Defining Efficacy of Cancer Immunotherapy Is a Challenge


“The use of immunotherapy is increasing in cancer care, but more research is needed to measure the effectiveness of treatment, researchers write in a report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Determining clinical efficacy can be challenging because of pseudoprogression and other distinct immune-related patterns of response that have been observed with these therapies.

“The WHO and the RECIST Group have traditionally provided standard guidelines for defining tumor response to therapy, note authors Victoria L. Chiou, MD, and Mauricio Burotto, MD, both from the National Cancer Institute.”

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UCSF Center Adds to Revolution of Care for BRCA Carriers


“A new center at University of California, San Francisco, is designed to provide comprehensive and integrated care for patients with cancer who carry BRCA and other mutations.

“The Center for BRCA Research at UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center joins Basser Center for BRCA in Philadelphia as the only facilities solely devoted to BRCA–related cancers.

“HemOnc Today spoke with Pamela N. Munster, MD, leader of the developmental therapeutics program and co-director of the Center for BRCA Research, about how the center came about, how she became involved, and what she hopes the center will do for BRCA mutation carriers and their families.”

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"Radiation Combined With Immune-Stimulating Drugs Could Pack a Powerful Punch Against Cancer Cells"


“In his final State of the Union address, President Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden with leading a new National Cancer Moonshot initiative. The hope is that this will put America on course to be ‘the country that cures cancer once and for all.’ Listed among the cutting-edge research areas of the initiative is a class of treatments called cancer immunotherapy and combination therapy.

“Cancer immunotherapies are treatments that stimulate the immune system to target and attack cancer. Researchers now believe that combining immunotherapy with traditional therapies could open up new possibilities for cancer treatment.

“For instance, radiation is one of the oldest and most commonly used forms of cancer treatment out there. But there are limits to how much radiation a person can receive, and it can’t kill every cancer cell. However, in combination therapy, radiation could be paired with immunotherapy to pack a one-two punch against .”

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ASCO Report Finds U.S. Cancer Care System Ill-Equipped to Deliver New Advances to Patients

“As the nation embarks on an ambitious ‘moonshot’ to accelerate progress against cancer, our system for delivering today’s cancer treatments must be better prepared to bring advances to all patients, warns a new report from ASCO.

The State of Cancer Care in America: 2016, published March 15 in the Journal of Oncology Practice and presented at a Congressional briefing in Washington, DC, is ASCO’s third annual assessment of national trends in cancer care delivery. The report highlights many promising cancer care developments, including new drugs and technologies, declining mortality rates, expanded access to healthcare generally, and a shift towards value-based care. But ASCO also highlights major challenges for patients and physicians, including uneven health insurance coverage, rapidly rising costs, and other barriers to accessing new treatments.”

ASCO Kicks off Ground-Breaking Clinical Trial to Learn from Use of Approved Targeted Cancer Therapies Matched to Tumor Genomics

“The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) today announced it has begun recruiting patients with advanced cancer for its first-ever clinical trial, the Targeted Agent and Profiling Utilization Registry (TAPUR) study.  The trial will evaluate molecularly-targeted cancer drugs and collect data on clinical outcomes to help learn additional uses of these drugs outside of indications already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Patients enrolled in the study will have access to these cancer drugs at no cost.

“The trial will initially enroll participants at 30 clinical sites located in Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Idaho and ASCO plans to expand to other areas of the country by the end of the year. Because of its unique design and purpose, TAPUR will include a broader patient population than in most clinical trials. Eligible participants include those who have an advanced solid tumor, multiple myeloma, or B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma who are no longer benefitting from standard anti-cancer treatments or for whom no acceptable standard treatment is available.”

When Gene Tests for Breast Cancer Reveal Grim Data but No Guidance

“At a time when genetic testing and genetically personalized treatments for cancer are proliferating, buoyed by new resources like President Obama’s $215 million personalized medicine initiative, women with breast cancer are facing a frustrating reality: The genetic data is there, but in many cases, doctors do not know what to do with it.

“That was the situation Angie Watts, 44, faced after she walked into a radiation oncologist’s office last June expecting to discuss the radiation therapy she was about to begin after a lumpectomy for breast cancer. Instead, Dr. Timothy M. Zagar of the University of North Carolina looked down at a sheet of test results and delivered some shocking news.

“A genetic test showed she had inherited an alteration in a gene needed to repair DNA. Radiation breaks DNA, so the treatment might actually spur the growth of her cancer, he said. He urged her not to take the risk and to have a double mastectomy instead.”

Genetic Test Firm to Put Customers’ Data in Public Domain

“In an unusual move, a leading genetic testing company is putting genetic information from the people it has tested into the public domain, a move the company says could make a large trove of data available to researchers looking for genes linked to various diseases.

“The company, Ambry Genetics, is expected to announce on Tuesday that it will put information from 10,000 of its customers into a publicly available database called AmbryShare.

“ ‘We’re going to discover a lot of new diagnostic targets and a lot of new drug targets,’ Aaron Elliott, interim chief scientific officer at Ambry, which is based in Southern California, said in an interview. ‘With our volume, we can pull out a significant number of genes just by the sheer number we are looking at.’ “

Immuno-oncology Driving More Precise Cancer Treatment

“A new tool that redefines combination therapy for cancer patients could soon be available to physicians.

“Epitope-based therapy — giving patients the part of an antigen that will activate and optimize their immune system against their specific tumor — looks so promising that it led to the launch of the Cancer MoonShot 2020 program.

“To boost the likelihood of treatment success, doctors would select one or more of these therapies, depending on the genomic characteristics of an individual’s cancer, to activate key elements of the patient’s immune system.”

The US Throws Away $3 Billion Worth of Cancer Drugs A Year

“You already know you pay too much for prescription medication. But a new study by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reveals one simple factor that may be contributing to high costs: Waste.

“According to the new study, published Tuesday inBMJ, as much as $3 billion worth of cancer drugs is thrown away every year, unused. The reason why is drug manufacturers package single dose vials that contain more medicine than needed so that leftover medication is simply thrown away. As the authors, which includes Peter Bach, director of MSK’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, note:

” ‘These drugs must be either administered or discarded once open, and because patients’ body sizes are unlikely to match the amount of drug included in the vial, there is nearly always some left over. The leftover drug still has to be paid for, even when discarded, making it possible for drug companies to artificially increase the amount of drug they sell per treated patient by increasing the amount in each single dose vial relative to the typically required dose.’ “