Noted This Week

January 11–17

The FDA approved cabozantinib (Cabometyx; Exelixis) for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who have previously received sorafenib (Nexavar; Bayer/Onyx). Approval was based on the phase III CELESTIAL trial, in which patients treated with the drug had a median overall survival (OS) of 10.2 months and a median progression-free survival of 5.2 months, compared with 8 months and 1.9 months, respectively, in patients who received a placebo. A tyrosine kinase inhibitor, cabozantinib was previously approved for certain forms of renal cell carcinoma.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform announced it will investigate the drug-pricing methods of pharmaceutical companies. The committee requested information from 12 companies about 18 drugs, including Celgene’s immunomodulatory agent lenalidomide (Revlimid), AbbVie/Johnson & Johnson’s Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitor ibrutinib (Imbruvica), and Novartis’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib (Gleevec).

Eli Lilly reported that the monoclonal antibody olaratumab (Lartruvo) may not be effective in advanced or metastatic soft-tissue sarcoma. In the phase III ANNOUNCE trial, the drug plus doxorubicin did not extend OS compared with doxorubicin alone, nor did it provide a survival benefit in the leiomyosarcoma subgroup. The FDA previously granted olaratumab an accelerated approval based on results of a phase II trial.

Patients with comorbidities are less likely to participate in clinical trials, according to findings in JAMA Oncology. Researchers analyzed survey data from 5,499 patients with cancer and found that 37.2% of those with comorbid conditions discussed clinical trials with their clinicians, 15.7% were offered slots in trials, and 7.8% participated in trials, compared with 44.1%, 21.7%, and 11.3% of those without multiple health problems. Removing the comorbidity restrictions that are currently recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology would result in up to 6,317 additional patients being enrolled in trials each year.

In a study in Nature Genetics, researchers characterized new subtypes of B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). The team performed an integrated genomic analysis on 1,988 cases of pediatric and adult B-ALL and identified 23 subtypes of the disease, including eight new subtypes. Two of the new subtypes have PAX5 alterations and account for 10% of previously uncategorized cases of the disease; a third, defined by a rearrangement of BCL2 with MYC or BCL6, is associated with poor outcomes in patients.

Scientists may have developed a new approach for pancreatic cancer screening, according to a study in Clinical Cancer Research. The approach combines two blood tests that detect molecules produced by pancreatic cancer cells: a new test that measures the sTRA glycan and an existing test that measures the cancer antigen 19-9. Together, the tests detected 65%–75% of pancreatic cancers with 95%–97% accuracy.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, UT, received a donation of $30 million from the Huntsman Foundation. The donation will fund the Kathryn F. Kirk Center for Comprehensive Cancer Care and Women’s Cancers building. The institute has been an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center since 2015.

In Cancer Cell, researchers described a likely molecular mechanism underlying cancerous facial tumors in Tasmanian devils, one of the only known transmissible cancers. In a series of experiments, researchers established that the cancer cells have increased activation of ERBB receptors, which may activate STAT3 proteins and suppress expression of MHC class I genes, thus driving tumor growth. They also found that targeting the ERBB–STAT3 axis inhibited tumor growth and restored expression of MHC class I genes.


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