20150613 - Jun 13, 2015
SPECIAL REPORT – JUNE 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.

                Obituary

                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