20150304 - Mar 4, 2015
SPECIAL REPORT – MARCH 4, 2015 

NCI Director Harold Varmus Steps Down

NCI Director Harold Varmus has announced that he will be stepping down at the end of March 2015.

Douglas Lowy, the current deputy director, will serve as acting director for NCI, beginning April 1. Lowy, a long-time NCI intramural researcher, received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2014 for his research that led to the development of the human papillomavirus vaccine.

In a letter to colleagues March 4, Varmus, 75, reflected on his five years at the institute, saying that he is leaving with a “mixture of regret and anticipation.”

20150227 - Feb 27, 2015
ISSUE 8 – FEB. 27, 2015PDF

Former MD Anderson Faculty Chairs: “We are Disheartened and Dismayed At the Precipitous Decline in Faculty Morale”

A group of eight past chairs of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Faculty Senate have weighed into the controversy over leadership and morale at the Houston-based hospital.

“As former chairs, we are disheartened and dismayed at the precipitous decline in faculty morale that has occurred at MDACC under the current executive leadership,” the past chairs wrote in an email distributed to the faculty on Feb. 26. “We are further troubled by the continuing loss of outstanding long-term senior faculty from MDACC, an exodus that many have attributed to current administrative policies.”

The group’s letter suggests that discussion of morale at the cancer center is becoming more open at a time when its current president, Ronald DePinho, is on notice to improve his relationship with the faculty. 

With this latest salvo from the eight past chairs, peace between DePinho and the faculty is slipping further from the embattled president’s grasp. No commander wants open conflict with his troops. Yet, open conflict appears to be exactly what DePinho has on his hands.

Guest Editorial

NCCS CEO Shelley Fuld Nasso Applauds CMS Oncology Care Model

The recent announcement by the Innovation Center at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regarding the launch of an Oncology Care Model is an important step toward patient-centered cancer care. 

In 2013, the Institute of Medicine released its report, “Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis.” According to the IOM, the American cancer care system is in crisis due to three failings: it is often not patient-centered, does not provide well-coordinated care, and does not always encourage evidence-based treatment decisions. One of the IOM’s recommendations is that CMS and other payers should design and evaluate innovative payment models to improve care delivery.

 

ORIEN Big Data Collaboration Adds Four Cancer Centers

The Oncology Research Information Exchange Network, a precision cancer research collaboration founded by Moffitt Cancer Center and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, announced the addition of four cancer centers Feb. 23, bringing its membership to six.

The new members of ORIEN include City of Hope, University of Virginia Cancer Center, University of Colorado Cancer Center, and the University of New Mexico Cancer Center.

PCORI Approves $64 Million for Five 2015 Grant Awards

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute approved awards totaling more than $64 million to fund five large patient-centered comparative effectiveness research studies concentrating on cancer, back pain and stroke.

These are the first awards made through the institute’s Pragmatic Clinical Studies Initiative, an effort to produce results that can be more quickly taken up in routine clinical practice. The grants range from $7.75 million to $14.5 million each. 

Obituary

Meir Wetzler, 60, Roswell Park Hematologic Oncologist

Meir Wetzler, 60, chief of the Leukemia Section at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, died Feb. 23, nearly two weeks after a skiing accident in Denver, Colo.

Remembered as a brilliant and compassionate physician, he worked with cooperative groups and pharmaceutical companies to make clinical trials available to leukemia patients at Roswell Park. At the time of his death, he was principal investigator at the institute for clinical trials for CML, acute myeloid leukemia, multiple myeloma and myelofibrosis.

His research focused on autocrine and paracrine growth factor regulatory loops in the pathogenesis of leukemia, and signal transducer and activator of transcription proteins in leukemogenesis.

In Brief

  • Patrick Hwu named division head of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center

  • William Nelson named editor-in-chief of Cancer Today

  • Beaumont Hospital Cancer Institute in Royal Oak breaks ground on proton beam center

Drugs and Targets

  • FDA grants accelerated approval to Farydak in multiple myeloma

  • FDA grants breakthrough therapy designation to Rintega in glioblastoma

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb and Rigel Pharmaceuticals enter collaboration

  • FDA approves marketing of 23andMe’s Bloom Syndrome carrier test

  • FDA issues safety alert regarding disinfection of duodenoscopes

20150220 - Feb 20, 2015
ISSUE 7 – FEB. 20, 2015PDF

Fix MD Anderson’s Woes, Faculty Urges UT System

The Faculty Senate of MD Anderson Cancer Center asked UT System officials and the Board of Regents to “provide guidance” to the administration of the Houston-based center “in establishing milestones and timelines to implement measures to improve the morale of the faculty and the general health of the Institution.”

The resolution, which was distributed to faculty Feb. 16, reveals that the faculty’s dissatisfaction with MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho continues even after top UT System officials put him on notice to improve the faculty’s morale (The Cancer Letter, Nov. 7, 2014). 

ASCO’s Multi-Million Big Data Project Aspires to be the “Bedrock” of Oncology

The CancerLinQ database of electronic health records is going through testing at 15 practices, and will be made available for research projects later this year.

The database, launched and operated by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, was designed to pool millions of physician and patient records from practices and hospitals.

Conversation with The Cancer Letter

ASCO CEO Allen Lichter Discusses CancerLinQ

Five years into the making of CancerLinQ, the American Society of Clinical Oncology is poised to become the next big player in oncology bioinformatics.

ASCO has enlisted the help of SAP, a large multinational corporation that specializes in enterprise software, to structure over 170,000 electronic medical records into a growing database that will be launched later this year.

Billed as a “physicians for physicians” product, CancerLinQ is expected to yield high quality data that only quality research proposals can access. 

Funding Opportunity

PhRMA Launches Web Portal For Competitive Grants

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American Foundation launched a platform featuring resources on its competitive research grants and fellowships for young scientists.

The foundation awards more than $3.3 million annually to researchers with support from PhRMA’s member companies. Recent grants have focused on topics such as comparative effectiveness, adherence improvement and health outcomes.

In Brief

  • Theodore Lawrence named director of University of Michigan Cancer Center

  • Karen Knudsen named interim director of Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

  • Jonathan Jarow named acting director of FDA’s Office of Medical Policy

  • AACR names class of 11 AACR Academy fellows

  • Varian Medical Systems selected to build proton therapy center in Denmark

Drugs and Targets

  • FDA approves Lenvima in thyroid cancer

  • FDA expands indication for Revlimid to include multiple myeloma

  • Orphan Drug Designation granted to Saposin C

  • FDA grants Orphan Drug Designation to Reolysin in pancreatic cancer

  • FDA grants Orphan Drug Designation to doxorubicin formulation

  • NHS establishes access program for Oncotype DX