NEWS

T cells from healthy donors recognize wider array of neoantigens, could boost antitumor immune responses.

June 24

Metastatic Breast Cancer Project aims to create mineable data repository to speed research and drug development.

June 21

Durable responses seen in previously untreated, cisplatin-ineligible patients with advanced disease.

June 21

Durable responses seen in patients with advanced, treatment-refractory bladder cancer and cHL.

June 20

Analysis of TCGA data sheds light on molecular basis for sex disparities in 13 tumor types.

June 14

Study also identifies recurrent neoepitopes that could be potential cancer vaccine targets.

June 13

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RESEARCH WATCH

PD-1 blockade with nivolumab was safe and achieved objective responses in patients with lymphoma.

June 24

Calcium metabolism gene GPR68 mediates lenalidomide sensitivity in myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

June 24

MYC and p53 are critical nodes in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) leukemic stem cells.

June 20

Pembrolizumab is well tolerated and active in patients with melanoma or NSCLC with brain metastases.

June 20

Negatively charged ligand-free RNA liposomes effectively trigger an antitumor immune response.

June 10

Pembrolizumab is well tolerated and active in advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

June 10

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NOTED THIS WEEK

June 24, 2016

The NIH’s Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee unanimously approved the use of CRISPR-Cas9 to tweak T cells in patients, improving the ability of T cells to attack tumor cells. This application would represent the first human use of CRISPR-Cas9, and the committee’s green light is the first step in allowing a proposed clinical trial to proceed. The study would enroll 15 patients with multiple myeloma, melanoma, or sarcoma, and researchers would then edit out two genes—for PD-1 and the endogenous T-cell receptor—from these patients’ T cells. Approvals are still pending from the FDA and the three medical centers where this study would be conducted: The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and the University of California, San Francisco.

The NIH rejected a petition from several consumer groups to override the patent on the prostate cancer drug enzalutamide (Xtandi; Astellas), which costs two to four times more in the United States than in other high-income countries. Because federal funds were used to aid the development of enzalutamide, the NIH could authorize the drug’s generic production to “alleviate health and safety needs which are not being reasonably satisfied,” the groups charged. In its response letter, the agency noted that “no information was identified from public sources to suggest that enzalutamide is currently or will be in short supply.”

In further agency news, the NIH awarded $2.4 million to Kailos Genetics and Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) in Salt Lake City, UT, to develop a clinical-grade test for circulating tumor DNA. Research and development for the blood test will occur over a 5-year period at HCI and Kailos’s CLIA-certified next-generation sequencing laboratory to ensure accuracy and reproducibility. The test will be used to monitor patients with breast cancer for disease recurrence and to provide information about resistance mutations.

Four NCI-designated cancer centers announced the establishment of a research consortium with Celgene to speed the development of next-generation cancer drugs and diagnostics. The participating institutions are Icahn School of Medicine and Columbia University, both in New York, NY; Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD; and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Over the next 10 years, each institution will present multiple high-impact research programs to Celgene, and the company has the option to develop and commercialize new therapeutics arising from the consortium’s efforts.

According to a Swedish study, after imatinib (Gleevec; Novartis) was introduced in 2001, followed by multiple other tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI), the life expectancy of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) has improved dramatically. Researchers estimate that a 55-year-old man diagnosed in 1980 would have a 20.8-year decrease in average life expectancy, but for his peer diagnosed in 2010, the decrease would be only 2.6 years. The life expectancy of patients with CML is now close to that of the general population, the researchers conclude, but due to “an increased incidence of other cancers and cardiovascular morbidity associated with the use of TKIs,” it may never catch up entirely.

The FDA granted Breakthrough Therapy designation to ruxolitinib (Jakafi; Incyte) for the treatment of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Acute GVHD is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in stem-cell transplant recipients, and no approved treatments are available for this condition. Ruxolitinib, a first-in-class JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor, is currently indicated for use in polycythemia vera, a bone marrow disorder that causes overproduction of red blood cells.

According to a new study, only about 30% of patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma receiving targeted therapy also elect to have their kidney surgically removed, even though current guidelines call for both treatments if the patient is a good candidate for surgery. The investigators found that surgery was associated with improved survival—a median of 17.1 months, compared with 7.7 months for patients who didn’t undergo the procedure—but that patients who were older, not privately insured, or not treated at an academic medical center often skipped it.

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RESEARCH WATCH