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ISSUE 7 – FEB. 20, 2015PDF

Fix MD Anderson’s Woes, Faculty Urges UT System

The Faculty Senate of MD Anderson Cancer Center asked UT System officials and the Board of Regents to “provide guidance” to the administration of the Houston-based center “in establishing milestones and timelines to implement measures to improve the morale of the faculty and the general health of the Institution.”

The resolution, which was distributed to faculty Feb. 16, reveals that the faculty’s dissatisfaction with MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho continues even after top UT System officials put him on notice to improve the faculty’s morale (The Cancer Letter, Nov. 7, 2014). 

ASCO’s Multi-Million Big Data Project Aspires to be the “Bedrock” of Oncology

The CancerLinQ database of electronic health records is going through testing at 15 practices, and will be made available for research projects later this year.

The database, launched and operated by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, was designed to pool millions of physician and patient records from practices and hospitals.

Conversation with The Cancer Letter

ASCO CEO Allen Lichter Discusses CancerLinQ

Five years into the making of CancerLinQ, the American Society of Clinical Oncology is poised to become the next big player in oncology bioinformatics.

ASCO has enlisted the help of SAP, a large multinational corporation that specializes in enterprise software, to structure over 170,000 electronic medical records into a growing database that will be launched later this year.

Billed as a “physicians for physicians” product, CancerLinQ is expected to yield high quality data that only quality research proposals can access. 

Funding Opportunity

PhRMA Launches Web Portal For Competitive Grants

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American Foundation launched a platform featuring resources on its competitive research grants and fellowships for young scientists.

The foundation awards more than $3.3 million annually to researchers with support from PhRMA’s member companies. Recent grants have focused on topics such as comparative effectiveness, adherence improvement and health outcomes.

In Brief

  • Theodore Lawrence named director of University of Michigan Cancer Center

  • Karen Knudsen named interim director of Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

  • Jonathan Jarow named acting director of FDA’s Office of Medical Policy

  • AACR names class of 11 AACR Academy fellows

  • Varian Medical Systems selected to build proton therapy center in Denmark

Drugs and Targets

  • FDA approves Lenvima in thyroid cancer

  • FDA expands indication for Revlimid to include multiple myeloma

  • Orphan Drug Designation granted to Saposin C

  • FDA grants Orphan Drug Designation to Reolysin in pancreatic cancer

  • FDA grants Orphan Drug Designation to doxorubicin formulation

  • NHS establishes access program for Oncotype DX

20150220 - Feb. 20, 2015
SPECIAL REPORT – FEB. 17, 2015 


Faculty Urges UT System to Help Fix MD Anderson’s Woes

The Faculty Senate of MD Anderson Cancer Center asked the UT System officials and the Board of Regents to “provide guidance” to the administration of the Houston-based center “in establishing milestones and timelines to implement measures to improve the morale of the faculty and the general health of the Institution.”

The resolution, which was distributed to the faculty on Feb. 16, reveals that the faculty’s dissatisfaction with MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho continues even after top UT System officials put him on notice to improve the faculty’s morale (The Cancer Letter, Nov. 7, 2014).

20150217 - Feb. 17, 2015
ISSUE 6 – FEB. 13, 2015PDF

NCI to Spend $70 Million on Precision Oncology in Presidential Initiative, Even if Congress Doesn’t Appropriate New Funds, Varmus Says

NCI will implement President Barack Obama’s directive to ramp up the initiative in precision medicine, even if Congress doesn’t appropriate specific funds for this purpose, Institute Director Harold Varmus told members of the National Cancer Advisory Board Feb. 12.

The White House budget proposal for fiscal 2016 includes $200 million for NIH to spend on the Precision Medicine Initiative. On top of that, the proposal includes a 3.2 percent overall budget increase.

For NCI, this would mean a $70 million boost for precision medicine in oncology—some on work that’s already underway, Varmus said. 

Tufts Researchers Say Blood Cancer Drugs Are a Good Value; Kantarjian Disagrees

Even at high cost, blood cancer drugs provide a good value, an analysis by Tufts Medical Center researchers found.

In a paper published online by the American Society of Hematology journal Blood, the Tufts team presents data from a meta-analysis to argue that, even considering their cost of $100,000 or more a year, targeted therapies, as they translate into years and quality of life gained, may justify the prices.

“Given the increased discussion about the high cost of these treatments, we were somewhat surprised to discover that their cost-effectiveness ratios were lower than expected,” Peter Neumann, director of the Center for Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at Tufts and the senior author of the study, said in a statement.

MD Anderson Pediatrics Chair “Resigned” To Pursue Academic Interests—Or Did She?

According to MD Anderson administration, Eugenie Kleinerman “decided to step down as Head, Division of Pediatrics, and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, effective Feb. 9 in order to pursue her interests in new initiatives in adolescent and young adult cancer.”

This was the version of events promulgated by MD Anderson Provost Ethan Dmitrovsky. 

Leonard Zwelling, a former MD Anderson executive and Kleinerman’s husband, offers another version. 

ACS: Tobacco May Kill More Than Previously Estimated

Cigarette smoking may kill tens of thousands more from diseases that are not currently counted as caused by smoking, according to a decade-long study led by American Cancer Society researchers.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the new study included data from nearly a million U.S. men and women age 55 or older that enrolled in five U.S. cohort studies—the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-II, the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Women’s Health Initiative, and the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study.

CMS Announces New Model For Payment & Care Delivery

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the “Oncology Care Model,” a multi-payer payment and care delivery model to support care coordination of cancer care.

BRCA Testing Rates Jump After Angelina Jolie Story

BRCA gene testing rates increased by nearly 40 percent in the week of Angelina Jolie’s 2013 announcement that she carried the BRCA 1 gene mutation and had an elective double mastectomy, according to a new AARP Public Policy Institute study released Feb. 11. 

This is the first report quantifying an increase in BRCA testing rates among women enrolled in a large U.S. health insurance carrier.

In Brief

  • Karl Deisseroth awarded Lurie Prize for cell and tissue imaging

  • Douglas Lowy receives Harrington Prize for work on HPV vaccine

  • UT Southwestern and a Texas consortium to establish first U.S. heavy ion radiation therapy center

  • Wendy Selig to step down as president and CEO of the Melanoma Research Alliance

  • Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and Inflection Biosciences announce collaboration

  • Northwestern University to launch Onco-SET precision medicine program

Drugs and Targets

  • E.U. expands Velcade label to include mantle cell lymphoma

  • FDA ODAC to review talimogene laherparepvec

  • Merck to assume full responsibility for Erbitux in Japan from Bristol Myers-Squibb

  • FDA grants orphan drug designation to Reolysin

  • Roche acquires Signature Diagnostics AG

20150213 - Feb. 13, 2015