20150320 - Mar 20, 2015
ISSUE 11 – MARCH 20, 2015PDF

“Trust Has Been Broken” at MD Anderson; UT Chancellor Calls for Shared Governance

There will be no more faculty surveys at MD Anderson, UT System Chancellor William McRaven pledged to the institution’s faculty in a closed-door meeting March 18.

“I don’t intend to have any more surveys,” McRaven said in a meeting where he acknowledged the concerns of the faculty, but also expressed support for the administration of the Houston-based cancer hospital.

“I think your surveys—at least the ones I’ve seen—give me a clear indication of where the faculty is,” McRaven said at the meeting that lasted for about an hour-and-a-half. “And maybe it’s not unanimous, but I’ve got to tell you that the numbers in the surveys are pretty damning, for the lack of a better term.”

McRaven, the former admiral who, as head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, oversaw the covert operation responsible for killing Osama bin Laden, expressed support for the institution’s Faculty Senate, thereby establishing it as the negotiating partner for the administration headed by President Ronald DePinho.

MD Anderson Pre-empts AAUP Report by Releasing Draft to The Press—with a Foreword

MD Anderson’s message to the American Association of University Professors boils down to this: A pox on your house.

For starters, President Ronald DePinho and his administration declined to meet with an AAUP committee when it came to campus to investigate a tenure dispute. (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 19, 2014).

This snub notwithstanding, AAUP provided MD Anderson with a draft report marked CONFIDENTIAL: NOT FOR RELEASE. The association’s objective was to give MD Anderson the opportunity to comment—and a comment is exactly what they got.

In the afternoon of March 13, the cancer center’s executive team threw the thing to the press.

Varmus Recommends Funding Boost For NCI Cancer Centers Program

NCI Director Harold Varmus announced plans to gradually increase in the institute’s cancer centers budget over the next four to five years.

“It seems to me, we get more bang for our buck from the centers—many of which have many direct-cost budgets of no more than a million dollars, a lot less than the grants we give out,” Varmus said at the March 11 meeting of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors.

He suggested boosting the centers budget by $10-15 million per year, increasing the total cancer centers budget from $260 million to about $310 million. This plan follows a proposal to reconfigure the formula for awarding cancer center grants.

Lowy Discusses Reducing Cuts to Modular R01 Grants

Following Harold Varmus’s remarks to the Board of Scientific Advisors, Douglas Lowy, soon-to-be acting director of the NCI, focused on reducing the amount of the planned cuts for modular R01 grants.

The plan is cut the reductions in half starting in this fiscal year, from the automatic 17 percent reduction to 8.5 percent, or cutting a 10 percent reduction to 5 percent.

“Our long-term goal is to try to eliminate those cuts completely, but this we estimate will cost about $10 million from the RPG pool, and we would like to see what the is impact on that,” Lowy said.

ASCO Announces Winners Of 2015 Special Awards

The American Society of Clinical Oncology announced the winners of its Special Awards Program. 

The Special Awards recognize the dedication and significant contributions of researchers, patient advocates, and leaders of the global oncology community to enhancing cancer prevention, treatment, and patient care. 

ASCO also named seven recipients of the Fellows of the American Society of Clinical Oncology distinction.

In Brief

  • Fadlo Khuri named president of the American University of Beirut

  • Philip Low receives the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research 

  • Julie Johnson receives Distinguished Scientist Award from Southeastern Universities Research Association

  • Thomas Merchant named chair of St. Jude Department of Radiation Oncology

  • The Community Oncology Alliance forms Community Oncology Pharmacy Association

Drugs and Targets

  • EU approves Jakavi in Polycythemia Vera

  • EMA grants orphan designation to ImMucin

  • Hong Kong Department of Health approves Abraxane

20150318 - Mar 18, 2015
SPECIAL REPORT – MARCH 18, 2015 

MD Anderson Preempts AAUP’s Report By Releasing the Draft to the Press—With a Foreword

MD Anderson’s message to the American Association of University Professors boils down to this:

A pox on your house.

For starters, President Ronald DePinho and his administration declined to meet with an AAUP committee when it came to campus to investigate a tenure dispute. (The Cancer Letter, Sept. 19, 2014).

This snub notwithstanding, AAUP provided MD Anderson with a draft report marked CONFIDENTIAL: NOT FOR RELEASE. The association’s objective was to give MD Anderson the opportunity to comment—and a comment is exactly what they got.

 

20150313 - Mar 13, 2015
ISSUE 10 – MARCH 13, 2015PDF

Cancer Centers Join to Accelerate Trials, Industry Collaborations, Drug Development

Six NCI-designated cancer centers have agreed to pool data from their electronic medical record systems and cancer registries to accelerate discovery of targets and the development of biomarkers.

Launched in May 2014, the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network, or ORIEN, was founded by Moffitt Cancer Center and The Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center (The Cancer Letter, May 30, 2014).

Recently, ORIEN added four cancer centers: City of Hope, University of Virginia Cancer Center, University of Colorado Cancer Center, and the University of New Mexico Cancer Center  (The Cancer Letter, Feb. 27).

Conversation with The Cancer Letter

Dalton: I Don’t Know Another Place like ORIEN

The Oncology Research Information Exchange Network, a partnership of academic cancer centers, has collected data from over 120,000 patients, and recently added four institutions.

“I don’t know of another place that actually follows patients and has the patients donate all their clinical data throughout their lifetime, and tissue to be studied, and allows them the right of contacting the patient,” said Bill Dalton, CEO of M2Gen, founding director of the Moffitt Cancer Center Personalized Medicine Institute, and one of the founders of ORIEN.

U.S. Prescription Drug Spending Increased 13 Percent in 2014

New hepatitis C therapies with high price tags and the exploitation of loopholes for compounded medications contributed to a 13.1 percent increase in U.S. drug spending in 2014, a rate not seen in more than a decade, according to the 2014 Express Scripts Drug Trend Report.

Hepatitis C and compounded medications are responsible for more than half of the increase in overall spending. Excluding those two therapy classes, 2014 drug trend (the year-over-year increase in per capita drug spending) was 6.4 percent.

In Brief

  • Nancy Davidson chosen as president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research

  • Geoffrey Kim named director of FDA’s Division of Hematology Oncology Products 1

  • Sagar Lonial and Charles Stately join senior leadership of Winship Cancer Institute

  • Kevin Behrns named co-editor-and-chief of Surgery

  • Inderbir Gill appointed chair of global initiatives for the American Urological Association

  • University of Virginia and Novant Health to form Northern Virginia regional health system

  • World Molecular Imaging Society and NCI to collaborate on best practices for co-clinical trials

  • Varian Medical Systems chosen to equip two proton therapy centers in England

  • Cancer researchers launch mobile app to track breast cancer symptoms

Drugs and Targets

  • FDA approves Unituxin for neuroblastoma

  • Fast Track Designation granted to HS-410 in bladder cancer

  • Reolysin granted third orphan drug designation

  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society published a study on capping cost-sharing for prescription drugs