Howard Hughes Medical Institute] level funding,” Druker said to The Cancer Letter. “If you have 20 to 30 people who are focused on science, working as a team to solve a problem, judged on progress toward the goal, as opposed to how many grants and publications do you have, we think we can make a more rapid contribution in this area.

photoCMS Advisors Express Low Confidence In Low-Dose CT Screening for Lung Cancer

An advisory panel for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expressed low confidence in low-dose computed tomography as a method for screening for lung cancer in the Medicare population.

Evidence is inadequate to ensure that benefits of the procedure would outweigh harms, the Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee said at the hearing April 30.

photoBach: LCA Center Certification Untrustworthy; CISNET Models Don’t Match

When it appeared that CT screening for lung cancer was a shoo-in for Medicare coverage, the Lung Cancer Alliance, an advocacy group, started to certify “screening centers of excellence.”

Centers all over the country received this designation from LCA and were listed on the group’s website.

However, as he prepared for a recent Medicare advisory committee meeting, Peter Bach, a pulmonologist and health systems researcher at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, checked the list of LCA-certified centers.

photoSteven Woolf: Why CMS Should Not Cover LDCT

National coverage for low-dose computed tomography may result in more harm than benefit to the Medicare population at this time, said Steven Woolf, a member of the Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee.

Speaking at the April 30 MEDCAC hearing, Woolf said coverage would run into many implementation challenges and adherence problems—it would be unlikely that all practices would observe the strict criteria set by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the National Lung Screening Trial, he said.

photoGrowth of the Cost of Drugs Slows to 5.4 Percent per Year; 21 Therapies Launched in 2 Years

The growth of global spending on oncology medicines has slowed over the past five years, according to a report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Spending on cancer drugs, including those used for supportive care, increased at a compound annual growth rate of 5.4 percent during the past five years, reaching $91 billion in 2013, compared with 14.2 percent from 2003 to 2008. 

photoWomen’s Health Initiative Trial Produced $37.1 Billion in Returns

The overall economic return from the Women’s Health Initiative estrogen plus progestin trial indicates that the changes in practice it produced provided a net economic return of $37.1 billion over 10 years.

photoFDA Oncology Unit Fastest in Approvals Despite Having Highest Workload

A study by a conservative think tank found large differences in performance of the FDA divisions, with oncology demonstrating the agency’s fastest time from application submission to approval.

Paradoxically, the Manhattan Institute found that the oncology division’s staff members had the agency’s highest workload—measured in INDs per staff member at the division.

photoIn Brief

  • David Cole named president of The Medical University of South Carolina

  • Peter Bach’s account of his wife’s death from breast cancer

  • MD Anderson honors 16 junior faculty members

  • US Oncology and Community Oncology Alliance speak to Congress

  • Athena Breast Health Network adopts ASCO’s HL7 Guide for EMRs

  • Eli Lilly & Co. sign agreement with Prasco Laboratories

  • Johns Hopkins receives $10 million from Under Armour 

  • Melanoma Research Alliance and L’Oreal Paris begin campaign

  • Kristin Darby named chief information officer of Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Drug Approvals

  • Zykadia granted accelerated approval for ALK+ NSCLC

  • ADXS-HPV grated orphan drug designation

20140509 - May. 9, 2014
ISSUE 18 – MAY 2, 2014PDF

NCI Officials Open to Fine-tuning Group Budgets
As Advocates Chip Away at NCTN’s Façade

NCI officials said they plan to hold a series of meetings with clinical trials group chairs and group financial officers in order to fine-tune the new National Clinical Trials Network.

“We are in the midst of one-on-one meetings with the group chairs and their financial people and their statistical leadership, [meeting] group-by-group [to] look at the numbers as they exist, and try to understand from both sides what that research budget will support and what it won’t support,” said James Doroshow, director of the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. 

“Without seeing, from the group perspective, what the resources can and can’t support, it’s hard to know from a system-wide perspective how we will move forward.”

In a telephone conference the institute convened to respond to concern from advocates, Doroshow said, in effect, that the budgets sent to the groups recently didn’t represent fait accompli, and that flexibility was an option.

photoOn Biomedical Malthusianism
Varmus, et al. Propose a Strategy For Saving Biomedical Research

The assumption that growth in research funding would be sustained indefinitely has created an “unsustainable hypercompetitive system” heading toward “long-term decline,” a group of scientists, including NCI Director Harold Varmus, wrote in a paper published in the April 22 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

photoIn Brief

  • CFO Dwain Morris to leave MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • National Academy of Sciences elects new members

  • Dept. of Defense taking applications for $25 million in research grants

20140502 - May. 2, 2014
April 2014PDF

 

Drug Approvals

FDA Approves Cyramza for Stomach Cancer;
Zykadia in NSCLC; Lipiodol for HCC Imaging;
And Cobas HPV Test for Primary Screening

FDA approved Cyramza (ramucirumab) to treat patients with advanced stomach cancer or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. 

Cyramza is an angiogenesis inhibitor that blocks the blood supply to tumors. It is intended for unresectable or metastatic cancers that have been treated with a fluoropyrimidine- or platinum-containing therapy. 

Cyramza’s safety and effectiveness were evaluated in a clinical trial of 355 participants with unresectable or metastatic stomach or gastroesophageal junction cancer. Two-thirds of trial participants received Cyramza while the remaining participants received a placebo. 

Prostate Cancer 
Phase III Custirsen/Docetaxel/Prednisone Trial Fails Primary Endpoint of Overall Survival

Top-line results from a phase III trial evaluating the addition of custirsen to standard first-line docetaxel/prednisone therapy did not meet its primary endpoint of a statistically significant improvement in overall survival in men with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer when compared to docetaxel/prednisone alone.

Custirsen is an experimental drug that is designed to block the production of the protein clusterin, which may play a fundamental role in cancer cell survival and treatment resistance.

Thyroid Cancer
Oral Sorafenib Trial Published in The Lancet; Tablets Extend PFS in Metastatic Disease

Last year, a phase III trial demonstrated Nexavar (sorafenib) tablets significantly extended progression-free survival in locally recurrent or metastatic, progressive, differentiated thyroid carcinoma that is refractory to radioactive iodine treatment.

Results from the trial, named DECISION, were recently published in The Lancet. Based on these data, Nexavar was approved by FDA in November 2013.

Melanoma
Phase III Trial Fails to Extend OS After Meeting Primary Endpoint Of Durable Response Rate
Breast Cancer

 

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
LDK378 Demonstrates 58 Percent Overall Response Rate in Phase I
Survivorship
ASCO Releases Three Guidelines For Cancer Survivorship Care
NCI Approved Trials for the Month of April
More Drug Approvals

  • FDA approves sBLA for Arzerra in CLL
  • FDA and European Commission grant orphan status to volasertib in AML
  • CHMP issues positive opinion for Mekinist in metastatic melanoma
  • sNDA submitted for Imbruvica in CLL and SML based on phase III data
20140501 - May. 1, 2014