20160606 - Jun 6, 2016
JUNE 6, 2016 

Biden Designates NCI’s Genomic Data Commons As “Foundational Element” of Cancer Moonshot

Vice President Joe Biden June 6 announced the NCI Genomic Data Commons as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

The GDC, a $20 million portal that consolidates NCI’s diverse datasets, contains genomic sequences and analyses of tumors, as well as clinical data on enrollment and treatment.

Biden’s announcement—hours before his address at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago—establishes NCI as the leader in a high-stakes debate over who gets to set standards for how health records data should be aggregated and organized.

• Related Coverage of the Cancer Moonshot

    20160603 - Jun 3, 2016
    ISSUE 22 – June 3, 2016PDF

    Obama and Congress Inadvertently
    Created Obstacles to Data Sharing, Biden Acknowledges—Now What?

    Seven years ago, when Congress sought to jumpstart the U.S. economy, few imagined that one aspect of the $800 billion stimulus program would turn electronic health records into the Tower of Babel.

    Speaking at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center last week, Vice President Joe Biden took full responsibility for the major bioinformatics snafu triggered by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.

    True, ARRA forced the U.S. medical establishment to digitize records in a hurry. Alas, today, fax machines and legions of data entry technicians are often required to transfer patient records from one hospital to another.

    Biden said the Obama administration didn’t foresee the consequences of mandating the switch to EHRs without developing a standard infrastructure for aggregating data.

    Biden: “You’re All Doing the Same Thing!”

    At a roundtable discussion at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Vice President Joe Biden urged greater efforts to aggregate cancer data.

    “I know MSK is part of Project GENIE and part of data sharing coalitions,” Biden said at the meeting May 26. “But I’ve met also with ORIEN, I’ve met with CancerLinQ.”

    “You’re all doing the same thing! I find it curious. I don’t know if that’s the only way it that can be done.”

    University of Maryland Cancer Center
    Earns NCI Comprehensive Designation

    The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center has earned a designation as an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. The center announced the NCI designation May 31.

    On Aug. 1, when the designation goes in effect, Maryland will become one of the 46 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S.

    ASCO Updates Value Framework

    The American Society of Clinical Oncology published an updated framework for assessing the relative value of cancer therapies that have been compared in clinical trials.

    The framework defines value as a combination of clinical benefit, side effects, and improvement in patient symptoms or quality of life in the context of cost. The updated framework will be the basis for a software tool that doctors can use to assist shared decision-making with their patients. The update was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

    Study: 70 Cancer Treatments Launched Over 5 Years Pushes Oncology Market to $107 Billion

    A study reviewing trends in oncology found that more than 20 tumor types are being treated with one or more of the 70 cancer treatments that have been launched in the past five years.

    The surge in new therapies drove the global oncology market to $107 billion in 2015, an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year in constant dollars.


    Funding Opportunity

    CDMRP Taking Pre-Applications
    For Lung Cancer Concept Award

    Only 40 percent of Americans have a positive overall impression of clinical trials, according to a national survey conducted for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

    The survey, which polled over 2,100 people including nearly 600 physicians, found that 28 percent of doctors considered clinical trials as treatments of last resort.

    Letter to the Editor

    Progress Against Cancer:
    It Comes in Waves and Ripples

    By Silvia Paddock

    In 1916, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves. It took almost 100 years and the construction of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) to show that he was right. In 2015, a brilliant team of researchers detected gravitational ripples that had been generated by the collision of two black holes about 1.3 billion years ago.

    In Brief
    • Ralph De Vere White to step down as director of UC Davis Cancer Center
    • FDA publishes two guidances on compassionate use

    • ACCC launches Metastatic Breast Cancer Project

    Drugs and Targets
    • FDA approves cobas EGFR companion blood test for Tarceva

    • FDA approves NETSPOT for neuroendocrine tumors

    • European Commission approves Afinitor, Imbruvica
    • FDA grants orphan designations to Debio 1143 and SUBA-Itraconazole Capsules

    • Mylan launches generic version of Vidaza Injection

    • FDA grants Priority Review of telotristat etiprate in carcinoid syndrome


    20160531 - May 31, 2016
    MAY 31, 2016 

    University of Maryland Cancer Center Earns Comprehensive Designation

    The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center has earned the designation as an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    The center announced the NCI designation May 31.

    On Aug. 1, when the designation goes in effect, Maryland will become one of the 46 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S.

      20160527 - May 27, 2016
      ISSUE 21 – May 27, 2016PDF

      Slamming the Door – Part XIII

      Chair of CPRIT Oversight Committee:

      “Better to Get Them All Out of the Way Now”

      What were Texas politicians and CPRIT officials thinking as they were pounded by blistering letters of resignation?

      Condemnation seemed to be rolling off their backs as they marched toward what they thought was their great triumph.

      Jimmy Mansour, chairman of CPRIT’s oversight committee, mistakenly hit Reply All, sending an especially contemptuous email to a scientist who was announcing his resignation from CPRIT. In the email that came into public view because of his sloppiness, Mansour, a telecommunications entrepreneur, belittles scientists and the peer review process.

      Conversation with The Cancer Letter

      Candace Johnson: A New Vision for Roswell Park

      Since Candace Johnson’s appointment as president and CEO of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in February 2015, the institute has recruited 22 new faculty members and promoted 19 faculty members into senior leadership positions.

      “I’m a new leader. I have a new style, a new vision of where Roswell Park is going,” Johnson, the Wallace Family Chair in Translational Research, said to The Cancer Letter. “We have new and different challenges, and unless my entire workforce understood these challenges and embraced the changes I’ve been implementing, we wouldn’t have a chance.”

      ASCO Cervical Cancer Guideline Addresses Global Disparities

      The American Society of Clinical Oncology issued its first clinical practice guideline for invasive cervical cancer.

      The guideline provides evidence-based recommendations for four tiers based on available resources for cervical cancer screening and treatment: basic, limited, enhanced and maximal. For each setting, and for each stage of cervical cancer, the guideline recommends optimal therapy and palliative care. The guideline was published in the Journal of Global Oncology and was endorsed by the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

      Survey: 28 Percent of Doctors See Clinical Trials as Last Resort

      Only 40 percent of Americans have a positive overall impression of clinical trials, according to a national survey conducted for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

      The survey, which polled over 2,100 people including nearly 600 physicians, found that 28 percent of doctors considered clinical trials as treatments of last resort.

      In Brief
      • Northwestern to host 5k coinciding with ASCO’s annual meeting in Chicago
      • The Canadian Cancer Society and Merck to collaborate on New Horizons project

      • American Skin Association presents annual awards

      • Margaret Foti honored by Ovarcome foundation

      • Seattle Children’s and Juno Therapeutics to collaborate on T-cell immunotherapies

      • Memorial Sloan Kettering and Hunter Douglas establish graduate fellowship

      • University of Chicago and Blue Cross and Blue Shield launch oncology medical home

      • Lightpoint Medical signs agreement for Beta Emission Tomography technology from University of Arizona researchers

      Drugs and Targets
      • CHMP issues positive opinion for Kyprolis in multiple myeloma

      • ProNAi Therapeutics and Carna Biosciences to commercialize AS-141


      20160520 - May 20, 2016
      ISSUE 20 – May 20, 2016PDF

      NCI Identifies Moonshot Priorities

      NCI is working to provide five to ten recommendations for Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot program, officials said at a recent advisory committee meeting.

      At a meeting of the Frederick National Laboratory Advisory Committee May 11, top NCI officials described the mechanisms that will be used to provide recommendations for spending new money that may be directed at cancer research.

      The institute’s Blue Ribbon Panel—consisting of 28 members representing academia, government, industry and patient advocates—has assembled seven working groups.

      Guest Editorial

      Nancy Davidson: Capturing the Moonshot’s Momentum

      Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Initiative has touched off an unprecedented national and international dialogue about cancer.

      My presidential year at the American Association for Cancer Research brings the special opportunity to ensure that this momentum is captured and fully utilized to position cancer research as the key to saving more lives from cancer.

      The AACR has been and continues to be a trusted adviser to the vice president on this important initiative.

      Capitol Hill

      House Committee Provides Forum for Opponents of Part B Payment Model

      A Congressional committee earlier this week provided a venue for opponents of a controversial Medicare Part B payment model to argue against its implementation by Centers for Medicaid Services.

      Witnesses at the May 17 hearing of the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce said the payment model would make it difficult for Medicare patients to obtain care, and one witness likened the model to an unethical clinical trial. Also, in what couldn’t be a coincidence, two witnesses—representing patients with immune deficiencies and rheumatology—submitted written testimony that contained identical paragraphs.

      In Brief
      • James Brink elected chair of American College of Radiology
      • Michael Kaplan named president and CEO of Melanoma Research Alliance

      • Hong-yu Li named Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar and endowed chair

      • CPRIT awards 35 grants totaling $79.2 million

      • Senate marks up FDA tobacco regulation appropriations

      Drugs and Targets
      • FDA grants accelerated approvals to Tecentriq and Opdivo

      • FDA warns doctors about counterfeit BiCNU


      20160513 - May 13, 2016
      ISSUE 19 – May 13, 2016PDF

      art 42-19 showdown

      CMS Drug Payment Experiment Heads Toward Showdown on Capitol Hill

      A demonstration project in which the Centers for Medicare& Medicaid Services hopes to investigate the impact of reimbursement based on Average Sales Prices of drugs is running into strong opposition, as a large number of cancer groups submitted public comments urging the agency to abandon the endeavor.

      The agency’s stated goal for tweaking the ASP-based reimbursement formula is to learn whether it gives physicians the incentive to prescribe the most expensive treatments available.

      Opponents—including oncology professional groups and pharmaceutical companies—say that experimentation with ASP-based reimbursement, which is currently set at ASP plus 4.3 percent, will make it economically unfeasible for oncology practices to treat Medicare patients.

      Agus: $200 Million Interdisciplinary Institute to Focus on Data Modeling

      A few years ago, at dinner with technology entrepreneur Larry Ellison, David Agus, director of the University of Southern California Center for Applied Molecular Medicine, mentioned his dream of opening an interdisciplinary cancer center.

      “I said, it really would be an amazing thing if we could start to get people in one place and have residences, so the greatest physicists, mathematicians, engineers can actually come in and live there and be engrossed in cancer,” said Agus, professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

      ““Well, how much would it be to kind of put together such a building and program?” Ellison, Oracle Corporation’s chairman of the board and chief technology officer, said to Agus at the time.

      “You know, about $200 million,” Agus said.

      “Done,” Ellison responded.

      Slamming the Door

      Part XII: Scientists Vote with Their Feet

      In their op-ed piece, Gilman and Sharp stated what it would take to fix CPRIT’s problems. That was the polite version of the Gilman Plan.

      The spoken version was more blunt: get rid of the “assholes” on the oversight board, jettison the administrators, then—maybe—CPRIT’s credibility would be restored.

      NIH Makes Sweeping Changes in Clinical Center Governance

      The NIH Clinical Center will be placed under a new system of governance, similar to that of hospitals.

      Replacing Director John Gallin and the current management structure, NIH has begun “the process of changing the leadership structure of the Clinical Center to model those of world class hospitals in the United States,” institute officials said in a statement.

      ACS Report Assesses Progress in 25-Year Goal Against Mortality

      The American Cancer Society published a report assessing the progress made in its 25-year goal to reduce cancer death rates by 50 percent. The report finds areas where progress was substantial, and others where it was not.

      The report, appearing in the ACS journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, said the best improvements were seen in cancers for which prevention, early detection, and treatment tools are available, including cancers of the lung, colon, breast, and prostate.

      In Brief
      • Brigham Does Not Contest Plaintiffs’ Offers of Proof as Morcellation Cases Proceed
      • American Urological Association presents 2016 awards at annual meeting
      • Tom Andrus named chief digital officer at Prostate Cancer Foundation
      • Stand Up to Cancer and Boston College publish nursing training modules in immunotherapy
      • CancerCare publishes report on patient access and engagement
      • Cancer Support Community Benjamin Center presents awards
      • City of Hope receives $2.3 million R01 grant from NCI
      • BioDelivery Sciences International and Collegium Pharmaceutical form collaboration
      • Thomas Jefferson University joins TriNetX research network
      • UCLA and Leica Biosystems to collaborate in digital pathology
      • St. Jude raises $4 million in campaign Univision
      • PhRMA members invested $58.8 billion in R&D in 2015
      Drugs and Targets
      • FDA expands Imbruvica label to include CLL and SLL
      • Health Canada approves Imbruvica in Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia
      • Health Canada grants conditional approval to Ibrance in breast cancer


      20160506 - May 6, 2016
      ISSUE 18 – May 6, 2016PDF

      art 42-18 fda on the moon final

      Virtual is Not Enough

      FDA’s Critics Call for Full Integration of Oncology Center Under Biden’s Moonshot

      The White House moonshot to accelerate progress in cancer research directs FDA to consolidate its oncology portfolio.

      However, oncology insiders say the manner in which the presidential initiative will be implemented could make the difference between political balderdash and genuine improvement in FDA regulation of cancer therapies.

      The entire controversy boils down to the interpretation of one word: Virtual.

      Moonshot Director Addresses AAADV Workshop

      Greg Simon, executive director of the cancer moonshot task force, addressed the FDA-sponsored workshop for Accelerating Anticancer Agent Development and Validation in North Bethesda, Md., May 4.

      He discussed the goals for the moonshot initiative, how the program could fit into the next presidential administration, and how to take the project international.

      Slamming the Door

      Part XI: Gilman’s Teachable Moment

      During our first conversation in the spring of 2012, Gilman said that he would go public unless he received assurances that CPRIT would retain its integrity after his departure.

      He wanted guarantees that the structure he built would not be turned into a political pigsty. With guarantees being hard to come by, it was obvious that he would end up slamming the door hard. Publicly.

      FDA to Regulate All Tobacco Products, Including E-Cigs, In Historic Expansion

      FDA issued final regulations for all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars and hookah. The rules, with provisions aimed at restricting youth access and requiring premarket clearance for new products, will take effect Aug. 8.

      The federal regulations include: not allowing tobacco products to be sold to persons under the age of 18, both in person and online; requiring age verification by photo ID; not allowing the selling of covered tobacco products in vending machines, unless in an adult-only facility; and not allowing the distribution of free samples.

      National Academy of Sciences Elects 105 Members

      The National Academy of Sciences elected 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

      Those elected today bring the total number of active members to 2,291 and the total number of foreign associates to 465. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the academy.

      Funding Opportunity

      CureSearch Taking Applications
      For Pediatric Research Awards

      CureSearch for Children’s Cancer is taking applications for its International Grand Challenge Awards addressing three challenges in pediatric cancer treatment. The awards will be worth between $2 million and $3 million.

      In Brief
      • American Cancer Society and CVS Health launch three-year antismoking campaign
      • Pershing Square Sohn Research Alliance funds seven young investigators

      • Sean Parker recognized by the Vatican for philanthropic work

      • Richard O’Reilly receives inaugural Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Prize

      • David Weiner receives professorship and grant from W.W. Smith Charitable Trust

      • Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network launches national awareness campaign

      Drugs and Targets
      • Eribulin receives EU approval in liposarcoma

      • Health Canada approves Lynparza in ovarian cancer

      • CHMP issues positive opinions for Imbruvica and Afinitor

      • AstraZeneca and Foundation Medicine to collaborate on diagnostic assays

      • AbbVie and CytomX Therapeutics to collaborate on probody drug conjugates


      20160429 - Apr 29, 2016
      ISSUE 17 – April 29, 2016PDF

      Guest Editorial

      The Moonshot: A View from Europe

      By Peter Boyle

      “And I believe we need a moonshot in this country to cure cancer.”

      With these words, Vice-President Joe Biden gave the first public hint of a new specific, major program to be launched and funded by the U.S. government.

      President Barack Obama reiterated this development in his State of the Union address announcing a new national effort to get it done and placing Vice President Biden as leader of this initiative.

      The appointment of Vice President Biden to head the initiative is an inspired choice.

      Of course, let’s not forget that in 1971 President Richard Nixon launched a not dissimilar initiative and yet 45 years later, there still remains an on-going war against this feared group of diseases, despite progress in many aspects. Times change, knowledge advances, and there are many signs that this new initiative holds out a better chance of success.


      NCI’s New Genomic Platform Seeks to Enable Data Sharing for Biden’s Moonshot

      NCI is preparing to open the Genomic Data Commons, a $20 million big data endeavor aimed at making raw genomic data publicly available.

      The GDC, NCI’s largest bioinformatics effort since the ill-fated caBIG, will go live June 1. The database will be interoperable and publicly available to qualified researchers. Anyone will be able to submit data for consideration.

      While work on the GDC began over two years ago, the initiative is being launched at a time when leading oncology groups are positioning themselves to play a central role in the White House’s moonshot initiative.

      Conversation with The Cancer Letter

      NCI’s Staudt and Kibbe: Data Commons Will Publish Annotated Raw Genomic Data

      The Genomic Data Commons, NCI’s latest big data project, is poised to become a major player in oncology bioinformatics when it opens June 1.

      The GDC aims to become oncology’s go-to database for comprehensive, raw genomics information. NCI officials said this sets the GDC apart from other bioinformatics projects, which are vying to play a role in the White House moonshot initiative.

      “When the other groups are sharing the data, what they are doing is sharing very derived data that is divorced from the actual data,” said Louis Staudt, director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Genomics. “The GDC is doing something different.”

      Capitol Hill

      Senate Committee Looks to Fund Medical Innovation Legislation

      Over 150 organizations sent an open letter to the leaders of the Senate Health, Labor, Educations and Pensions Committee, supporting them for advancing legislation that will form the basis of the Senate’s version of the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed the House last year.

      The Senate committee has passed 19 bills since February—collectively referred to as medical innovations legislation—which include agreements on NIH funding, support for the Precision Medicine Initiative, and changes to FDA and NIH hiring power. Now, the committee has to work to find ways to pay for the programs before sending the bills to the full Senate.

      PCORI Approves $44.4 Million for 21 Research Studies

      The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute approved $44.4 million in funding for 21 new patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research studies.

      Several studies will focus on cancer, including comparing ways to improve colorectal cancer screening, develop a more patient-centered approach to assessing the quality of care for people with cancer, and assessing the effectiveness of different treatment strategies for ductal carcinoma in situ among older women.

      In Brief
      • Jennifer Pietenpol named executive vice president for research at Vanderbilt

      • Margaret Foti named an honorary member of the Oncology Nursing Society

      • John Weston named chief operating officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation

      • Al Benson III elected president of National Patient Advocate Foundation executive board

      • Avinash Desai named vice president at Eisai Inc. 

      • MD Anderson Cancer Center names eight Sabin Family Fellows

      • NCCN publishes patient education materials for NHL

      • Kids v Cancer launches Compassionate Use Navigator tools

      • Albert Einstein College of Medicine enters agreement with Jiangsu Hengrui Medicine

      • Wistar Institute and Cormorant Pharmaceuticals form drug partnership

      • MD Anderson and Summit Medical Group launch partnership in New Jersey

      • Geisinger Health System sets higher accrual goals for DNA sequencing study

      • AbbVie acquires Stemcentrx and Rova-T drug candidate

      • AbbVie forms collaboration with argenx in immuno-oncology

      • Indiana University raises $1.2 million for research at tailgate gala

      Drugs and Targets
      • FDA grants approval to Cabometyx tablets in renal cell carcinoma

      • FDA grants Orphan Drug Designation to DelMar’s VAL-083 


      20160422 - Apr 25, 2016
      ISSUE 16 – April 22, 2016PDF

      AACR 2016

      Biden Asks for Guidance in Leading Moonshot

      “There is more brain power in this room than exists in many countries,” said Vice President Joe Biden, addressing over 4,000 members of the American Association for Cancer Research, during a speech that turned personal at times, as he laid out several suggestions for accelerating progress.

      As head of the federal government’s cancer moonshot task force, the vice president listed recommendations he has received for reaching the initiative’s goal, not a cure, but completion of a decade’s worth of cancer research in five years. Recommendations include increasing research budgets across the federal government, making it easier to share data, removing paywalls around published research, and incentivizing verification of study results.

      “Toward that end, last year, the 2016 budget, and working with Congress, we were able to increase funding by $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health. The largest increase in a decade,” Biden said at the association’s annual meeting April 20 in New Orleans.


      Comparison with AstraZeneca Drug Hard to Ignore as ODAC Votes Down NSCLC Application from Clovis

      A phase III trial will be needed to determine approvability of the Clovis Oncology Inc. agent rociletinib for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, the FDA Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee recommended.

      At a meeting April 12, ODAC in effect voted against granting an accelerated approval of rociletinib for the treatment of patients with mutant epidermal growth factor receptor non-small cell lung cancer who have been previously treated with an EGFR-targeted therapy and have the EGFR T790M mutation as detected by an FDA approved test.

      Guest Editorial

      Thirty Years after Chernobyl: Lessons Learned

      By Robert Peter Gale

      April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power facility accident in the former Soviet Union. Soon after the accident, I received a call from the Soviet ambassador to the U.S. on behalf of Mikhail Gorbachev asking me to come immediately to Moscow.

      The world (but not Soviet citizens) had been following the spread of a radioactive cloud over Europe for several days and I offered the Soviet government access to advanced medical technologies I knew they lacked. I arrived to find about 205 of the most seriously-affected victims had been flown to Hospital 6 in Moscow connected to the Institute for Biophysics.

      AACR 2016 – In Brief

      Nancy Davidson Begins Term as AACR President; Weinberg Gets Lifetime Achievement Award

      Nancy Davidson was inaugurated as president of the American Association for Cancer Research for 2016-2017 at the association’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

      Davidson is the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. She also serves as associate vice chancellor for cancer research; the Hillman professor of oncology; a distinguished professor of medicine and pharmacology and chemical biology; and a professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Her research focuses on clinical and translational breast cancer research and cancer biology and treatment.


      Academy of Arts and Sciences Elects 213 Members

      The American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected 213 new members, including some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, as well as civic, business, and philanthropic leaders.

      BSA Approves Plan to Expand SEER Infrastructure, Funding, and Research Support Capacity

      The NCI Board of Scientific Advisors approved a proposal to expand the infrastructure and capacity of the SEER program, including introducing registries designed specifically to support cancer research projects, an increase of the program’s overall budget, and moving toward a more advanced, uniform data management system.

      The new structure of the surveillance program would create core registries, selected through a competition of the U.S. central cancer registries, which would then collect the most comprehensive data to be used for SEER statistics and public use.


      Cell Therapy Production, Patient Accrual Suspended at Rosenberg’s Lab at NCI

      NIH has suspended the facilities that produce investigational compounds for an NCI laboratory engaged in cell therapy production and a National Institute of Mental Health facility producing positron emission tomography materials.

      As a result, no new new patients will be enrolled in affected trials until the issues are resolved, NIH said in a press release.

       Drugs and Targets
      • FDA grants approval to Gilotrif tablets in squamous cell lung cancer

      • University of Chicago and AbbVie to form five-year collaboration

      20160415 - Apr 18, 2016
      ISSUE 15 – April 15, 2016PDF

      Parker Bets $250 Million on Immunotherapy

      A foundation established by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker—founder of Napster and first president of Facebook—has committed $250 million to research in cancer immunotherapy.

      The newly founded Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy brings together immunologists from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford University, UCLA, UCSF, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Pennsylvania.


      Conversation with The Cancer Letter

      Parker Mantra: Collaborate Like Hell

      The Cancer Letter invited Jedd Wolchok, associate attending physician and chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, to describe the workings of the just-announced Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

      Slamming the Door

      Part X – Silencing Faculty Voice

      In the fall of 2012, just before Al Gilman’s departure, MD Anderson officials cracked down on internal critics.

      On Sept. 26, 2012, Raphael Pollock, head of MD Anderson’s Division of Surgery, was summoned to the office of Thomas Burke, then the executive vice president and physician-in-chief, and was relieved of his duties.

      Pollock, who is Jewish, was fired on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

      Letter to the Editor

      Former MD Anderson Provost Reflects on “Brief, Painful Episode”

      By Raymond DuBois

      Over the past several weeks, The Cancer Letter has been running a series of articles that report on a past conflict between people at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Nobel Laureate Al Gilman, who led the scientific review teams of the then newly formed Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

      At the time of the controversy, I was the founding provost and executive vice president at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, a position I enjoyed greatly. While I have no desire to revisit this brief, and somewhat painful episode in my academic career, I have been written into Goldberg’s Texas drama as an important bit player and therefore feel compelled to go on record and provide my view of the story.

      FDA Inspects Hospitals for Morcellation Harm;
      Congressman Draws VP Biden’s Attention to Issue

      FDA has conducted inspections of several hospitals—including Brigham & Women’s Hospital—based on allegations that physicians and administrators did not report patient harm and deaths resulting from power morcellators.

      In a March 29 letter to Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the agency said it “takes these issues very seriously.”

      “In recent months, we have conducted inspections of hospitals highlighted in your letter, including Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Rochester General Hospital, and the University of Rochester Medical Center,” FDA officials wrote, responding to a Dec. 18, 2015, letter from Fitzpatrick to the agency’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

      Stand Up to Cancer Debuts Catalyst Research Program With Merck, BMS and Genentech

      Stand Up to Cancer announced Catalyst, a program that will use funding and materials from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostic and medical devices industries to accelerate research on cancer prevention, detection and treatment.

      Founding collaborator Merck; and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, will serve as charter supporters.

      In Brief
      • Jeffrey Sosman named director of melanoma program at Northwestern

      • Eric Dishman named director of NIH Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program

      • Ed Sauter named director of breast surgery at Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute

      • Maya Martinez-Davis appointed global head of oncology franchise at Merck KGaA
      • Lynn Matrisian named chief research officer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

      • Karin Jooss named chief scientific officer of Gritstone Oncology

      • USPSTF publishes B recommendation for low-dose aspirin regimen for primary prevention of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease

      • International Myeloma Foundation to fund large screening study in Iceland

      • MD Anderson Cancer Center dedicates new personalized medicine building

      • UC Davis and Novogene establish campus genomics center

      • University of Florida signs proton therapy contract with Ion Beam Applications
      Drugs and Targets
      • FDA grants accelerated approval to Venclexta in CLL

      • FDA approved Epi proColon blood screening test

      • FDA granted priority review for atezolizumab in NSCLC