Noted This Week

February 8–14

Johnson & Johnson agreed to buy surgical robotics company Auris Health for $3.4 billion in a deal that could earn Auris up to $2.35 billion more in milestone payments. Auris, which will become part of Johnson & Johnson’s medical-devices division, is developing a surgical robotic endoscope called Monarch for the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. The device was cleared by the FDA last year.

African American men with advanced prostate cancer may respond better to certain therapies than white men, according to a retrospective study presented at the 2018 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, CA. Researchers analyzed data from 787 African American men and 2,123 white men with metastatic castration-resistant disease treated with abiraterone or enzalutamide (Xtandi; Astellas Pharma) between 2013 and 2018. They found that the median overall survival (OS) was 30 months for African American men, compared with 26 months for white men.

Also reported at the Symposium, the targeted radiation therapy lutetium Lu 177 PSMA 617 (Endocyte) may be an effective treatment for men with PSMA-positive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer whose disease has worsened on other therapies. In a phase II study, 50 men treated with the therapy had a median OS of 13.3 months, and 32 men with a PSA decline of 50% or greater had a median OS of 18 months. Related therapy Lutetium Lu 177 dotatate (Lutathera; Novartis, Advanced Accelerator Applications) was FDA approved in 2018 for somatostatin receptor–positive gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.

A study in CANCER estimates that since 1989, hundreds of thousands of deaths due to breast cancer may have been prevented by screening mammography and improved treatment. Researchers analyzed population and breast cancer mortality data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program using different background mortality assumptions, and determined that about 384,046 to 614,484 deaths were averted between 1989 and 2018.

The NCI awarded nearly $20 million to the Perlmutter Cancer Center, NYU Langone Health, in New York, NY, and promoted the center to a comprehensive cancer center, giving it an “outstanding” rating following its 5-year review. Researchers at Perlmutter are involved in research in a variety of areas, including developing therapies for bladder and lung cancers and melanoma. Perlmutter is one of 50 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers.

According to survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.6 million U.S. middle and high school students used electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in 2018, an increase of 1.5 million over 2017. In total, 4.9 million students used tobacco products in 2018, a 38.3% increase largely driven by e-cigarette usage.


Research Watch