Mi­nor­i­ty racial groups con­tin­ue to be dis­mal­ly rep­re­sent­ed in can­cer tri­als — study

Da­ta re­veal that dif­fer­ent racial and eth­nic groups — by na­ture and/or nur­ture — can re­spond dif­fer­ent­ly in terms of phar­ma­co­ki­net­ics, ef­fi­ca­cy, or safe­ty to ther­a­peu­tics, but this dis­par­i­ty is not nec­es­sar­i­ly ac­count­ed for in clin­i­cal tri­als. A fresh analy­sis of the last decade of US can­cer drug ap­provals sug­gests the trend con­tin­ues, ce­ment­ing pre­vi­ous re­search that sug­gests on­col­o­gy tri­als are woe­ful­ly un­der-rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the racial make­up of the re­al world.

The study, pub­lished in the jour­nal JA­MA On­col­o­gy, eval­u­at­ed 230 tri­als to see whether spon­sors re­port­ed the racial com­po­si­tion of the pa­tients en­rolled in their stud­ies, and how mi­nori­ties were rep­re­sent­ed (ver­sus their ac­tu­al pop­u­la­tion preva­lence) in clin­i­cal tri­als that led to can­cer drug ap­provals from 2008 to 2018.

Re­searchers from the Uni­ver­si­ty of British Co­lum­bia, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter, the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Cen­ter in Seat­tle and Bay­lor Uni­ver­si­ty found that 145 (63%) dis­closed at least one race — but a mea­ger 18 (7.8%) doc­u­ment­ed the four ma­jor races: White, Asian, Black and His­pan­ic.

Com­pared to the ac­tu­al make­up of US can­cer pa­tients — Blacks (22% of ex­pect­ed) and His­pan­ics (44% of ex­pect­ed) were un­der­rep­re­sent­ed com­pared with Whites (98% of ex­pect­ed) and Asians (438% of ex­pect­ed), the analy­sis found.

This pat­tern is con­sis­tent — even though the NIH re­quires that mi­nor­i­ty pop­u­la­tions be ap­pro­pri­ate­ly rep­re­sent­ed in clin­i­cal re­search. Cor­po­ra­tions, which car­ry the li­on’s share of drugs across the fin­ish line, are on­ly rec­om­mend­ed to shore up rep­re­sen­ta­tion by the FDA.

A study ex­plor­ing the rea­sons be­hind chron­ic un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mi­nori­ties in on­col­o­gy tri­als, pub­lished in 2016, cit­ed a sys­tem­at­ic re­view of late-stage can­cer tri­als from 1990 to 2000 and 2001 to 2010 showed that eth­nic mi­nori­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly African-Amer­i­cans, were not ad­e­quate­ly rep­re­sent­ed.

In stud­ies con­duct­ed be­tween 2001 and 2010 that re­port­ed race/eth­nic­i­ty, re­view­ers found that 82.9% of par­tic­i­pants were White, 6.2% were African Amer­i­can, 3.3% were Asian, 2.2% were His­pan­ic, and 0.1% were Na­tive Amer­i­can. In tri­als con­duct­ed be­tween 1990 and 2000, 89% of par­tic­i­pants were White, 10.5% were African Amer­i­can, 0.4% were His­pan­ic, and 0.04% were Asian. Even though the pro­por­tion of White par­tic­i­pants de­creased across the two pe­ri­ods, Whites con­tin­ued to com­prise a large ma­jor­i­ty of par­tic­i­pants, and the pro­por­tion of African Amer­i­can par­tic­i­pants de­creased be­tween the pe­ri­ods 1990 to 2000 and 2001 to 2010, the re­searchers ex­trap­o­lat­ed. Low mi­nor­i­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tion re­sults from “pre­ventable and in­ter­linked poli­cies, prac­tices, and bar­ri­ers at the sys­tem, in­di­vid­ual, and in­ter­per­son­al lev­els,” they con­clud­ed.

The pat­tern of dis­pro­por­tion­ate en­roll­ment in tri­als test­ing treat­ments for can­cer — a dis­ease which there are pro­nounced racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties in in­ci­dence and mor­tal­i­ty — is es­pe­cial­ly con­cern­ing giv­en the new wave of check­point in­hibitors.

In a sep­a­rate study pub­lished this May, re­searchers found that Black pa­tients con­sti­tut­ed less than 4% of pa­tients re­cruit­ed across mul­ti­ple tri­als that sup­port­ed the ap­proval of im­mune check­point in­hibitors for lung can­cer. The dis­crep­an­cy was echoed in tri­als con­duct­ed in re­nal cell car­ci­no­ma and oth­er tu­mor types.

“The in­ad­e­quate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of mi­nor­i­ty pa­tients on im­munother­a­py clin­i­cal tri­als could per­pet­u­ate out­come dis­par­i­ty be­cause the unique bi­ol­o­gy of the host and the tu­mors from this sub­pop­u­la­tion is not ac­count­ed for as new treat­ment al­go­rithms to guide op­ti­mal use of im­munother­a­py are de­vel­oped for use in the re­al world,” the re­searchers sug­gest­ed.

BY­OD Best Prac­tices: How Mo­bile De­vice Strat­e­gy Leads to More Pa­tient-Cen­tric Clin­i­cal Tri­als

Some of the most time- and cost-consuming components of clinical research center on gathering, analyzing, and reporting data. To improve efficiency, many clinical trial sponsors have shifted to electronic clinical outcome assessments (eCOA), including electronic patient-reported outcome (ePRO) tools.

In most cases, patients enter data using apps installed on provisioned devices. At a time when 81% of Americans own a smartphone, why not use the device they rely on every day?

Chris Gibson (Photo By Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

Re­cur­sion founders gin for­tunes as IPO back­ers show­er $436M on one of the biggest boasts in AI -- based on some very small deals

In the AI drug development world, boasting often comes with the territory. Yet few can rival Recursion when it comes to claiming the lead role in what company execs like to call the industrialization of drug development, with promises of continued exponential growth in the number of drugs it has in the pipeline.

On Friday, the Salt Lake City-based biotech translated its unicorn-sized boasts into a killer IPO, pricing more than 24 million shares at the high end of its range and bringing in $436 million — with a large chunk of that promised by some deep-pocket backers.

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Covid-19 vac­cine halt drags on, an FDA ap­point­ment at long last, the great CRO con­sol­i­da­tion, and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Conference season is upon us, and while we’d much prefer to be wandering down the hallways and presentation rooms in person, the team is ready to cover the most consequential data coming out of these scientific meetings. Get in touch early if you have news to share.

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Eli Lil­ly asks FDA to re­voke EUA for Covid-19 treat­ment

Eli Lilly on Friday requested that the FDA revoke the emergency authorization for its Covid-19 drug bamlanivimab, which is no longer as effective as a combo therapy because of a rise in coronavirus variants across the US.

“With the growing prevalence of variants in the U.S. that bamlanivimab alone may not fully neutralize, and with sufficient supply of etesevimab, we believe now is the right time to complete our planned transition and focus on the administration of these two neutralizing antibodies together,” Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s CSO, said in a statement.

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Ex­clu­sive in­ter­view: Pe­ter Marks on why full Covid-19 vac­cine ap­provals could be just months away

Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, took time out of his busy schedule last Friday to discuss with Endpoints News all things related to his work regulating vaccines and the pandemic.

Marks, who quietly coined the name “Operation Warp Speed” before deciding to stick with his work regulating vaccines at the FDA rather than join the Trump-era program, has been the face of vaccine regulation for the FDA throughout the pandemic, and is usually spotted in Zoom meetings seated in front of his wife’s paintings.

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Near­ly a year af­ter Au­den­tes' gene ther­a­py deaths, the tri­al con­tin­ues. What hap­pened re­mains a mys­tery

Natalie Holles was five months into her tenure as Audentes CEO and working to smooth out a $3 billion merger when the world crashed in.

Holles and her team received word on the morning of May 5 that, hours before, a patient died in a trial for their lead gene therapy. They went into triage mode, alerting the FDA, calling trial investigators to begin to understand what happened, and, the next day, writing a letter to alert the patient community so they would be the first to know. “We wanted to be as forthright and transparent as possible,” Holles told me late last month.

The brief letter noted two other patients also suffered severe reactions after receiving a high dose of the therapy and were undergoing treatment. One died a month and a half later, at which point news of the deaths became public, jolting an emergent gene therapy field and raising questions about the safety of the high doses Audentes and others were now using. The third patient died in August.

“It was deeply saddening,” Holles said. “But I was — we were — resolute and determined to understand what happened and learn from it and get back on track.”

Eleven months have now passed since the first death and the therapy, a potential cure for a rare and fatal muscle-wasting disease called X-linked myotubular myopathy, is back on track, the FDA having cleared the company to resume dosing at a lower level. Audentes itself is no more; last month, Japanese pharma giant Astellas announced it had completed working out the kinks of the $3 billion merger and had restructured and rebranded the subsidiary as Astellas Gene Therapies. Holles, having successfully steered both efforts, departed.

Still, questions about precisely what led to the deaths of the 3 boys still linger. Trial investigators released key details about the case last August and December, pointing to a biological landmine that Audentes could not have seen coming — a moment of profound medical misfortune. In an emerging field that’s promised cures for devastating diseases but also seen its share of safety setbacks, the cases provided a cautionary tale.

Audentes “contributed in a positive way by giving a painful but important example for others to look at and learn from,” Terry Flotte, dean of the UMass School of Medicine and editor of the journal Human Gene Therapy, told me. “I can’t see anything they did wrong.”

Yet some researchers say they’re still waiting on Astellas to release more data. The company has yet to publish a full paper detailing what happened, nor have they indicated that they will. In the meantime, it remains unclear what triggered the events and how to prevent them in the future.

“Since Audentes was the first one and we don’t have additional information, we’re kind of in a holding pattern, flying around, waiting to figure out how to land our vehicles,” said Jude Samulski, professor of pharmacology at UNC’s Gene Therapy Center and CSO of the gene therapy biotech AskBio, now a subsidiary of Bayer.

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Severin Schwan, Roche CEO (Georgios Kefalas/Keystone via AP Images)

Look­ing to ce­ment its lead in packed MS mar­ket, Roche's Ocre­vus un­corks new da­ta in ear­ly-stage pa­tients

Among a positively jam-packed multiple sclerosis market, Roche’s Ocrevus has managed to stand out for what the Swiss drugmaker is calling the most successful launch in its long history. But in order to press its advantage, Ocrevus is looking to earlier-stage patients, and new interim data should help build its case there.

After 48 weeks on Roche’s Ocrevus, 85% of newly diagnosed primary progressing or relapsing MS patients without a history of disease modifying therapy posted no disease activity, including disease progression or relapse, according to interim data set to be presented this weekend at the virtual American Academy of Neurology meeting.

J&J faces CDC ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee again next week to weigh Covid-19 vac­cine risks

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices punted earlier this week on deciding whether or not to recommend lifting a pause on the administration of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine, but the committee will meet again in an emergency session next Friday to discuss the safety issues further.

The timing of the meeting likely means that the J&J vaccine will not return to the US market before the end of next week as the FDA looks to work hand-in-hand with the CDC to ensure the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks for all age groups.

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Osman Kibar (Samumed, now Biosplice)

Os­man Kibar lays down his hand at Sa­mumed, step­ping away from CEO role as his once-her­ald­ed an­ti-ag­ing biotech re­brands

Samumed made quite the entrance back in 2016, when it launched with some anti-aging programs and a whopping $12 billion valuation. That level of fanfare was nowhere to be found on Thursday, when the company added another $120 million to its coffers and quietly changed its name to Biosplice Therapeutics.

Why the sudden rebrand?

“We did that for obvious reasons,” CFO and CBO Erich Horsley told Endpoints News. “The name Biosplice echoes our science much more than Samumed does.”

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