Noted This Week

September 14–20

A joint U.S. House of Representatives and Senate conference committee approved a $2 billion increase for the NIH for fiscal year 2019 as part of a bipartisan appropriations bill. The legislation, which includes a total of $39.1 billion for the NIH, must now be approved by the full House and Senate before being sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Also, the committee nixed an amendment requiring pharmaceutical companies to include drug prices in television ads. The amendment, which was opposed by House members on the committee, passed in the Senate last month.

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s nivolumab (Opdivo) plus ipilimumab (Yervoy; Merck) may benefit women with recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer, according to results presented at the 17th Biennial Meeting of the International Gynecologic Cancer Society in Kyoto, Japan. In the phase II NRG-GY003 trial, 31.4% of women treated with the combination responded within 6 months, compared with 12.2% of women who received nivolumab alone. The combination is approved for certain forms of melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, and colorectal cancer.

Mersana Therapeutics announced that the FDA lifted a partial clinical hold on XMT-1522, an antibody–drug conjugate that targets HER2-expressing tumors. The hold, initiated following a patient death in a phase I trial, was removed after the company agreed to change its protocols to increase patient monitoring and exclude patients with advanced liver failure.

In the United States, spending on cancer drugs increased from $26.8 billion in 2011 to $42.1 billion in 2016, according to a study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice. Spending increased the most for nivolumab, pertuzumab (Perjeta; Genentech), and pembrolizumab (Keytruda; Merck), and decreased the most for oxaliplatin, docetaxel, and gemcitabine; rituximab (Rituxan; Genentech), bevacizumab (Avastin; Genentech), and trastuzumab (Herceptin; Genentech) maintained the highest expenditures.

An artificial intelligence tool may be able to diagnose patients with lung cancer, according to findings published in Nature Medicine. Researchers developed a machine-learning program by training a deep neural network with slide images of cancerous tissues from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Their program distinguished between adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas with 97% accuracy, and determined the presence of STK11, EGFR, FAT1, SETBP1, KRAS, and TP53 mutations with 73% to 86% accuracy.

In an effort to provide a post-Brexit collaboration model, three cancer charities awarded $39.4 million to cancer research projects in the UK and Europe. Cancer Research UK, Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro in Italy, and Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer in Spain gave 5-year Accelerator Awards to six international collaborations focused on translational research such as devising a blood test for advanced prostate cancer, investigating drug resistance in blood cancers, and developing immunotherapies for liver cancer.

The University of California, San Francisco, received a $20 million grant from the FDA and the NIH to study new tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes. Researchers will explore the health effects, use, and health-care costs associated with the devices.


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