20150613 - Jun 13, 2015

AAUP Places MD Anderson on Censure List

MD Anderson Cancer Center has been censured by the American Association of University Professors, an organization that defends academic freedom and shared governance.

The decision was made at AAUP’s Annual Meeting, which concluded June 13 in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1915, AAUP has 47,000 individual members and 300 chapters.

Several hundred AAUP members unanimously voted to censure Ronald DePinho’s administration, said Gregory Scholtz, AAUP associate secretary and director of the Department of Academic Freedom.

“There was no debate,” Scholtz said to The Cancer Letter.

20150612 - Jun 12, 2015
ISSUE 23 – JUNE 12, 2015PDF

NCI Frederick Laboratory’s $400 Million Per Year Contract Up for Re-Competition

NCI is opening up its contract for operations and technical support at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research for re-competition—a process that officials said will take up to two years.

The institute is broadening the statement of work for the contract to maximize new opportunities in cancer research, which involves fostering interactions with academia. Bidders can include universities, consortia of universities, other nonprofit institutions and for-profit companies.

The contract, which was awarded in 2008, is scheduled to end in September 2018. Leidos Biomedical Research Inc. received $400.2 million to run the lab in fiscal 2014. It is not publicly known how much NCI is budgeting for the 2018 contract.

    21st Century Cures Heads for House Floor Vote

    The 21st Century Cures Act cleared the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and is heading for floor vote.

    The legislation, H.R. 6, is designed to expedite drug development, modernize clinical trials, and accelerate approval of drugs and medical devices. Capitol Hill insiders say the floor vote may occur within two weeks.

    Guest Commentary

    Obamacare was Undermined from the Outset

    By Leonard Zwelling

    Could the Supreme Court functionally end Obamacare before the end of June?

    It could if the court determines that subsidies paid to those individuals eligible for the payments who gained health insurance on the federal exchanges are inconsistent with the Affordable Care Act as written.

    Pediatrician Charged With Child Porn Possession Resigns From MD Anderson

    A pediatric oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center is facing federal charges of one count of receiving and possessing child pornography.

    Dennis Hughes, an associate professor of pediatrics, was arrested at his home June 5 after the Federal Bureau of Investigation found a thumb drive containing 8,200 downloaded files, the majority of which appeared to contain child pornography.

      In Brief

      • Karen Knudsen named director of Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University

      • Roberto Pili joins IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center

      • Mary Beckerle appointed to board of Johnson & Johnson

      • Pew Charitable Trusts name 27 biomedical research scholars

      • The Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network publishes study on molecular classification of diffuse gliomas

      • AACR and Bayer partner to expand research fellowship program

      • Scripps Mercy O’Toole Breast Care Center opens in San Diego

      • ASCO Publishes Practical Tips for Oncology Practice 

      • Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation and Smart Patients launch DATABLUE

      • The Cancer Letter receives first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for its coverage of power morcellation

       Drugs and Targets

      • Lenvatinib launches in U.K. for advanced thyroid cancer

      • Keytruda authorized for sale by Health Canada

      • FDA grants orphan designation to APTO-253

      • Janssen initiates rolling submission for daratumumab in multiple myeloma

      • MD Anderson and Nektar Therapeutics announce collaboration

      20150605 - Jun 5, 2015
      ISSUE 22 – JUNE 5, 2015PDF

      NCI-MATCH to Bring in Public, Private Funds, Giving NCI New Urgent Scientific Agenda

      ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group is starting enrollment in NCI-MATCH, the most ambitious of NCI’s new generation of clinical trials.

      In addition to being the centerpiece of the institute’s recently formed National Clinical Trials Network, NCI-MATCH—the name is an acronym for Molecular Analysis for Therapy Choice—provides a strong case for garnering Congressional support for the White House precision medicine initiative.

      The $215 million program proposed by Obama as part of appropriations for fiscal 2016 hasn’t translated into congressional appropriations. The PMI budget request includes $70 million for NCI to scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer and apply that knowledge to develop more effective approaches to cancer treatment. Similarly, the new-generation trials would boost the NCI case in pursuit of a share of another potential windfall: the 21st Century Cures.

      See also:

      Conversation with The Cancer Letter

      Doroshow: NCI-MATCH is an Example of What Smart Public-Private Partnerships Can Do

      The NCI-MATCH phase II study is intended to allow the institute and its clinical trials groups catapult to the premier role in cancer research.

      In a conversation with The Cancer Letter, James Doroshow, director of the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, said NCI-MATCH established the institute as a trusted party in a complex, multi-agent trial intended to produce leads for government-funded investigators and pharma companies would be able to follow.

      ASCO CEO Lichter to Step Down in June 2016

      Allen Lichter, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO, announced June 1 that he would step down June 30, 2016.

      Lichter has led ASCO since 2006.

      Melanoma Drugs Could be Used to Treat Lung, Liver, Head-Neck and Colorectal Cancers

      Three immunotherapy drugs approved for the treatment of melanoma may be used to treat advanced lung, liver, head and neck, and colorectal cancers, according to clinical trial results presented at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

      These drugs—Keytruda (pembrolizumab) by Merck, and Opdivo (nivolumab) and Yervoy (ipilimumab) by Bristol-Myers Squibb—are called checkpoint inhibitors because they release the molecular checkpoints that keep the immune system from attacking tumors.

        ESMO Scale Stratifies Magnitude of Benefit of Cancer Drugs

        The European Society for Medical Oncology May 30 published the ESMO Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale, a tool to assist oncology clinicians in evaluating the most effective anti-cancer medicines for their patients.

        According to the society, the ESMO-MCBS offers a “rational, structured and consistent approach to stratify a drug’s clinically meaningful benefit”—a scale that can be used in public policy decision-making, to develop or improve clinical guidelines, in day-to-day clinical situations.

          Canadian Judge Orders Tobacco Companies to Pay $12 Billion to About One Million Quebec Citizens

          A Quebec court ordered three major tobacco companies to pay US$12 billion, over 15 billion Canadian dollars, in damages in a landmark class action lawsuit.

          On June 1, Quebec Superior Court Judge Brian Riordan instructed Canadian tobacco companies JTI-Macdonald, Imperial Tobacco, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges to pay punitive and moral damages to two groups of Quebecois plaintiffs. The lawsuit was filed in fall 1998, and legal proceedings began in 2012.

            ASCO President Peter Paul Yu’s 2015 Presidential Address

            A transcript of ASCO President Peter Paul Yu’s address at the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting.

              Amgen Seeks to Depose Reporter, TCL Invokes First Amendment Shield

              Amgen Inc. is seeking to depose The Cancer Letter editor and publisher Paul Goldberg in connection with a shareholders suit stemming from his 2007 story about the results of a Danish trial of Aranesp.

              The Cancer Letter is contesting the subpoena, asserting first amendment protection and its rights to protect confidentiality of sources.


                Wally Sampson, 85, Challenged Alternative Remedies

                Wallace Ira Sampson, a longtime “quackbuster,” emeritus clinical professor of medicine at Stanford University, and former director of oncology at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, died May 25 following a three-month hospital stay for complications following cardiac surgery. He was 85.

                Sampson was one of a group of scientists and physicians who focused on the growing influence of alternative medicine, said Stephen Barrett, a fellow quackbuster.

                  In Brief

                  • Nicole Robinson named VP of Industry Relations at Fred Hutch

                  • The Department of Defense appropriations bill includes an additional $12 million for lung cancer research

                  • The Community Oncology Alliance announces nine practices received oncology medical home designation

                  20150529 - May 29, 2015
                  ISSUE 21 – MAY 29, 2015PDF

                  Neupogen’s New Indication:

                  Nuke Mishaps and Terrorism

                  Neupogen, a drug widely used in oncology, recently received an FDA approval for boosting survival in people acutely exposed to myelosuppressive doses of radiation, also known as hematopoietic syndrome or acute radiation syndrome.

                  Neupogen (filgrastim)—a myeloid growth factor, a class of drugs that includes GM-CSF and Neulasta—as well as other similar drugs have been used to treat victims of radiation and nuclear accidents since Chernobyl.

                  “Based on my experience treating victims of many nuclear and radiation accidents worldwide, I think drugs like G- and GM-CSF may be useful in accelerating bone marrow recovery in persons exposed to moderate doses of ionizing radiations in whom sufficient numbers of undamaged bone marrow cells remain to respond and who have no irreversible damage to other tissues and organs such as the skin and lungs,” said Robert Peter Gale, an American physician who was the first physician to use these drugs in the aftermath of a nuclear accident.

                  Two Chernobyl Doctors were the First Humans to Get GM-CSF

                  By Robert Peter Gale

                  By 1986, there were substantial data in animals that molecularly-clone human haematopoietic growth factors, such as granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), could accelerate bone marrow recovery and increase survival after exposure to high-dose ionizing radiations given under controlled experimental conditions.

                  On April 26, 1986, my Soviet colleagues and I were suddenly faced with treating about 200 firefighters, emergency personnel and technicians exposed to very high doses of ionizing radiations from an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power facility in Ukraine. The most severely affected persons receiving >2 Gray (Gy; for reference the average dose of the A-bomb survivors was 10 times less and there were no survivors of doses >1 Gy) were flown to Moscow where we set up operations at Clinical Hospital 6, a high security facility attached to the Institute of Biophysics.

                  FBI Probes Who Knew What and When in Power Morcellation Imbroglio

                  The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly trying to establish whether Johnson & Johnson—one of the largest manufacturers of power morcellators—knew as early as nine years ago that the gynecological device can disseminate uterine cancers.

                  According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI’s Newark, N.J. office interviewed three people, including Robert Lamparter, a retired pathologist who alerted Ethicon, a J&J subsidiary, about potential problems with morcellators in 2006.

                  Federal Appeals Court Instructs Tobacco Companies to Issue “Corrective Statements”

                  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court upheld on May 22 a lower court’s order requiring nine tobacco companies to publish “corrective statements” about the dangers of tobacco and its practices of marketing to children.

                  The ruling stems from a case the federal government brought against a group of the largest tobacco companies in 1999 under anti-racketeering law.

                    ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation Names 2015 Winners of Young Investigator, Career Development, and Clinical Research Awards

                    The Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology announced the recipients of the 2015 Young Investigator Awards, Career Development Awards, Advanced Clinical Research Award in Breast Cancer, and the Comparative Effectiveness Research Professorship in Breast Cancer.

                    The recipients will be recognized during the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting taking place May 29 – June 2 in Chicago.

                      In Brief

                      • Shohreh Shahabi named chief of gynecologic oncology at Northwestern University

                      • Varian Medical Systems and Flatiron Health to collaborate on EMR software

                      • AbbVie completes its acquisition of Pharmacyclics Inc.

                      Drugs and Targets

                      • EU Approves Aloxi for CINV in pediatric patients

                      • CHMP issues positive opinion for change in Imbruvica label

                      • Halozyme Therapeutics and Ventana Medical Systems to collaborate on PEGPH20 assay

                      20150522 - May 22, 2015
                      ISSUE 20 – MAY 22, 2015PDF

                      The Price of Deception: How a Duke Patient was Harmed In Potti’s Fraudulent Trials

                      Joyce Shoffner would never have predicted that Duke University, an institution she revered and at one time worked for, would put her in a breast cancer clinical trial testing a fraudulent technology.

                      “They advertised publicly that this science offered an 80 percent cure rate,” Shoffner said. “To have the type of cancer I had, I was just going to do that, there was nobody that was going to stop me, because this was what I was told and this was what I believed was going to happen.”

                      In July 2008, Shoffner became patient No. 1 in the trial that promised to choose the best therapy for the unique characteristics of her disease. Alas, the groundbreaking genomic predictors pioneered by Anil Potti and his mentor Joseph Nevins, which the trials were testing, would turn out to be fraudulent.

                      FDA Notifies 300 Medical Practices that they May Have Purchased Unapproved Prescription Drugs

                      FDA notified more than 300 medical practices that they may have purchased unapproved prescription drugs or injectable devices from a foreign supplier, Gallant Pharmaceutical International.

                      “Gallant and twelve individuals, including a doctor and an office manager, have been convicted for their roles in distributing drugs and devices that have not been approved or cleared by FDA in the U.S.,” the agency’s letter to the practices said. “The unapproved drugs and unapproved/uncleared devices sold by Gallant were obtained from foreign sources and shipped and stored outside of the regulated supply chain.”

                      The drugs sold include Avastin, Erbitux, Herceptin, Rituxan, and Velcade.

                      Four Cancer Charities Charged with Fraud in Raising $187 Million

                      The Federal Trade Commission charged four cancer charities with fraudulently raising $187 million between 2008 and 2012.

                      The federal complaint names Cancer Fund of America Inc., Cancer Support Services Inc., their president, James Reynolds, Sr., and their chief financial officer and CSS’s former president, Kyle Effler; Children’s Cancer Fund of America Inc. and its president and executive director, Rose Perkins; and The Breast Cancer Society Inc. and its executive director and former president, James Reynolds II.

                      CPRIT Awards 41 Grants, Totaling Over $89 Million

                      The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas awarded 28 grants through its academic research program, 11 grants through its prevention program and two grants through its product development research program.

                      Totaling over $89 million, the grants include nearly $31 million for six Core Facilities Support Awards. Additional research grants help support the recruitment of cancer scientists to academic institutions in Texas.

                        In Brief

                        • PCORI Approves $120 million in research grants

                        • Catherine Brown named president of John Wayne Cancer Foundation

                        • Community Oncology Alliance and Community Oncology Pharmacy Association appoints advisory board

                        • Meridian Health and Hackensack University Health Network sign definitive merger agreement
                        Drugs and Targets

                        • FDA grants fast track designation to AG-120

                        • Palmetto GBA issues draft LCD for Oncotype DX prostate cancer test

                        • Baylor Research Institute and TGen extend collaboration

                        20150515 - May 15, 2015
                        ISSUE 19 – MAY 15, 2015PDF

                        Fisher Discusses Turnaround at Fox Chase

                        A year ago, Fox Chase Cancer Center lost money: $17 million.

                        In 2015, the losses have stopped and an $8 million operating profit is projected. Fox Chase is part of the Temple University Health System, which is rebuilding its cancer services around the venerable center.

                        “We’re in an interesting time at Fox Chase—because as I look ahead to the future of health care and accountable care coming, I think it’s unlikely if many, if any, of the freestanding cancer centers will be able to stand by themselves in that kind of arrangement,” Fisher said to The Cancer Letter. “So right now, we’re a fascinating model that’s going to be looked at by our colleagues to see how it works.”

                        21st Century Cures Passes House Subcommittee

                        The 21st Century Cures bill—a bipartisan initiative aimed at streamlining development of drugs and medical devices—received unanimous approval May 14 from the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

                        Congressional leaders expect a full committee markup next week, and a floor vote in June.

                        Guest Editorial

                        AACR: 21st Century Cures a “Model for an Open and Honest Conversation”

                        By José Baselga and William S. Dalton

                        Almost one year ago (on April 30, 2014), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), along with Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) announced the launch of 21st Century Cures, an initiative aimed at accelerating the pace of cures and medical breakthroughs in the United States by ensuring that our laws are keeping pace with innovation.


                          ASCO Annual Meeting 2015

                          Highlights of Selected Studies

                          The American Society of Clinical Oncology announced results from four major studies May 13, which will be presented at the society’s 51st Annual Meeting, May 29 to June 2, in Chicago.


                          Study: Discrepancy in Definition of “Value” in Cancer Care

                          The “value” of cancer care may be interpreted differently among health care stakeholders, according to a study by the Cancer Support Community, an international nonprofit.

                          The study, “Defining Value in Oncology: Perspectives from Patients with Metastatic Breast Cancer,” asked 769 patients to define value, based on their cancer experience.


                          Report: Global Cancer Spending Reaches $100 Billion Mark

                          Global spending on oncology drugs in 2014 reached $100 billion, up 10.3 percent over 2013 and up from $75 billion in 2010, according to the 2015 Global Oncology Trend Report, published by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. The annual compound growth rate increased to 6.5 percent over the past five years.

                          The study, “Developments in Cancer Treatments, Market Dynamics, Patient Access and Value,” found that the U.S. and the five largest European nations continue to spend the most in oncology, making up two-thirds of the total international market.

                          In Brief

                          • Sotomayor named first director of GW Cancer Center

                          • Lisa Kachnic named chair of department of radiation oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

                          • MD Anderson makes several changes in executive leadership

                          • Michael Simon wins award from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation 
                          • Eric Liu to join Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers
                          • Maryland Proton Therapy Center completes funding
                          Drugs and Targets

                          • FDA grants fast track designation to evofosfamide

                          • Eli Lilly and Company and BioNTech AG launch research collaboration

                          • FDA approves cobas KRAS mutation test

                          20150508 - May 8, 2015
                          ISSUE 18 – MAY 8, 2015PDF

                          Nascent Group Points to a Way To Validate, Pay for Genomic Tests

                          How is this for a plan:

                          Replace the U.S. system for validation and payment for cancer genomic tests with something that actually makes sense.

                          Dane Dickson, a doctor in Idaho, who until recently had the distinction of being the only oncologist working under the roof of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would like to do just that—and some important players in cancer research are betting on his success.

                          Conversation with The Cancer Letter

                          A Doctor’s Quest to Save Personalized Medicine

                          Dane Dickson would like to change the U.S. system for validation and coverage of molecular tests, thereby opening the road to development of complex tests and comprehensive genomic assays.

                          Recently, Dickson formed a nonprofit public-private partnership, called MED-C and published a white paper, which is posted here.

                          In an interview with Paul Goldberg, editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter, Dickson described his rationale for trying a new approach to solving this fundamental problem in personalized medicine.

                          Duke Settles with Potti’s Patients; Misconduct Probe Now in Fifth Year

                          Duke University has settled the suits filed by patients who were enrolled in clinical trials that were testing the technology developed by Anil Potti and his mentor Joseph Nevins.

                          By settling, Duke avoided having to confront embarrassing revelations about how much the university’s deans knew about the problems in the genomic research organization.


                          Conversation with The Cancer Letter

                          Gunsalus: Duke’s 4.5 Years is at Extreme End of Spectrum for a Misconduct Probe

                          The Cancer Letter invited C. K. Gunsalus, an expert on scientific misconduct, to discuss the settlement of the lawsuits against Duke.

                          Gunsalus is the director of the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics, research professor, Coordinated Science Laboratory, professor emerita, College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She runs a consulting company and is the author of The Young Professional’s Survival Guide (Harvard University Press, 2012) and The College Administrator’s Survival Guide (Harvard University Press, 2006).

                          In Brief

                          • Dan Theodorescu and Seth Lerner named editors-in-chief of Bladder Cancer

                          • UW Health, ProHealth Care, and Aurora Health Care agree to co-manage cancer center

                          • GW Cancer Institute launches online patient navigation training

                          • NIH raises nearly $700,000 for The Children’s Inn
                          • Proton Partners selects companies to help supply U.K. proton beam centers
                          • Moffitt Cancer Center and Aetna form oncology medical home model
                          • Swedish Cancer Institute adopts Syapse software for its precision medicine program
                          Drugs and Targets

                          • FDA grants breakthrough designation to Venetoclax

                          • DanDrit Biotech USA forms collaboration with GISCAD Foundation

                          • PhRMA report says member companies invested $51.2 billion in R&D

                          20150501 - May 1, 2015
                          ISSUE 17 – MAY 1, 2015PDF

                          Thumbs Up on Amgen’s T-VEC to Treat Melanoma; Is it Local Therapy for Systemic Disease?

                          An FDA advisory committee April 29 recommended approval of a metastatic melanoma treatment based on an attenuated Herpes Simplex Virus-1.

                          In a joint meeting, the agency’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee and its Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee voted 22 to 1 to recommend full approval for talimogene laherparepvec, sponsored by Amgen Inc.

                          At the contentious all-day meeting, which ran twice as long as a standard session of ODAC, the unusually large group of advisors summoned by the FDA didn’t get the opportunity to clearly identify the group of patients who stand to benefit from the agent, also called T-VEC, or specify the agent’s place in a sequence of melanoma treatments.

                          NIH Slated to Receive $10 Billion Increase In Second 21st Century Cures Draft Bill

                          The House Committee on Energy and Commerce published the second “discussion draft” for a comprehensive bipartisan initiative aimed at streamlining development of drugs and medical devices.

                          The proposed legislation, called “21st Century Cures,” was launched April 30, 2014, and is led by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the committee, and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), chief deputy whip.

                          In addition to boosting NIH funding by $10 billion over five years and establishing a clinical trial data system for federally funded trials, the discussion draft includes provisions for developing the next line of antibiotics.

                          Institute of Medicine to Become National Academy of Medicine

                          The membership of the National Academy of Sciences voted April 28 at its 152nd annual meeting to change the name of the Institute of Medicine to the National Academy of Medicine, effective July 1.

                          The National Academy of Medicine will continue to be an honorific society and will inherit the more than 1,900 current elected members and foreign associates of the IOM.


                          Letter to the Editor

                          MD Anderson Administration Behaves as a “Financially Privileged Elitist Group”

                          To the Editor:

                          Congratulations on your outstanding article entitled “MD Anderson Execs Get Big Raises In the Midst of Faculty Morale Woes.” As a 35-year faculty member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center, now retired, I am deeply disturbed at the endangered reputation of one of the greatest institutions of its kind in the world. Every other month seems to bring some embarrassing new revelation at the hands of the current leadership.


                          An Appreciation

                          Mike Katz, 61, Advocate, Educator

                          By Michael D. Scott

                          The cancer field is filled with advocates—advocates for research into specific forms of malignancy, advocates for access to care for patients with limited resources, advocates for pediatric cancers—you name it. Many of these people are motivated, passionate, determined, and successful in moving their specific agendas forward in the interests of patients, clinicians, researchers, and others.

                          In Brief

                          • Margaret Kripke to retire as CPRIT chief scientist

                          • CPRIT to award two grants

                          • ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation names annual award winners

                          • Karmanos Cancer Institute raises $2.8 million at annual dinner
                          • IU Simon Cancer Center raises $720,000 at CHUCKSTRONG tailgate gala
                          • Dana-Farber, Harvard School of Public Health, and Irish Cancer Society form collaboration
                          • St. Jude forms affiliate with Novant Health
                          • Geisinger Health System opens precision medicine center
                          Drugs and Targets

                          • FDA grants orphan designation to Reolysin in malignant glioma

                          • Paclical receives market authorization in Russian Federation

                          • Celgene International II Sarl forms collaboration with MedImmune

                          20150424 - Apr 24, 2015
                          ISSUE 16 – APRIL 24, 2015PDF

                          Foes Immediately Vow to Nullify Task Force Guideline on Mammography for Women 40-49

                          The breast cancer screening recommendations proposed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force earlier this week are basically unchanged from the 2009 version.

                          WARNING: a reader’s yawn at this juncture would be misplaced.

                          The recommendations proposed and put in place five years ago were so politically radioactive that they could have jeopardized the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

                          Indeed, the ACA specifically excluded the task force’s 2009 recommendation on mammography.

                          Immediately after the 2009 draft recommendation was published, then HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in effect urged women between 40 and 49 to disregard the panel’s evidence-based guideline. An amendment to the ACA, called the “Women’s Preventive Health Amendment,” finished the job of invalidating the guideline. (This made the ACA politically viable.)

                          Mammography: When, Really, is the Right Time? And at What Cost? 

                          As a firestorm ignites around the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force draft recommendation on mammography, researchers and advocates are grappling with the questions at the heart of the controversy:

                          • Should women start screening for breast cancer at age 40 or 50?
                          • What is the prevalence of false-positives and overdiagnosis in these age groups?
                          • What are the costs of harm?

                          The USPSTF draft recommendation, published April 20, comes on the heels of a controversial study which estimates that the

                          U.S. spends $4 billion a year on unnecessary mammograms for women between the ages of 40 to 59.

                          Mandl: Costs of Harm from Mammography Must Be Balanced Against Benefits

                          The U.S. spends $4 billion on unnecessary mammograms each year, according to a study published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

                          Titled “National Expenditure for False-Positive Mammograms and Breast Cancer Overdiagnoses Estimated at $4 Billion a Year,” the study, by Kenneth Mandl and Mei-Sing Ong, uses expenditure data from a major U.S. health care insurer for 702,154 women in 2011 to 2013.

                          Of the $4 billion, $2.8 billion is attributed to false-positive mammograms, and $1.2 billion to breast cancer overdiagnosis. The study measures the rate of false positives at 11 percent and overdiagnosis at 22 percent.

                          Wender: Mammography Guidelines Should Balance Benefits and Risks, Not Costs

                          “Let me be really clear: I don’t think that article should have or will have any impact on the [US Preventive Services Task Force], and it will not have any impact on [the American Cancer Society] guidelines, either,” Wender said.


                          Four Decades of Mammography Wars

                          The latest draft guideline by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is part of nearly a four-decade war over the appropriateness of screening women between the ages of 40 and 49.

                          In this war, Congress usually intervened, claiming that “common sense” dictates that mammography is efficacious in younger women. This war has often engulfed NCI.

                          This timeline appeared in part in the Nov. 20, 2009, issue of The Cancer Letter.

                          AACR Annual Meeting 2015

                          • Jose Baselga becomes president of AACR

                          • Two Stand Up To Cancer Dream Teams launched in ovarian and lung cancer

                          • Multiple award winners named

                          The Cancer Letter Receives Sigma Delta Chi Award

                          The Cancer Letter won a 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists on April 23.

                          The Sigma Delta Chi Awards is a national competition dating back to 1932. The award recognizes Matthew Ong’s series “Power Morcellation: A Hazardous Practice” as the winner in the Newsletter category.

                          “This award recognizes a newsletter that renders outstanding public services through extensive coverage of an issue facing the community it serves,” the description reads.

                          Ong’s series, which includes an interview documentary, can be found here.

                          20150417 - Apr 17, 2015
                          ISSUE 15 – APRIL 17, 2015PDF

                          Lowy: “We Need to Continually Look at the Distribution of Funds That We Allocate to the Areas of Investment”

                          Douglas Lowy became the NCI acting director April 1. On April 16, Lowy spoke with Paul Goldberg, editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter.

                          Paul Goldberg: Congratulations, first of all. How is the job treating you?

                          Douglas Lowy: Well, it is certainly a lot of work, but it’s an incredible opportunity—I have the opportunity of working with terrific people every day. I love it.

                          PG: Did you want this job?

                          DL: I never thought of myself as either becoming acting NCI director or the permanent NCI director, and it was not something I lobbied for.

                          MD Anderson Execs Get Big Raises In the Midst of Faculty Morale Woes



                          Two top administrators at MD Anderson Cancer Center, whose job responsibilities include maintaining harmony with the faculty, received substantial pay increases for having “excelled beyond expectation” and “effectively” directing the center’s clinical activities.

                          According to documents obtained by The Cancer Letter under the Texas Public Information Act, MD Anderson Provost Ethan Dmitrovsky and Physician-in-Chief Thomas Buchholz received $200,000 each in deferred compensation in 2015.

                          With incentive pay, supplemental annuity and deferred compensation included, the 2015 raise could boost Dmitrovsky’s total paycheck by as much as 22.9 percent compared to fiscal 2014. Buchholz’s compensation could increase by 31.4 percent.

                          Lawmakers Repeal Medicare SGR in Bipartisan Vote

                          President Barack Obama signed the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act on April 14, permanently repealing the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula.

                          The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support: The House of Representatives voted 392 to 37 on April 2, and the Senate approved it with a 92 to 8 vote April 14.

                          In Brief

                          • NCI renews Purdue’s designation as an NCI Basic Science Cancer Center

                          • Joseph Gulfo named executive director of the Rothman Institute at Fairleigh Dickinson University

                          • Don Gabriel joins United BioSource Corp.

                          • Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin opened its MACC Fund Center clinical and Northwestern Mutual Day Hospital

                          • Roche acquires CAPP Medical

                          Drugs and Targets

                          • Health Canada approves new indication for Xtandi

                          • Bayer HealthCare expands global clinical development of copanlisib

                          • Immunocore and MedImmune enter into second collaboration