A Q&A with Mary Woolley, President and CEO of Research!America
Q: You attended the December 2016 signing by President Obama of the 21st Century Cures Act and are recognized to be a strong supporter. Yet harsh criticism of it has quickly appeared in JAMA, BMJ, a variety of other venues, as well as on these pages. Please tell our readers why this is good legislation and how the public health will be protected from exploitation in this very different regulatory world.
A: The bi-partisan 21st Century Cures Act is grounded in a commitment to assuring that our nation’s research ecosystem has the capacity to accelerate the pace at which safe and effective medical advances reach patients. The Act will expand the efficiency, reach and impact of medical discovery in a manner that sustains crucial safeguards against unsafe or ineffective products. The law finances more research, helps to reduce the administrative cost surrounding basic research, and takes additional steps to overcome challenges the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) faces. Patient groups, health care professionals, academic leaders, industry leaders and the FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were frequently consulted regarding provisions of this bipartisan bill, and their insights were incorporated. We at Research!America were closely involved throughout development of the bill, and are pleased that it crossed the finish line last December. Continue reading…
“People diagnosed with cancer understandably reach for the very best that medical science has to offer. That motivation is increasingly driving people to ask to have the DNA of their tumors sequenced. And while that’s useful for some malignancies, the hype of precision medicine for cancer is getting far ahead of the facts.
“It’s easy to understand why that’s the case. When you hear stories about the use of DNA sequencing to create individualized cancer treatment, chances are they are uplifting stories. Like that of Ben Stern.”
“Several patients with recurring glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer, survived for more than a year in a clinical trial believed to be the first to use comprehensive DNA and RNA sequencing of a patient’s tumor to inform treatment for these patients in real-time. The study was led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), UC San Francisco (UCSF) and the Ivy Foundation Early Phase Clinical Trials Consortium.”
“Genomic Health, Inc. (GHDX) announced today the presentation of results from four studies evaluating the clinical value and utility of its Oncotype DX® Genomic Prostate Score™ (GPS) in the management of early-stage prostate cancer. Collectively, these new data highlight the test’s ability to predict disease aggressiveness and refine risk stratification across National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) clinical risk groups.
” ‘We now have 22 clinical studies, involving more than 4,200 prostate cancer patients, that distinguish Oncotype DX as the only test developed specifically for men who are deciding between active surveillance or definitive treatment. The test is validated to provide individualized information about both the current state and future risk of patients’ prostate cancer,’ said Phil Febbo, M.D., chief medical officer, Genomic Health. ‘Together with the recently published economic analysis demonstrating substantial cost savings of more than $2,200 per patient tested, the data presented will support increased adoption and reimbursement of Oncotype DX as physicians aim to bring precision medicine to their prostate cancer patients.’ “
Update 3-1-17: A video of this event has now been released. Watch it below.
This year’s Precision Medicine World Conference in Mountain View, California, was well-attended by many members of Cancer Commons, who shared in the scientific discoveries that will lead the way to more personalized, accurate, and effective cancer care. Precision medicine is a rapidly evolving field with many breakthroughs in science, technology, and diagnosis that is transforming the way cancer care is practiced at the bedside.
A special session was co-chaired by Cancer Commons board member Larry Marton and Lincoln Nadauld, director of the personalized oncology program at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah. The session also featured Cancer Commons medical director Kevin Knopf, Mountain View oncologist Edmund Tai, and Tim Collins, who is corporate vice president of operations and research at Scripps Health in San Diego. Continue reading…
“A new study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Kaiser Permanente has identified genetic predictors of normal prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in healthy men, which could be used to improve the accuracy of PSA-based prostate cancer screening tests.
“Until recently, PSA tests for prostate cancer were considered an exemplar of successful early cancer detection leading to improved treatment outcomes. But over the past five years, a series of studies has suggested that the tests are not sensitive enough: frequent false positives lead to too many unnecessary medical procedures, and false negatives give men a false sense of security. In 2012, the test was given a ‘D’ rating by the U.S. Preventive Task Force, and the test is no longer covered by some insurers.”
“A team of Dana-Farber scientists has released new research with an important message about precision medicine: Sequencing the genes of brain tumors in kids could point to treatments that target their genetic abnormalities and therefore have the best chance of being effective. At least one of those drugs is already on the market, Novartis’ Tafinlar (dabrafenib), approved by the FDA to treat other types of cancer but still readily available to pediatric oncologists who may want to try it in their patients.”
“The team behind the Lung Cancer Master Protocol (Lung-MAP), a groundbreaking clinical trial for patients with advanced squamous cell lung cancer, is announcing exciting new changes and enrolling more patients as it adapts to the latest science and treatments. The nation-wide precision medicine trial now includes nivolumab, the immunotherapy treatment recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
“Lung-MAP tests several new treatments for patients with advanced stage squamous cell lung cancer. In advanced stage squamous patients, cancer has usually spread from the lungs to other organs. The trial is for these patients, whose cancer has continued to grow – even after being treated with standard therapy.
“Lung-MAP gives these patients access to innovative therapies. The trial design allows several drugs to be tested simultaneously. Currently, the trial has four trial options for patients. Here’s how it works. All qualifying patients enrolled in Lung-MAP get free genomic profiling. Based on results of that DNA tumor tissue test, patients can be assigned to one of three biomarker-driven sub-studies, each evaluating a promising new drug. If there is no genomic match, patients can enroll in a fourth sub-study, which is testing the FDA-approved nivolumab, an immunotherapy made by Bristol Myers Squibb, against a nivolumab combination therapy. Regardless of their genomic profile, all Lung-MAP patients receive a treatment – not a placebo.”
“ ‘The primary underpinning of the trial comes from genetic characterization of various cancer types, which has become increasingly common place but is not yet routine,’ Keith T. Flaherty, MD, an oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, associate professor at Harvard Medical School andECOG-ACRIN chair of the NCI-MATCH trial, told HemOnc Today. ‘When looking at cancers as defined by their site of origin, there are threads of continuity across those cancer types. Within a cancer type, there also is heterogeneity, and understanding what this patchwork looks like was really the main motivator for setting up a trial like this.’ “