Issue 39 - Oct 20, 2017
Issue 38 - Oct 13, 2017
Issue 37 - Oct 6, 2017
  • Former American Cancer Society CEO John Seffrin endorses cancer research venture funded by Philip Morris

    Philip Morris International, the tobacco company, is spending $1 billion over 12 years on “cancer research,” which will be funded through something called the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

    Here at The Cancer Letter, a news item of this sort might have been easily chalked up to crafty PR tactics and thrown the heck out.

    And it would have been, were it not for this tidbit: the press release included a gushing quote from a gentleman named John Seffrin.

  • How PR firms created “dialogue” structure used by cancer groups and tobacco clients

    In January 2000, The Cancer Letter was working on a story about what seemed to be a strange political structure that was being put together by the American Cancer Society.
    The new organization was called the National Dialogue on Cancer, and its objective was to bring everyone interested in cancer into the same political process, and, in the process, to rewrite the National Cancer Act.

    The “dialogue,” which didn’t look like anything I ever saw in cancer politics, was being run—and presumably was set up—by Shandwick International, a PR firm.

  • Conversation with the Cancer Letter

    Matt Myers: Philip Morris has a long history of funding what it calls independent research by previously credible researchers

    The Foundation for Tobacco-Free World is unlikely to win hearts and minds in the tobacco control community, said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

    The new foundation, which received an $80 million-a-year funding commitment from Philip Morris International, has the support of John Seffrin, former CEO of the American Cancer Society.

    If it is to gain credibility, the group would now need to recruit a board of directors who would be willing to stake their reputations on a venture funded by the makers of Marlboro cigarettes.

  • Conversation with the Cancer Letter

    Allan Erickson: “I think Philip Morris has a long-term goal of a smoke-free world

    Through the controversies triggered by the National Dialogue on Cancer, John Seffrin relied on his ACS ally Allan Erickson.

    Erickson now runs a small group called the National Tobacco Reform Initiative, which includes Seffrin and Derek Yach, head of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which received funding from Philip Morris International to spend $80 million a year on cancer research.

  • Guest Editorial

    The Write Treatment; when a writing workshop is a part of cancer treatment

     

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and underwent treatment until 2010 at Beth Israel Hospital, now Mount Sinai, in New York. A year after finishing treatment I was thrilled to find out that my novel, Stalina, was a winner of the Amazon Debut Novel Award Contest.

    The prize was a publishing contract. My cancer diagnosis was life changing, but so was becoming a published author. Soon after receiving the wonderful news about my novel, I found signs of a possible relapse of the cancer. Fortunately, tests came back negative. The angst I experienced was an acknowledgment that cancer would always be part of my psyche, if not my body. I wanted to find a constructive way to face these anxieties. I wanted to find a way to give back to the community of patients, doctors and nurses, friends, colleagues, and family who supported me throughout my cancer journey.

  • In Brief

    • Sunil Sharma joins TGen, City of Hope and HonorHealth
    • Wisconsin state budget expands precision medicine in cancer
  • Drugs & Targets

    • FDA approves sNDA for Alunbrig tablets, Takeda announces  
    • FDA grants priority review for Genentech’s Perjeta in adjuvant HER2+ early breast cancer
    • Mylan launches generic Gleevec tablets
    • Amgen, CytomX Therapeutics form  immuno-oncology collaboration
Issue 36 - Sep 29, 2017
  • Peter Pisters hits the right notes in town hall meeting at MD Anderson

    Returning to Houston for a town hall meeting at MD Anderson on Sept. 27, Peter Pisters, the institution’s freshly-appointed president, hit every note a guy in his position needed to hit: baseball, football, shared values, shared governance, book clubs, reminiscences on growing up nerdy in Canada, the story of how he met his wife, anecdotes from taking care of MD Anderson patients during Hurricane Rita.

    He brought with him a decades-old Grundig radio he used while taking care of MD Anderson patients during the 2005 Hurricane Rita, pictures of cute children and adorable dogs, but no notes—the talk just flowed, flawlessly, organically.

  • In draft, USPSTF recommends screening with hrHPV without cytology

    To detect high-grade precancerious cervical lesions and cervical cancer, women ages 30 to 65 may no longer need to rely on co-testing, and can choose to either screen for high-risk human papillomavirus types or undergo cervical cytology, according to a recent draft recommendation released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

    The draft statement, which is open for public comment through Oct. 9, recommends screening for cervical cancer every three years with cervical cytology alone in women ages 21 to 29. For women ages 30 to 65, USPSTF recommends either screening every three years with cervical cytology alone, or every five years with hrHPV testing alone.

  • Lowy & Schiller at the Lasker Awards: The paradox of disease prevention, and how some scientists rise above their peers

    Douglas Lowy and John Schiller received the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award on Sept. 15 for research that led to development of the human papillomavirus vaccine.

    Lowy, who is completing his stint as the NCI acting director, becomes the first sitting head of the institute—permanent or acting—to win the award, which is described as America’s Nobel Prize (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 8).

     

  • Guest Editorial

    A costly “rebranding” of an old drug comes with a 700% price increase 

    Funaro is a resident at Duke Pharmacy, Friedman is the James B. Powell Professor of Pediatric Oncology at Duke, and Weant is a clinical pharmacist in neuro-oncology at Duke Pharmacy.

    Drug shortages, exorbitant medication costs, and price gouging tactics are facets of the American healthcare system that most providers have become all too familiar with in recent years. Unfortunately, oncology is no exception. Given the critical nature of the diseases they treat, chemotherapy agents, no matter how old, are particularly subject to these large and arbitrary price increases.

  • In Brief

    • CancerCare expands financial assistance for patients affected by hurricanes
    • Research!America to honor chair emeritus John Edward Porter and medical and health research advocacy leaders
    • Fox Chase Cancer Center receives gift to establish pancreatic cancer institute
    • Linus Chuang named chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Western Connecticut Health Network
  • Drugs and Targets

    • FDA approves Verzenio for advanced or metastatic breast cancers
    • First anti-PD-1 therapy approved for advanced gastric adenocarcinoma
    • Amgen and AbbVie agree to settlement allowing commercialization of Amgevita
    • FDA approves new label for Sun Pharma’s Odomzo for sustained duration of response in treatment of basal cell carcinoma
Issue 35 - Sep 22, 2017
  • In a 6-6 vote, ODAC says “maybe” to Sutent for adjuvant kidney cancer—But at FDA “Maybe” has meaning

    With frustrating photo finish voting results—6-6—still on the screen, FDA’s cancer czar Richard Pazdur delivered an acerbic thank-you to members of the agency’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee:

    “Well, that’s the end vote, it makes our job definitely easier,” said Pazdur, director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, who gets sarcastic sometimes.

  • Pisters named president of MD Anderson

    Peter Pisters has been named president of MD Anderson Cancer Center and will begin in his new role later this year.

    The University of Texas System Board of Regents approved the appointment Sept. 18. Pisters, currently the president and CEO of University Health Network in Toronto, was unanimously selected as the sole finalist for the position at a board meeting Aug. 25—under state law, university government boards must name finalists for a presidency at least 21 days before making an appointment (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 1).

  • NCI outlines research priorities in annual plan and bypass budget for FY19

    NCI has released its professional judgment budget proposal for the fiscal year 2019, requesting $6.38 billion—$1 billion more than FY17—to fully fund promising areas in cancer research.

  • In Brief

    • NCI awards $12.4 million lymphoma research grant renewal to University of Iowa and Mayo Clinic
    • Roswell Park awarded contract to keep running NY Smokers’ Quitline 
    • ASTRO awards early-career research grants to physician-scientists
  • Drugs and Targets

    • Novartis’s Rydapt gets EU approval for AML and SM indications
    • FDA approves lower dose of cabazitaxel for prostate cancer
    • EMA committee issues positive opinion for Tesaro’s Zejula
    • Opdivo receives Japanese approval for advanced gastric cancer indications
Issue 34 - Sep 15, 2017
  • Five UC Comprehensive Cancer Centers form consortium to pool patient data for translational research

    Five academic cancer centers within the University of California system are putting together a single consortium to integrate their electronic health records, forming a clinical trials monolith that could be used by pharmaceutical companies doing research in the Golden State.

    The UC Cancer Consortium, announced Sept. 11, consists of the following NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers:

    • University of California, Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center,
    • The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of California, Irvine,
    • The Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of California, Los Angeles,
    • University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, and
    • University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Ashworth’s challenge: Build one very big data sharing system across the University of California cancer centers

    As the inaugural chair of the University of California Cancer Consortium, Alan Ashworth has to do a little cheerleading and a lot of pushing for integration of the electronic health records across the UC cancer centers.

    All five cancer centers use Epic, but that doesn’t mean much. “We’re all on Epic—but they’re all different instances,” Ashworth said to The Cancer Letter. “So, we need another solution to put all these things together.

  • Gottlieb: Oncology center shows how FDA can improve regulation, lower development costs

    FDA has a legitimate role to play in slowing down the cost of developing drugs, and it can do so by relying on good regulatory science, the agency’s commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

    Speaking at a Washington event sponsored by Friends of Cancer Research and focused on precision medicine, Gottlieb said the agency’s Oncology Center of Excellence demonstrates what the agency can do to streamline the drug development process.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    The Next Step: Neil Hayes picks up stakes at UNC to build an NCI-designated cancer program in Memphis

    The Next Step is an occasional series of conversations in which The Cancer Letter will focus on cancer researchers in the midst of transition from one position to another.

    Here we sit down with Neil Hayes, who after 15 years at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he was most recently a co leader of the Clinical Research Program, is leaving for Memphis to become the scientific director of the University of Tennessee West Institute for Cancer Research.

  • In Brief

    • Teitell named director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
    • AACR calls for sound policy, sustained funding increases
    • Allison, Schreiber win 2017 Balzan Prize 
    • Mannel Appointed as an NRG Oncology Group Chairman
    • Marcus named associate director for basic research, shared resources at Winship
    • Nominations open for AACR-Waun Ki Hong Award for translational and clinical cancer research
    • Vanderbilt’s Penson named to JNCI editorial post
    • Roswell Park joins the Oncology Information Exchange Network
    • Kimmel Cancer Center to open welcome center
  • Drugs and Targets

    • Bayer’s Aliqopa gets FDA accelerated approval for relapsed follicular lymphoma
    • FDA approves Amgen’s Mvasi, a bevacizumab biosimilar
    • Cemiplimab receives FDA breakthrough designation for advanced cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma
Issue 33 - Sep 8, 2017
  • NCI’s Lowy and Schiller win Lasker prize for developing HPV vaccine

    Douglas Lowy and John Schiller have won the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for research that led to development of the human papillomavirus vaccine.
    Lowy, who is completing his stint as the NCI acting director, becomes the first head of the institute—permanent or acting—to win the award, which is described as America’s Nobel Prize.

    The Lasker awards were announced Sept. 6.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Lowy: NCI’s intramural program made development of the HPV vaccine possible

    After getting the news that he and collaborator John Schiller have won the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, Douglas Lowy said that part of the credit belongs to the NCI intramural research program.

    Lowy and Schiller got the award for their role in developing the human papillomavirus vaccine, likely preventing millions of deaths worldwide from cervical cancer and HPV-induced malignancies.

  • Another doubling in progress for NIH? Senate appropriators slate $2 billion for NIH in FY18

    The Senate Appropriations Committee Sept. 7 marked up its version of the fiscal 2018 Labor-HHS spending bill, giving NIH an increase of $2 billion over the current year.

    The bill was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support, with a 29-2 vote, and will advance to the White House as soon as the House passes similar legislation. If signed into law, the measure would bring NIH’s budget to $36.1 billion, marking the third year in a row that NIH has received a $2 billion increase.

  • Guest Editorial

    How the RACE for Children Act will get drugs to kids with cancer

    This month, I should be taking my son, Jacob, to college. Instead, I’m participating in Curefest for Childhood Cancer on the Mall here in D.C.

    When Jacob was eight, he was diagnosed with medulloblastoma. The drugs used to treat Jacob were almost 40 years old. They did not work.

  • In Brief

    • H. Richard Alexander named chief surgical officer at Rutgers
    • Weill Cornell awarded $11.3 million SPORE grant for prostate cancer 
    • Fox Chase receives NIH grant to establish a research center in Jamaica
    • NCCN Chemotherapy order templates to be integrated into MEDITECH’s Web EHR
    • ASTRO honors 43 researchers with Abstract Awards at 2017 Annual Meeting
  • Drugs and Targets

    • EC approves Merck’s Keytruda for locally advanced, metastatic urothelial carcinoma
    • FDA grants orphan drug status to Cellect’s ApoGraft for acute and chronic GvHD
  • Funding Opportunities

    • DOD Kidney Cancer Research Program publishes funding opportunities for FY17
Issue 32 - Sep 1, 2017
  • Peter Pisters tapped to lead MD Anderson

    Peter Pisters, a sarcoma and pancreatic cancer surgeon and an MD Anderson expat who serves as president and CEO of University Health Network of Toronto, is set to become the fifth president of the Houston-based cancer center.

    Pisters was chosen by the UT System Board of Regents at a special meeting Aug. 25.

  • NCI requests $591 million in additional funding for FY19

    NCI is asking for $6.38 billion for fiscal year 2019­—nearly $1 billion, or 12 percent, above FY17 appropriation levels—to fully fund promising research areas.

    The institute’s FY19 professional judgment budget proposal, also known as the Bypass Budget, is a unique authority established by the National Cancer Act of 1971.

  • In Brief

    • Guenther Koehne named chief of bone marrow transplantation and hematologic oncology at Miami Cancer Institute
    • Prostate Cancer Foundation awards $6 Million in 2017 Challenge Awards
    • Rick Kittles joins City of Hope as director of the Division of Health Equities
    • William Dale joins City of Hope as professor of supportive care
    • Deric Savior promoted to head of medical oncology at Temple University Hospital
    • Carlyn Tan joins department of hematology/oncology at Fox Chase 
    • Reza Nejati joins pathology department at Fox Chase
    • CPRIT awards $102 million in 60 new grants 
  • Drugs and Targets

    • Novartis’s Kymriah becomes first gene therapy to get FDA approval
    • FDA approves Mylotarg for treatment of acute myeloid leukemia
    • FDA approves Lynparza (olaparib) tablets for maintenance treatment in ovarian cancer
    • FDA approves inotuzumab ozogamicin for relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor ALL
    • Ocugen gets Orphan Drug designation for ocular graft vs. host disease
    • Gazyva in previously untreated follicular lymphoma gets FDA priority review 
    • EU approves AVEO’s Fotivda (tivozanib) for advanced renal cell carcinoma
    • FDA acts to remove unproven treatment used in ‘stem cell’ centers
Issue 31 - Aug 4, 2017
  • AACR’s Project GENIE about to release second dataset, creating the largest publicly available genomic database

    Project GENIE, a publicly available genomic data repository created and run by the American Association for Cancer Research, has amassed 18,804 de-identified records, and is on track to release another large dataset early this fall.

    Launched in 2015, Project GENIE, short for the AACR Project Genomics Evidence Neoplasia Information Exchange, is a multi-phase, multi-year international data-sharing initiative that seeks to catalyze precision oncology through the development of a regulatory-grade registry.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Charles Sawyers: Project GENIE demonstrates what a coalition of willing institutions is able to do

    When former Vice President Joe Biden sought to convene and cajole cancer organizations into breaking down silos as part of the Cancer Moonshot, he frequently expressed frustration about reluctance on the part of cancer organizations to share data.

    “You’re not going to like this, but imagine if you all worked together,” Biden said at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “I’m not joking! Imagine if you all worked together.” (The Cancer Letter, June 10, 2016).

  • Ned Sharpless set to leave UNC job Aug 4; Starting date as NCI director not publicly known

    Norman “Ned” Sharpless, the scientist slated to be the next NCI director, is departing from his current job, that of director of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, sources said.

    While it’s confirmed that Aug. 4 is Sharpless’s last day at Lineberger, it’s less clear what his first day at NCI would be, though insiders say he would likely report to work at the institute by the end of August.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    More than three million life-years added over 60 years as a result of SWOG clinical trials

    A SWOG study estimates that implementation of findings from that group’s clinical trials has added 3.34 million years to the lives of cancer patients in the 60 years since its founding in 1956.

    The primary question the researchers sought to answer was: “How have the NCI–sponsored network cooperative cancer research groups benefited patients with cancer in the general population?”

  • Guest Editorial

    Senate passes a “right to try” bill; Harm to patients comes next

    Patients for whom there are no existing treatments watch with desperation as a potentially helpful new drug spends years working its way from a lab bench, through clinical trials, and finally to the FDA, where reviewers consider it for approval.

    To help those who don’t qualify for clinical trials but wish to try experimental drugs as a last treatment option, the FDA allows patients’ physicians to apply for “compassionate use” of experimental medications through its expanded access program, which allows seriously ill patients without other treatment options to access investigational, unapproved drugs and devices outside of a clinical trial.

  • In Brief

    • Ramon Parsons named director of Tisch Cancer Institute at Mt. Sinai
    • ASTRO names 23 members to 2017 class of “fellows”
    • Emmanuel Quien joins the Fox Chase Cancer Center Department of Hematology/Oncology
  • Drugs and Targets

    • Enasidenib, companion diagnostic get FDA approval for relapsed or refractory AML
    • Vyxeos gets FDA approval for first treatment for types of poor-prognosis AML
    • Opdivo gets FDA accelerated approval for MSI-H/dMMR colorectal cancer
    • FDA expands ibrutinib indications to chronic GVHD
    • Amgen, Allergan submit biosimilar application for ABP 980 to FDA
    • Kite files the first CAR-T application in Europe for axicabtagene ciloleucel
    • BMS to acquire IFM Therapeutics to focus on innate immunity
    • BMS, Clovis form collaboration to evaluate Opdivo and Rubraca
    • Loxo Oncology acquires highly selective, reversible BTK inhibitor
    • MedStar Health partners with Indivumed to advance precision oncology research
  • Funding Opportunities

    • NETRF announces grants for neuroendocrine cancer research
Issue 30 - Jul 28, 2017
  • Pediatric MATCH starts to accrue children with recurrent and refractory cancers

    NCI and the Children’s Oncology Group opened enrollment in Pediatric Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice—Pediatric MATCH—a long-awaited precision medicine trial.

    Pediatric MATCH, a series of single-arm phase II trials, will seek to screen between 200 and 300 patients per year, with the goal of screening 1,000 patients over four years, assigning children to therapies that target genomic characteristics of their diseases.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Will Parsons: This is a fantastic opportunity to test precision oncology for pediatric patients in a large-scale way

    Though NCI-MATCH and Pediatric MATCH are similar in structure, they represent different approaches to oncology.

    While a small minority of adult cancer patients in the U.S. get treated on-protocol, in pediatric oncology only a small proportion of patients receive care off-protocol. Altogether 90 percent of childhood cancer patients are treated at institutions that are part of Children’s Oncology Group.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Rita Redberg: FDA proposal to delay reporting of device malfunctions “should be tossed”

    A recent proposal to delay reporting of device malfunctions to FDA will weaken the already inadequate medical device reporting system at the agency, said Rita Redberg, a professor of medicine and cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco.

    Redberg, editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, has been studying adverse event reporting and medical device surveillance issues for over a decade. She often opines on recommendations of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and in 2014, as chair of an advisory committee for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Redberg presided over the panel that expressed low confidence in low-dose CT screening for lung cancer (The Cancer Letter, May 9, 2014).

  • In Brief

    • Carlos Arteaga to head UT Southwestern Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center
    • Larry Copeland appointed president of GOG Foundation
    • Edith Mitchell receives 2017 ASTRO Honorary Membership
    • SU2C-Lustgarten Foundation team aims to apply CAR T-cell therapy to pancreatic cancer
    • Andrew Baschnagel wins UW Carbone Cancer Center award for lung cancer study
    • Cancer groups release statement on health disparities research
    • Report shows cancer patients struggle to afford treatment
    • Christiana Care Gene Editing Institute, NovellusDx form personalized medicine partnership
  • Drugs and Targets

    • FDA expands approval of Yervoy to include pediatric patients 12 years and older with unresectable or metastatic melanoma
    • FDA accepts BMS applications for Opdivo four-week dosing schedule across approved indications
    • Novartis receives positive CHMP opinion for Rydapt for newly diagnosed FLT3-mutated AML, three types of advanced systemic mastocytosis
    • AstraZeneca and Merck from oncology collaboration
    • CHMP issues positive opinion for avelumab for metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma
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