Issue 42 - Nov 9, 2018
  • Otis Brawley leaves the American Cancer Society as it pursues “open-for-business” strategy amid sliding revenues

    If you walked into your local Long John Silver’s restaurant on Sept. 19 and attempted to “talk like a pirate,” the person behind the counter would give you a free deep-fried Twinkie and prompt you to count out a few coins for the American Cancer Society.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Brawley: “I started out talking about black-and-white disparities, and now I write papers talking about state-by-state disparities”

    I wish more Americans would care about other Americans and their health care. I see a certain amount of selfishness sometimes, especially when we start having these arguments about screening.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Jaffee: Congressional commitment to NIH will continue through FY2021

    The growing nation’s budget deficit will become a primary focus for many in Congress and President Trump, potentially resulting in calls to cut spending, and thereby effectively capping the rate of growth that the NIH budget has experienced during the past four years. In fact, the president has already called for a 5 percent cut across all departments in FY 2020.

  • An Appreciation

    Arti Hurria, geriatric oncologist at City of Hope, dies in traffic accident

    Arti Hurria, a pioneer of geriatric cancer care at City of Hope, died Nov. 7 in a traffic accident. She was 48.

  • Letter to the Editor

    On behalf of ECOG-ACRIN, we want to add our voices to the condolences for the families and community of those killed in Pittsburgh. We paraphrase the assertion of Edmund Burke that all that is required for evil to triumph is that good people remain silent. In response, as a community dedicated to the relief of suffering, we register our condemnation of this atrocity, and of all those that would prey upon sub-populations of our diverse society.

  • In Brief

    • Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation gives $6 million to Moffitt
    • Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group announces Allen Distinguished Investigators
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  • Clinical Roundup

    • Stereotactic radiosurgery and surgical resection offer similar local control of brain metastases
    • Trisalus pressure-enabled drug delivery increased effect of anti-CEA CAR-T in pancreatic cancer patients with liver metastases
  • Drugs & Targets

    • FDA approves Empliciti + pomalidomide and dexamethasone for multiple myeloma
    • FDA grants Fast Track to selinexor for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
    • Seattle Genetics submits sBLA for ADCETRIS in frontline treatment of CD30-expressing peripheral T-cell lymphomas
    • BMS, Infinity form collaboration to evaluate Opdivo + IPI-549 in urothelial cancer
    • ASCO, SITC release recommendations for reporting of immuno-oncology clinical trials
    • Sandoz decides not to pursue US biosimilar rituximab
    • FDA’s digital tool seeks to help capture real world data useful in regulatory decision-making
    • Elsevier to integrate NCCN guidelines into Via Oncology
Issue 41 - Nov 2, 2018
  • Minimally invasive surgery lowers survival in cervical cancer, new studies show

    Women who were subjected to minimally invasive surgery for early-stage cervical cancer were four times more likely to die from that disease within three years, three times more likely to have a recurrence within three years, and had shorter overall survival, compared to women who underwent open surgery, according to two groundbreaking studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine Oct. 31.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Ramirez: We no longer offer minimally invasive radical hysterectomy at MD Anderson

    When cervical cancer patients were referred to MD Anderson Cancer Center for a prospective, phase III trial testing for noninferiority of minimally invasive vs. open abdominal radical hysterectomy, many requested the minimally invasive approach, because their referring physicians said it was better, said Pedro Ramirez, a professor of gynecologic oncology at MD Anderson.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    SGO’s Kesterson: Future studies are needed to define role of minimally invasive surgery in cervical cancer

    Gynecologic oncologists need to reduce oncologic risk, but it’s not going to happen without knowing why minimally invasive radical hysterectomies decrease survival of patients with cervical cancer, said Joshua Kesterson, chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Penn State  Cancer Institute.

  • Experts: Minimally invasive procedures in gynecology gained universal acceptance before hard questions were asked

    think these investigators should be commended in doing this trial and coming up with these results. It shows that, in a clear way, we can’t make assumptions in anything we do. The assumption that robotic surgery would be just as good as open surgery is clearly demonstrated here that it’s not a fair assumption.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Waksal: Reflecting on the Tree of Life shooting and new American anti-Semitism

    It made me step back and think that things can happen anywhere, and when they happen, it certainly makes one take pause and think, life is fragile in that way as a Jew anywhere, and anti-Semitism has been more in the news than it ever was.

  • In Brief

    • Barry Kramer retires from NCI
    • Adam Margolin to lead new $200M program to accelerate precision medicine at Mount Sinai
    • Andrzej Dlugosz to oversee basic science research at Rogel Cancer Center
    • Leonard Freedman named chief science officer at Frederick National Laboratory
    • Johnathan Whetstine to lead Cancer Epigenetics Program at Fox Chase
    • Syapse to utilize NCCN Biomarkers Compendium for clinical care
    • ONS and other groups ask nurses to lead by example to promote advance care planning
    • SU2C announces fundraising at CVS pharmacies
  • Funding Opportunities

    Global challenge aims to open new direction in breast cancer research

    The California Breast Cancer Research Program has launched the Global Challenge to Prevent Breast Cancer, a competition designed to surface game-changing research ideas to advance breast cancer prevention.

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  • Clinical Roundup

    • Survey shows 4 in 10 Americans believe alternative therapies can cure cancer
    • Study identifies factors for reducing risk of immunosuppression, fever in people treated with chemotherapy
  • Drugs & Targets

    • FDA approves Keytruda + carboplatin and either paclitaxel or nab-paclitaxel for first-line metastatic squamous NSCLC
    • FDA accepts sNDA for Lonsurf for metastatic gastric/gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma; grants Priority Review
    • Venclexta + Gazyva reduced risk of disease worsening or death in previously untreated CLL with co-morbidities
    • TESARO achieves Zejula prostate cancer development milestone by Janssen
    • Cofactor Genomics launches ImmunoPrism kit for use in clinical sequencing laboratories
  • NCI Trials

    NCI Trials for November

    The National Cancer Institute Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program approved the following clinical research studies last month.

    For further information, contact the principal investigator listed.

Issue 40 - Oct 26, 2018
  • Long-awaited trial of checkpoint inhibitor in breast cancer produces 2-month PFS gain; no final OS advantage seen—yet

    Tecentriq, Genentech’s PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor, is the first immunotherapy agent to report positive outcomes in breast cancer in a phase III trial—providing proof of principle that these drugs are active in treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    NCI’s Korde: Follow-up needed to validate PFS with mature OS results for Tecentriq

    In talking to patients, I think it’s difficult to ignore the possibility of a 10-month improvement in overall survival in patients with PD-L1 positive tumors. If this result is confirmed with longer follow-up and seen in future studies, it would certainly be a major step forward in the treatment of TNBC.

  • Has Tecentriq earned a role in treatment of triple-negative breast cancer? Here is what experts say

    Obviously, the field of immune-oncology has been one of the great success stories in our field over the last five years, based on our molecular understanding of the mechanisms of immune tolerance (or checkpoints) and how to disrupt that. Not only has ASCO declared Checkpoint Inhibition (as well as cellular-based immunotherapy) the “Advance of the Year,” the Nobel Committee awarded this year’s Prize to Drs. Allison and Honjo for their fabulous observations that led to these great breakthroughs.

  • Trump’s drug pricing plan pegs Medicare Part B payments to international levels

    The Trump administration earlier this week said it intends to start the rulemaking process aimed at aligning Medicare payments for drugs with prices paid outside the US.

  • In Brief

    • Ken Cowan to step down as director of Nebraska’s Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center
    • Otis Brawley, Patricia Ganz, James Wade receive ACCC awards
    • Taylor Ripley to join Baylor College of Medicine
    • Alastair Thompson to lead breast surgical oncology at BCM
    • Rutgers’s Richard Drachtman receives Melvyn H. Motolinsky Award
    • Mount Sinai mammography van intended to break down disparities in screening
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  • Clinical Roundup

    • Keytruda improved OS as monotherapy and in combination with chemo in first-line recurrent or metastatic head and neck cancer
    • Keytruda shows nearly 40% CR in high-risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer unresponsive to standard of care
    • Loxo Oncology announces larotrectinib clinical update in patients with TRK Fusion cancers
    • Pfizer provides update on PALOMA-3 trial of IBRANCE in HR+, HER2- metastatic breast cancer
    • Data monitoring committee recommends continuation of SGX301 trial in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
    • Data on Merck’s investigational STING agonist presented at ESMO 2018
    • Zoledronic acid improves DFS in premenopausal HR+ early breast cancer
    • SOLO-1 phase III trial demonstrates Lynparza maintenance therapy cut the risk of disease progression or death by 70% in advanced BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer
    • Study shows surgery, radiation extend survival of patients with limited metastatic lung cancer
    • Lonsurf meets OS and PFS endpoints in phase III trial
    • AVEO Oncology, EUSA Pharma announce updated interim results from phase II portion of the TiNivo study in renal cell carcinoma
    • Celsion announces PFS data from GEN-1 phase I immuno-oncology study in stage III/IV ovarian cancer
    • Study: Racial disparity in colorectal cancer incidence not due to biology
    • Marker found for condition that causes skin tumors
  • Drugs & Targets

    • FDA accepts sNDA for Lonsurf for metastatic gastric/gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma; grants Priority Review
    • BMS provides update on regulatory review of Opdivo + Yervoy in first-line lung cancer
    • Zai Lab announces approval of Zejula in relapsed ovarian cancer in Hong Kong
    • NCCN awarded $2M to study Taiho’s Trifluridine and Tipiracil in various cancers
Issue 39 - Oct 19, 2018
Issue 38 - Oct 12, 2018
  • St. Jude and the World Health Organization collaborate in first-ever global alliance to boost cancer cure rates in children

    St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization have formed a collaboration, working with partners across the world, and aiming to cure at least 60 percent of children with cancer worldwide by 2030.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    St. Jude’s Downing: WHO effort can raise cure rates up to 60% for children with cancer

    The $15 million collaboration between St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the World Health Organization is the first step to improving access in low and middle-income countries to affordable treatments for six common types of childhood cancer, said James Downing, St. Jude president and CEO.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    WHO’s Ilbawi: St. Jude partnership can resolve inequality, capacity issues in childhood cancer

    How do you begin a quest to cure 60 percent of children with six common types of childhood cancer worldwide by 2030?

    You start by building the political will needed to secure government investment in health care, said André Ilbawi, a World Health Organization technical officer for cancer control in the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention.

  • Letter to the Editor

    Ronald DePinho’s guest editorial in the Oct. 5, 2018, issue of The Cancer Letter congratulating Jim Allison for winning a share of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology contained the following one sentence paragraph: “It was the first Nobel ever awarded for the treatment of cancer.”

  • In Brief

    • Cancer biologist Steven Artandi to lead Stanford Cancer Institute, replacing outgoing director Beverly Mitchell
    • Allan Tsung named surgical oncology division director at Ohio State
    • Marc Hurlbert named chief science officer at Melanoma Research Alliance
    • Katzenellenbogen named Chuck and Tina Pagano Scholar at IU
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  • Trials & Tribulations

    Biomarker linked to increased survival rates among certain brain tumor patients

    Study shows DNA biomarker can be used to predict outcomes for high risk low grade gliomas

    Brain tumors can be tricky to treat because there is such a wide range of outcomes. Some patients succumb to the disease within months, others live years beyond their diagnosis.

  • Clinical Roundup

    • New ASTRO/ASCO/AUA guideline for early-stage prostate cancer supports use of shortened courses of radiation therapy
    • High-precision proton therapy more effective in some cancers when combined with thermal therapy
    • Cancer death disparities linked to poverty, lifestyle factors nationwide
    • Report: tobacco control must be highest priority in cancer control
  • Drugs & Targets

    • ODAC recommends approval of rituximab biosimilar
    • Myriad, Pfizer announce commercialization plan for talazoparib companion diagnostic
    • Foundation Medicine introduces liquid biopsy for solid tumors in patients with advanced cancer
    • Celyad announces agreement for Horizon Discovery’s shRNA platform to develop next- gen allogeneic CAR-T therapies
    • Novitas Solutions approves coverage of UPMC-developed test for diagnosis of thyroid nodules
  • NCI Trials

    NCI Trials for October

    The National Cancer Institute Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program approved the following clinical research studies last month.

Issue 37 - Oct 5, 2018
  • Guest Editorial

    When your harmonica player wins the Nobel Prize

    THE CHECKPOINTS were born in 2007 on an escalator in Chicago. Here’s the story…

    Back then, in an oncology era that we’ll fondly call “The Dark Ages,” no one, except a small gaggle of Don Quixotes, believed that the immune system could cure cancer. Immunotherapy stalwarts (like my friends and I) were such outcasts that our presentations at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting were scheduled for the last day of the conference (when just about everyone had already gone home) and assigned to a lecture hall that was too remote for anything but sensible shoes.

  • Guest Editorial

    Thank you, Jim Allison

    The year was 1998, location, Italian Alps. Jim and I were attending an intimate Pezcoller meeting organized by David Livingston. At that meeting, Jim presented something I had never seen in the entirety of my career—the eradication of cancer in mice following treatment with an antibody designed to inhibit a T cell checkpoint mechanism.

  • Craig Thompson resigns from two corporate boards as MSK crisis shifts to board roles

    Craig Thompson, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, resigned from two corporate boards of directors—the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., and Charles River Laboratories International Inc., a company focused on early-stage drug development and manufacturing of novel compounds.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Roy Jensen: “In general, I think cancer center directors still enjoy a certain amount of respect”

    As the new president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, Roy Jensen will focus on public policy at the state and local level as his presidential priority.

  • An Appreciation

    Philip DiSaia, former head of Gynecologic Oncology Group, dies at 81

    The grandson of Italian immigrants, Philip John DiSaia was born on Aug. 14, 1937 in Providence, Rhode Island. He earned his Bachelor’s in Science at Brown University and his MD at Tufts University.

  • In Brief

    • Ruth O’Regan named chief scientific officer of Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium
    • Peter Wiklund named director of the Bladder Cancer Program at Mount Sinai
    • 2018 NIH Director’s awards for high-risk, high-reward research program announced
    • Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Leeds researchers win the 2018 European Health Award
    • Shirley Mertz elected chair and Christine Benjamin vice chair of Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance
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  • Trials & Tribulations

    How tumor-specific modulation frequencies were discovered

    In the spring of 2001, I visited a longtime friend and collaborator, Alexandre Barbault, to share with him my vision of using low levels radiofrequency electromagnetic fields for the treatment of cancer.

  • Clinical Roundup

    • Aspirin lowers risk of ovarian and hepatocellular cancer
    • Genentech’s Entrectinib showed durable response of more than two years NSCLC
  • Drugs & Targets

    • FDA releases draft guidance on master protocol studies
    • FDA approves Kyprolis with dexamethasone for relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma
    • FDA authorizes first next-gen sequencing-based test in patients with ALL, MM
    • FDA approves Libtayo as first and only treatment for advanced CSCC
Issue 36 - Sep 28, 2018
  • Oregon flirts with—and quickly abandons—plan to deny Medicaid payment for next-generation sequencing

    The Oregon Health Authority did a considerable amount of work to prepare a plan that would deny Medicaid coverage for next-generation sequencing tests in the state.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    UIC’s Stewart: Oregon draft guidance is “an assault on the treatment of underrepresented populations”

    The unwillingness to provide patients with targeted therapies based upon their genetic profile, I think, is unconscionable. The logic to me behind that is, “It’s okay to be elderly and sick, but it’s not okay to be poor and sick.” That’s how the draft guidance reads to me, because you won’t have access to state-of-the-art diagnostics.

  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    WVU’s Goldberg: Oregon draft guidance would widen disparities for low-income cancer patients

    My opinion is that patients should have equal access to technology that is becoming useful in improving outcomes, regardless of which insurer they are covered by. I can tell you that every week, we’re doing NGS tests on Medicaid patients in West Virginia as well as on patients with every other kind of insurance.

  • In Baselga’s wake: Debate focuses on COIs of academics on boards of for-profit firms

    As the fallout from the ethics scandal at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center continues, cancer center officials are investigating allegations contained in an anonymous letter from a group that identifies themselves as “Concerned Employees of MSKCC.”

  • In Brief

    • NIH receives $2B raise as House passes FY19 spending package
    • NIH memorial service for Alan Rabson scheduled for Oct. 30
    • Heidi Nelson named medical director of the American College of Surgeons Cancer Programs
    • American Cancer Society honors John Ruckdeschel with St. George Award
    • Carlos Arteaga awarded $600,000 to study breast cancer therapy resistance
    • ASCO recognizes Rep. Kevin Yoder with 2018 Congressional Leadership Award
    • NCCN moves global headquarters to Plymouth Meeting
    • Cuomo announces U.S.-Cuba venture to develop new cancer treatments
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  • Conversation with The Cancer Letter

    Anne-Marie Langevin receives Harry Hynes Award

    Anne-Marie Langevin, of the South Texas Pediatric Minority/Underserved NCI Community Oncology Research Program site in San Antonio, won the 2018 Harry Hynes Award, which is given annually to the PI who reflects the outstanding contribution to clinical trials and community research.

  • Clinical Roundup

    • CT screening reduces lung cancer mortality, NELSON study finds
    • Imfinzi significantly improves OS in unresectable, stage III NSCLC
    • Tecentriq + chemo significantly improves OS as initial treatment for ES-SCLC
    • Atezolizumab + carboplatin & pemetrexed improves PFS in stage IV non-squamous NSCLC
    • Myriad’s Variant Reclassification Study published in JAMA
    • Alunbrig improves PFS by over 50% vs. crizotinib in first-line advanced ALK+ NSCLC
    • Cancer patients have lower risk of opioid-related death than general public
    • Breast cancer patients prefer knowing costs prior to starting treatment
    • CIMAvax-EGF well tolerated for NSCLC, initial findings show
  • Drugs & Targets

    • FDA approves Vizimpro for NSCLC indication
    • FDA approves Copiktra for CLL/SLL indications
    • FDA grants QIDP and Fast Track Designations to Cidara
    • Blincyto approved In Japan for relapsed or refractory B-cell ALL
    • European Commission approves Coherus’s Udenyca
  • NCI Trials

    NCI Trials for September

    The National Cancer Institute Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program approved the following clinical research studies last month.

Breaking News - Sep 26, 2018
Issue 35 - Sep 21, 2018
Issue 34 - Sep 14, 2018
  • José Baselga resigns as physician-in-chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering

    José Baselga has resigned from his position as physician-in-chief and chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center less than a week after The New York Times and ProPublica reported that he had failed to disclose his conflicts of interest in scientific and medical journals and at professional meetings.

  • A color-coded document Baselga created to explain himself instead illustrated the extent of his confusion and exposure

    The discussions that took place in the executive offices of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center over the past week aren’t publicly known. Ditto conversations at top-tier medical journals and professional societies, which are assessing the aftermath of José Baselga’s systematic failure to disclose his conflicts of interest.

  • ASCO urges CMS to drop proposal that threatens to reduce access for Medicare cancer patients

    Through a combination of payment reductions, some provisions of the 2019 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule proposed rule will undermine access to cancer care for Medicare beneficiaries, the American Society of Clinical Oncology wrote in a comment letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

  • In Brief

    • Nearly 350 groups join AACR in Rally for Medical Research
    • Stand Up To Cancer 2018 telecast raises $123.6 million
    • Allis, Grunstein, Glen, Steitz win 2018 Lasker Awards
    • $3.2 million NIH grant aims to correct diagnostic errors for breast cancer
    • CPRIT surpasses $2 billion milestone with 64 new grants
    • Sidney Kimmel – Jefferson joins Driver network
    • Three community health care systems to use Flatiron’s OncoCloud Suite
  • Funding Opportunities

    NCCN-Lilly RFP on quality of care in gastric cancer

    The National Comprehensive Cancer Network announced a collaboration with Eli Lilly and Co. to offer a new opportunity seeking proposals to bridge gaps in care for gastric and gastroesophageal junction cancer patients in the U.S. The Request for Proposals outlines the scope and process that will be followed for the submission of Letters of Intent.

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  • Clinical Roundup

    • Study details incidence and timing of immunotherapy-related fatalities
    • CARsgen Therapeutics and CrownBio complete CAR-T study for gastric cancer
    • Bavencio + Inlyta improved PFS in advanced RCC
    • IMV Inc. and Merck to evaluate DPX-Survivac + Keytruda
    • Clinical trial shows best outcomes to date for older Hodgkin lymphoma patients  
    • Children who develop ALL may have dysregulated immune function at birth
    • Drug for pancreatic cancer targets two genes at a time
  • Drugs & Targets

    • FDA approves moxetumomab pasudotox-tdfk for hairy cell leukemia
    • Boehringer Ingelheim acquires all ViraTherapeutics shares to develop next-gen viral-based therapies
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