20140509 - May 9, 2014
ISSUE 19 – MAY 9, 2014PDF

Oregon Center Launching $1 Billion Program To Identify Lethal Cancers Before They Kill

Brian Druker has some awesome jobs to fill.

As many as 30 scientists and their teams will get to focus on cancer research without having to worry about applying for grants.

“It’s about bringing 20 to 30 people together, giving them sufficient funding—almost like [Howard Hughes Medical Institute] level funding,” Druker said to The Cancer Letter. “If you have 20 to 30 people who are focused on science, working as a team to solve a problem, judged on progress toward the goal, as opposed to how many grants and publications do you have, we think we can make a more rapid contribution in this area.

photoCMS Advisors Express Low Confidence In Low-Dose CT Screening for Lung Cancer

An advisory panel for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expressed low confidence in low-dose computed tomography as a method for screening for lung cancer in the Medicare population.

Evidence is inadequate to ensure that benefits of the procedure would outweigh harms, the Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee said at the hearing April 30.

photoBach: LCA Center Certification Untrustworthy; CISNET Models Don’t Match

When it appeared that CT screening for lung cancer was a shoo-in for Medicare coverage, the Lung Cancer Alliance, an advocacy group, started to certify “screening centers of excellence.”

Centers all over the country received this designation from LCA and were listed on the group’s website.

However, as he prepared for a recent Medicare advisory committee meeting, Peter Bach, a pulmonologist and health systems researcher at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, checked the list of LCA-certified centers.

photoSteven Woolf: Why CMS Should Not Cover LDCT

National coverage for low-dose computed tomography may result in more harm than benefit to the Medicare population at this time, said Steven Woolf, a member of the Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee.

Speaking at the April 30 MEDCAC hearing, Woolf said coverage would run into many implementation challenges and adherence problems—it would be unlikely that all practices would observe the strict criteria set by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the National Lung Screening Trial, he said.

photoGrowth of the Cost of Drugs Slows to 5.4 Percent per Year; 21 Therapies Launched in 2 Years

The growth of global spending on oncology medicines has slowed over the past five years, according to a report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics.

Spending on cancer drugs, including those used for supportive care, increased at a compound annual growth rate of 5.4 percent during the past five years, reaching $91 billion in 2013, compared with 14.2 percent from 2003 to 2008. 

photoWomen’s Health Initiative Trial Produced $37.1 Billion in Returns

The overall economic return from the Women’s Health Initiative estrogen plus progestin trial indicates that the changes in practice it produced provided a net economic return of $37.1 billion over 10 years.

photoFDA Oncology Unit Fastest in Approvals Despite Having Highest Workload

A study by a conservative think tank found large differences in performance of the FDA divisions, with oncology demonstrating the agency’s fastest time from application submission to approval.

Paradoxically, the Manhattan Institute found that the oncology division’s staff members had the agency’s highest workload—measured in INDs per staff member at the division.

photoIn Brief

  • David Cole named president of The Medical University of South Carolina

  • Peter Bach’s account of his wife’s death from breast cancer

  • MD Anderson honors 16 junior faculty members

  • US Oncology and Community Oncology Alliance speak to Congress

  • Athena Breast Health Network adopts ASCO’s HL7 Guide for EMRs

  • Eli Lilly & Co. sign agreement with Prasco Laboratories

  • Johns Hopkins receives $10 million from Under Armour 

  • Melanoma Research Alliance and L’Oreal Paris begin campaign

  • Kristin Darby named chief information officer of Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Drug Approvals

  • Zykadia granted accelerated approval for ALK+ NSCLC

  • ADXS-HPV grated orphan drug designation

20140502 - May 2, 2014
ISSUE 18 – MAY 2, 2014PDF

NCI Officials Open to Fine-tuning Group Budgets
As Advocates Chip Away at NCTN’s Façade

NCI officials said they plan to hold a series of meetings with clinical trials group chairs and group financial officers in order to fine-tune the new National Clinical Trials Network.

“We are in the midst of one-on-one meetings with the group chairs and their financial people and their statistical leadership, [meeting] group-by-group [to] look at the numbers as they exist, and try to understand from both sides what that research budget will support and what it won’t support,” said James Doroshow, director of the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. 

“Without seeing, from the group perspective, what the resources can and can’t support, it’s hard to know from a system-wide perspective how we will move forward.”

In a telephone conference the institute convened to respond to concern from advocates, Doroshow said, in effect, that the budgets sent to the groups recently didn’t represent fait accompli, and that flexibility was an option.

photoOn Biomedical Malthusianism
Varmus, et al. Propose a Strategy For Saving Biomedical Research

The assumption that growth in research funding would be sustained indefinitely has created an “unsustainable hypercompetitive system” heading toward “long-term decline,” a group of scientists, including NCI Director Harold Varmus, wrote in a paper published in the April 22 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

photoIn Brief

  • CFO Dwain Morris to leave MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • National Academy of Sciences elects new members

  • Dept. of Defense taking applications for $25 million in research grants

20140425 - Apr 25, 2014
ISSUE 17 – APRIL 25, 2014PDF


No Justification Provided
DePinho’s Nixing of Tenure Renewals
May Bring Censure to MD Anderson

A year before Kapil Mehta’s tenure term expired last August, the 11-member Promotions and Tenure Committee at MD Anderson Cancer Center had unanimously recommended renewal.

“I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do during my tenure,” Mehta said to The Cancer Letter. “I’ve done publications, organized international meetings, service, teaching—everything.” 

Mehta’s application was personally rejected by MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, who overruled the PTC recommendation in May 2012.

Mehta appealed, and a second committee—the Faculty Appeals Panel—endorsed the PTC’s recommendation to renew Mehta’s tenure. However, the administration wasn’t swayed. DePinho’s decision stood.

photoItri Pays Fine, Agrees Not to Serve As Company Officer for Five Years

The Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week said it has settled insider-trading charges against a prominent cancer researcher who was also an executive of a now-defunct company. 

photoASCO Releases Three Guidelines For Survivorship Care

The American Society of Clinical Oncology published three clinical practice guidelines for the prevention and management of neuropathy, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. 

photoIn Brief

  • Gareth Morgan named director of UAMS myeloma institute

  • Michael Gordon named medical director of Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials

  • Clinical Research Forum names its Top Ten achievement awards

  • Conquer Cancer Foundation names 2014 Merit Award winners

photoFDA Approvals

  • Cobas HPV Test approved for primary cervical cancer screening

  • Arzerra sBLA approved for previously untreated CLL

  • Cyramza approved for advanced stomach cancer