20141010 - Oct 10, 2014
ISSUE 38 – OCT. 10, 2014PDF



NCI Failed to Publish Two Bypass Budgets

As Funds Tightened and Sequestration Set In

What’s the NCI director’s professional judgment of opportunities in cancer research at a time of shrinking budgets, sequestration and conclusion of the windfall of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?

Under ordinary circumstances, this question wouldn’t have required a mind reader. The NCI director has an authority no other government executive enjoys: every year, he submits a summary of scientific opportunities directly to the White House, bypassing review by the NIH director and officials at the place ominously called “Downtown,” the brutalist-style HHS headquarters at the base of Capitol Hill.

Guest Editorial
Andrew Vickers on PSA Skepticism, Rational and Irrational

I consider myself a prostate cancer screening skeptic. For example, in the title of the grand rounds lecture I have given for many years, I describe PSA as a “public health fiasco.”

I have also gone on the record to state: “PSA testing as it is commonly practiced in the U.S. is indefensible.”

UT Board Announces Support for MD Anderson Tenure System

The University of Texas System Board of Regents has—in response to the threat of censure by an external group—voted to continue support of MD Anderson Cancer Center’s seven-year term tenure system.

Study: Drug Discounts Used For Wealthier Patients In Many 340B-Enrolled Hospitals

Hospitals that qualified for the 340B drug pricing program in 2004 or later were more likely to serve wealthier communities with higher rates of health insurance coverage, according to a study published Oct. 6 in the journal Health Affairs.

The primary purpose of the 340B program—established by Congress in 1992—was to provide significantly discounted outpatient drugs to low-income and uninsured patients.

photoIn Brief

  • ESMO Names Annual Award Winners
  • Phoenix Children’s Hospital launches The Chan Soon-Shiong Children’s Precision Medicine Institute
  • C. Parker Gibbs Jr. appointed deputy director of medical affairs for the University of Florida Health Cancer Center.
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy launches fellowship program
  • Ohio State University completes five-year pharmaceuticals center project
  • MD Anderson and VolitionRx Limited announce collaboration
  • Andrew Brenner receives $1.62 million grant from FDA
photoDrugs and Targets

  • Akynzeo approved for chemotherapy-related nausea
  • DNX-2401 granted orphan drug designation
  • Caris Life Sciences launches pilot program through the U.K. National Health Service
  • Mayo Clinic partners with Second Genome Inc.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb and MD Anderson collaborate on immunotherapies
  • PhRMA Report details nearly 800 cancer therapies currently in development
20141003 - Oct 3, 2014
ISSUE 37 – OCT. 3, 2014PDF



Genentech Move Nixes Hospital Discounts

Avastin, Herceptin, Rituxan Now Sold Under Tighter Control by Drug Maker

A move by Genentech has eliminated discounts and rebates hospitals receive when they purchase three of the company’s top-selling infused cancer drugs.

Beginning Oct. 1, hospitals can now order Avastin (bevacizumab), Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Rituxan (rituximab) exclusively from six specialty distributors authorized by the drug maker.

Genentech said the move will bypass more than 80 full-line wholesale drug distribution centers, with the objective of enhancing efficiency and security of the supply chain for these widely used medications. 

Conversation with The Cancer Letter
Scott Soefje: “These are Life-Saving Drugs. I’m Not Going To Stop Treating Patients, Right?”

The loss of discounts and rebates hospitals received for administering Genentech’s Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan will increase costs to patients, said Scott Soefje, director of pharmacy at University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin.

Fake Avastin, Paid for by Medicare, Administered to U.S. Patients

Two years ago, British authorities tested a shipment of chemotherapy drugs headed for North America. 

They found that the agent, labeled as Genentech’s Avastin, contained no trace of Avastin’s active ingredient. The drugs were on the way to Canada, where they were to be sold to doctors throughout the U.S.

Gonzalez-Angulo To Serve 10 Years In Poisoning Case

Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, a 43-year-old oncologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for poisoning her lover and colleague George Blumenschein.

The sentence, issued Sept. 29, makes Gonzalez-Angulo ineligible for probation, but under Texas law, she will be eligible for parole in 5 years.

FDA Publishes Two Guidances for Lab-Developed Tests

FDA published two draft guidance documents Oct. 3 for regulatory oversight, notification and medical device reporting for laboratory developed tests.

Groups Push for CMS Coverage for LDCT Lung Screening

A coalition of patient advocacy and medical organizations urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to cover low-dose computed tomography for Medicare patients at high risk for lung cancer.

Funding Opportunity
NYC-based Research Alliance Offering $200,000 Per Year for Young Investigators

The Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance is taking applications for its Prize for Young Investigators in Cancer Research. The prize of $200,000 per year for up to three years is awarded annually to five New York City-based scientists.

photoIn Brief

  • Leonidas Platanias named director of Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center

  • Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State sign new affiliation agreement

  • Robert Miller named medical director of ASCO Institute of Quality

  • MD Anderson Cancer Center receives $10 million from ExxonMobil

  • Jan Egberts appointed CEO of Agendia Inc.

  • Memorial Sloan Kettering to open largest suburban location

  • CancerCare receives $1.5 million from Susan G. Komen

20140926 - Sep 26, 2014
ISSUE 36 – SEPT. 26, 2014PDF



Colorado Institutions Vying to Build First Carbon Ion Center in the U.S.

The University of Colorado and Colorado State University are vying to become the first institution to build a carbon-ion radiotherapy research and treatment facility in the U.S. The treatment modality is available in Europe and Japan.

Officials at the two universities are exploring the feasibility of building a $300 million research and treatment facility at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

Their first step is to conduct a $200,000 feasibility study for the project.

Conversation with The Cancer Letter
Pat White: NIH Funding “Our Only Concern”

A lobbying campaign will make an effort to secure an immediate, significant funding increase for NIH.

The effort, called ACT for NIH: Advancing Cures Today, seeks to bring together patients, scientists, advocates, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Their objective is to demonstrate the impact of a decade of clamping down on NIH funding. Adjusted for inflation, NIH receives nearly 25 percent less funding than it did in 2003.

Gonzalez-Angulo Found Guilty in MD Anderson Poisoning Case

HOUSTON—Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, a 43-year-old breast cancer specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, was found guilty of poisoning her lover, George Blumenschein, another medical oncologist at MD Anderson.

A jury at the Harris County 248th District Criminal Court found Gonzalez-Angulo guilty of aggravated assault Sept. 26. The court immediately went into the penalty phase of the proceedings.

Guest Editorial
“Gizmo Idolatry” and Marketing Da Vinci’s Radical Robot

In America, cutting-edge inventions are seen as the gateway to the future. However, the hazard of credulously accepting new technology into medical practice was warned against in a 2008 Journal of the American Medical Association editorial “Gizmo Idolatry.”

The term “gizmo idolatry” describes the conviction that a high-tech approach is better than a low-tech approach, even if there’s no evidence to support that view. A glaring example of medical “gizmo idolatry” is the da Vinci Surgical System. Without credible data to prove its safety and benefit in complex surgeries, this costly robotic machine has been promoted into near ubiquitous use in hospitals across the nation. 

MD Anderson Expands Reach Into Florida, Ohio

Two institutions said they are in varying stages of completing partnerships with MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The two deals are a part of an expansion strategy that essentially means that the MD Anderson logo can light up almost anywhere, establishing the Houston-based cancer center as a potential competitor to almost any cancer center in the U.S.

NCI Starts “Exceptional Responders” Study

NCI has launched a pilot study to investigate the molecular factors of tumors associated with exceptional treatment responses of cancer patients to drug therapies.

The Exceptional Responders Initiative seeks to identify the molecular features of tumors that predict whether a particular drug or class of drugs will be beneficial. 

photoIn Brief

  • Doug Ulman named CEO of Pelotonia

  • Margaret Foti honored by Friends of Cancer Research

  • Wilshire Oncology Medical Group joins City of Hope

  • The West Clinic receives National Committee for Quality Assurance recognition

  • FDA awards Critical Path Institute $2.1 million

  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Cancer Genetics Inc. enter collaboration

  • FASEB publishes factsheet on federal research funding by congressional district

  • Lisa Stockmon named City of Hope chief communications officer 

  • FDA names recipients Drug Shortage Assistance Award

  • European Head and Neck Society calls for EU program

  • QVC and Fashion Footwear Association of New York present $240,000 to University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute