Noted This Week

June 26–July 1

The FDA approved new indications for a few cancer drugs, including:

  • the PD-L1 inhibitor avelumab (Bavencio; EMD Serono) as a maintenance therapy for patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma that has not worsened with first-line platinum-containing chemotherapy.
  • the PD-1 inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda; Merck) for patients newly diagnosed with inoperable or metastatic microsatellite instability–high or mismatch repair–deficient colorectal cancer.
  • a combination of pertuzumab, trastuzumab, and hyaluronidase–ZZXF (Phesgo; Roche/Genentech) for patients with early or metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. The triplet is injected under the skin and can be administered by a health care professional at a patient’s home.

Seattle Genetics announced that a single-arm phase II trial of tisotumab vedotin showed a 24% objective response rate in 101 patients with recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer who were previously treated with chemotherapy; the median duration of response was 8.3 months. An antibody–drug conjugate, tisotumab vedotin homes to tissue factor, which is expressed in cervical cancer cells and can promote tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastases.

The NCI awarded 6 more years of funding to the NRG Oncology Biospecimen Bank (NRG-BB) and rated it as exceptional during the grant renewal process. The NRG-BB provides biospecimen support to the NCI National Clinical Trials Network by collecting, managing, and distributing annotated samples; currently its inventory includes 3,276,452 samples from 182,749 patients across 404 trials.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, laid off 76 administrative employees and nixed 81 open positions to help close a $50 million shortfall in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The institution had already implemented other cost-cutting measures, such as eliminating salary increases, reducing executive salaries by 5%, and limiting expenditures on consultants, in an effort to mitigate the downturn in philanthropic support and volatility in investment income. Many other cancer centers have taken similar steps in recent weeks.

The NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute will spend $75 million over 5 years to create the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Genomic Risk Assessment and Management Network. The network, which will include 10 clinical sites, aims to establish protocols for better genomic risk assessments of disease in diverse populations that can be integrated into clinical care. The sites plan to recruit a total of 25,000 patients, focusing on those from racial or ethnic minority groups and underserved populations.


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