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Monthly Archives: May 2014

New drugs may make a dent in lung, ovarian cancer

CHICAGO (AP) — New drugs are making a dent against some hard-to-treat cancers, but some results raise fresh questions about whether the benefit is worth the cost.

For the first time in a decade, an experimental drug has extended the lives of patients with advanced lung cancer who relapsed after standard chemotherapy. But the drug used in the study gave patients just six extra weeks of life on average, and costs $6,000 per infusion as currently sold to treat a different form of cancer.

Eli Lilly and Co.’s drug, Cryamza, was discussed Saturday at a cancer conference in Chicago, where other studies showed:

—The drug Imbruvica, sold by Pharmacyclics Inc. and Janssen Biotech, substantially improved survival and could set a new standard of care for relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL, the most common leukemia in adults. Doctors say the pill more precisely targets cancer and is a good option for older people who can’t tolerate standard chemotherapy infusions.

—Two experimental pills from AstraZeneca PLC worked much better than one alone against ovarian cancer that resisted or came back after standard chemo. The drugs significantly prolonged the time women lived without their disease worsening.


Cyramza is sold now to treat stomach cancer and fights the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors. French researchers led a study with 1,253 patients who relapsed after initial treatment of advanced lung cancer, a more common disease.

All were given the chemo drug docetaxel and half also received Cyramza infusions every three weeks. Median overall survival was 10.5 months for […]

By |May 31st, 2014|blogs|0 Comments

Cancer Patients Attend Pediatric Prom

Children battling cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital got to swap hospital gowns for prom gowns this week for the hospital’s 24th annual “Pediatric Prom.”

Patients at the Manhattan hospital dressed up, hit the dance floor and forgot about cancer for an afternoon.

“These children are going through rough treatments,” Dr. Farid Boulad, who directs Sloan-Kettering’s pediatric department, told ABC affiliate WABC in New York. “As you can see, some of them lose their hair, some of them have amputations, but today none of that is seen. They’re radiant, there are smiles.”

The first stop of the morning was “Promingdale’s,” which had donated clothes and accessories in sizes to fit infants through patients in their 20s, said the event’s coordinator Rachel Corke. A makeup artist and a face painter were on hand to make everyone look extra special. Everything is paid for by the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a volunteer organization within the hospital, she said.

“It started many moons ago because one patient who was an inpatient wasn’t able to go to their own prom,” Corke said. “Part of what we do in pediatrics is insure that your life while you are being treated is as normal as possible.”

Prom-goers danced to a DJ, ate snacks and also took pictures at a photo booth, which was set up with thrones to make them feel like royalty, she said.

“You definitely feel special on this day. You get special attention, special clothes, all of the little things,” Corke said. “It’s a really nice […]

By |May 31st, 2014|blogs|0 Comments

Roche immunotherapy drug shrinks tumors in early bladder cancer study

ZURICH (Reuters) – Roche’s experimental drug that spurs the immune system to fight cancer shrank tumors in 43 percent of people with a specific type of metastatic bladder cancer, according to results of an early-stage trial published on Saturday.

The drug MPDL3280A is part of a closely-watched class of treatments known as anti-PDL1 therapies, which work by blocking a tumor’s ability to evade the immune system’s defense.

U.S. health regulators have granted the drug breakthrough therapy designation, which aims to fast-track the development and review times of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions.

Data from the Phase I trial presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago found MPDL3280A shrank tumors in 13 out of 30 patients who had been previously treated for metastatic urothelial bladder cancer.

The patients were also identified as being PDL1 positive by a diagnostic test being developed by Roche.

“It’s exciting to see a potential new treatment for bladder cancer patients who have been waiting a long time for new therapies,” said Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK whose experimental cancer medicine center was used in the trial.

Bladder cancer is the ninth most common cancer worldwide resulting in around 145,000 deaths globally each year, Roche said.

The drug is an engineered antibody that targets a protein called PD-L1, for programmed death-ligand 1, and enables T cells of the immune system to more effectively attack cancer cells. PD-L1 is found on the surface of many cancer cells and impairs the […]

By |May 31st, 2014|blogs|0 Comments

Cancer doctors urged to consider value when treating patients

By Deena Beasley and Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Cancer doctors should consider the financial as well as the medical impact of treatment for patients as healthcare costs continue to grow faster than the overall economy, according to experts in Chicago at the annual meeting of the world’s largest organization of oncologists.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology is developing a system to rate drugs for advanced cancer based on a combination of benefit, side effects and price. The cost of such drugs can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars a year, even though many have been shown to extend the lives of later-stage cancer patients by just a few months.

“The problem is that the current system is unsustainable because it threatens access to high-quality cancer care,” said Dr. Neal Meropol, chief of hematology and oncology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

The price issue has led some doctors to balk. In April 2013, more than 100 leukemia specialists complained in the American Society of Hematology’s journal “Blood” that cancer drug prices were “too high, unsustainable, may compromise access of needy patients to highly effective therapy and are harmful to the sustainability of our national healthcare systems.”

Insurers are looking to partner with doctors to reduce the chance of unnecessary spending.

“There are therapies that have high value and there are therapies that may not have much value,” said Lee Newcomer, a senior vice president at UnitedHealth Group Inc.

He noted insurance companies’ motives are viewed […]

By |May 31st, 2014|blogs|0 Comments

Drug helps breast cancer patients keep fertility

CHICAGO (AP) — Doctors may have found a way to help young breast cancer patients avoid infertility caused by chemotherapy. Giving a drug to shut down the ovaries temporarily seems to boost the odds they will work after treatment ends, and it might even improve survival, a study found.

“They’re really exciting findings” that could help thousands of women each year in the United States alone, said the study’s leader, Dr. Halle Moore of the Cleveland Clinic.

“This has implications far beyond breast cancer,” for young women with other types of tumors, too, added Dr. Clifford Hudis, breast cancer chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

He is president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which featured the study at its annual conference in Chicago on Friday. More than 30,000 cancer specialists from around the world are attending.

Chemotherapy often causes premature ovarian failure, or early menopause. Doctors think that active ovaries are more susceptible to chemo damage, and that making them go dormant and stopping a woman’s monthly cycles might help shield them from harm.

“It’s basically a temporary menopause to prevent permanent menopause,” Moore explained.