Steep­est de­cline in US can­cer mor­tal­i­ty ever record­ed, study finds

De­clin­ing smok­ing rates, rapid di­ag­no­sis, and new­er treat­ments are thaw­ing mor­tal­i­ty rates for can­cer, which on­ly lags be­hind heart dis­ease as the biggest killer in the Unit­ed States — re­searchers sug­gest­ed in a new study on Wednes­day.

The largest-ever one-year de­cline in the US can­cer death rate — dri­ven pri­mar­i­ly by di­min­ish­ing lung can­cer mor­tal­i­ty — was a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety (ACS) re­port, which cal­cu­lat­ed an over­all drop of 29% in US can­cer rates from 1991 to 2017.

The de­cline in mor­tal­i­ty over the 26-year pe­ri­od has been large­ly steady due to long-term drops in death rates in the four most com­mon can­cer types: lung, col­orec­tal, breast, and prostate, al­though progress in re­duc­ing col­orec­tal, breast, and prostate can­cers has slowed, the re­searchers found, not­ing that this works out to more than 2.9 mil­lion deaths avoid­ed since 1991 when the mor­tal­i­ty rate was at its peak.

“(T)reat­ment break­throughs have al­so con­tributed, such as those for hematopoi­et­ic and lym­phoid ma­lig­nan­cies in both chil­dren and adults, and more re­cent­ly check­point block­ade im­munother­a­pies and tar­get­ed ther­a­pies for metasta­t­ic melanoma,” they wrote.

Pe­ter Bach, di­rec­tor of Memo­r­i­al Sloan Ket­ter­ing’s cen­ter for health pol­i­cy and out­comes, took is­sue with at­tribut­ing the de­cline in can­cer mor­tal­i­ty to new med­i­cines in the study led by ACS’ Re­bec­ca Siegel.

The study does not test this hy­poth­e­sis, the renowned re­searcher and epi­demi­ol­o­gist wrote on Twit­ter. “Epi­demi­ol­o­gy may be opaque but it is not opin­ion.”

Source: Twit­ter, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

On av­er­age, the death rate has fall­en by 1.5% per year be­tween 2008 and 2017,  Siegel et al cal­cu­lat­ed.

“Nev­er­the­less, progress is slow­ing for can­cers that are amenable to ear­ly de­tec­tion through screen­ing (ie, breast can­cer, prostate can­cer, and CRC), and sub­stan­tial racial and ge­o­graph­ic dis­par­i­ties per­sist for high­ly pre­ventable can­cers, such as those of the cervix and lung,” the au­thors wrote.

“In­creased in­vest­ment in both the eq­ui­table ap­pli­ca­tion of ex­ist­ing can­cer con­trol in­ter­ven­tions and ba­sic and clin­i­cal re­search to fur­ther ad­vance treat­ment op­tions would un­doubt­ed­ly ac­cel­er­ate progress against can­cer.”

In 2016, the Unit­ed States spent near­ly twice as much as 10 high-in­come coun­tries on med­ical care and per­formed less well on many pop­u­la­tion health out­comes, da­ta shows.

And al­though the US has low­er-than-av­er­age mor­tal­i­ty rates for can­cer, it does have high­er than av­er­age rates in the oth­er caus­es of mor­tal­i­ty ver­sus coun­tries that are sim­i­lar in size and wealth (based on GDP and GDP per capi­ta), ac­cord­ing to an analy­sis con­duct­ed by The Pe­ter­son Cen­ter on Health­care and the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion.

Source: The Pe­ter­son Cen­ter on Health­care & KFF, 2020

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

These cat­e­gories ac­count­ed for near­ly 74% of all deaths in the Unit­ed States in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the da­ta com­piled.

“My biggest con­cern, how­ev­er, is that the na­tion is so hy­per-fo­cused on can­cer (as re­flect­ed in (the) dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of R&D in on­col­o­gy space) that it’s ig­nor­ing the alarm­ing fact that over­all life (US) ex­pectan­cy is in de­cline,” health econ­o­mist Joshua Co­hen wrote in re­sponse to Bach’s com­ments on Twit­ter.

Fangliang Zhang, AP Images

UP­DAT­ED: Leg­end fetch­es $424 mil­lion, emerges as biggest win­ner yet in pan­dem­ic IPO boom as shares soar

Amid a flurry of splashy pandemic IPOs, a J&J-partnered Chinese biotech has emerged with one of the largest public raises in biotech history.

Legend Biotech, the Nanjing-based CAR-T developer, has raised $424 million on NASDAQ. The biotech had originally filed for a still-hefty $350 million, based on a range of $18-$20, but managed to fetch $23 per share, allowing them to well-eclipse the massive raises from companies like Allogene, Juno, Galapagos, though they’ll still fall a few dollars short of Moderna’s record-setting $600 million raise from 2018.

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As it hap­pened: A bid­ding war for an an­tibi­ot­ic mak­er in a mar­ket that has rav­aged its peers

In a bewildering twist to the long-suffering market for antibiotics — there has actually been a bidding war for an antibiotic company: Tetraphase.

It all started back in March, when the maker of Xerava (an FDA approved therapy for complicated intra-abdominal infections) said it had received an offer from AcelRx for an all-stock deal valued at $14.4 million.

The offer was well-timed. Xerava was approved in 2018, four years after Tetraphase posted its first batch of pivotal trial data, and sales were nowhere near where they needed to be in order for the company to keep its head above water.

Is a pow­er­house Mer­ck team prepar­ing to leap past Roche — and leave Gilead and Bris­tol My­ers be­hind — in the race to TIG­IT dom­i­na­tion?

Roche caused quite a stir at ASCO with its first look at some positive — but not so impressive — data for their combination of Tecentriq with their anti-TIGIT drug tiragolumab. But some analysts believe that Merck is positioned to make a bid — soon — for the lead in the race to a second-wave combo immuno-oncology approach with its own ambitious early-stage program tied to a dominant Keytruda.

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Bris­tol My­ers is clean­ing up the post-Cel­gene merg­er pipeline, and they’re sweep­ing out an ex­per­i­men­tal check­point in the process

Back during the lead up to the $74 billion buyout of Celgene, the big biotech’s leadership did a little housecleaning with a major pact it had forged with Jounce. Out went the $2.6 billion deal and a collaboration on ICOS and PD-1.

Celgene, though, also added a $530 million deal — $50 million up front — to get the worldwide rights to JTX-8064, a drug that targets the LILRB2 receptor on macrophages.

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GSK presents case to ex­pand use of its lu­pus drug in pa­tients with kid­ney dis­ease, but the field is evolv­ing. How long will the mo­nop­oly last?

In 2011, GlaxoSmithKline’s Benlysta became the first biologic to win approval for lupus patients. Nine years on, the British drugmaker has unveiled detailed positive results from a study testing the drug in lupus patients with associated kidney disease — a post-marketing requirement from the initial FDA approval.

Lupus is a drug developer’s nightmare. In the last six decades, there has been just one FDA approval (Benlysta), with the field resembling a graveyard in recent years with a string of failures including UCB and Biogen’s late-stage flop, as well as defeats in Xencor and Sanofi’s programs. One of the main reasons the success has eluded researchers is because lupus, akin to cancer, is not just one disease — it really is a disease of many diseases, noted Al Roy, executive director of Lupus Clinical Investigators Network, an initiative of New York-based Lupus Research Alliance that claims it is the world’s leading private funder of lupus research, in an interview.

UP­DAT­ED: Es­ti­mat­ing a US price tag of $5K per course, remde­sivir is set to make bil­lions for Gilead, says key an­a­lyst

Data on remdesivir — the first drug shown to benefit Covid-19 patients in a randomized, controlled trial setting — may be murky, but its maker Gilead could reap billions from the sales of the failed Ebola therapy, according to an estimate by a prominent Wall Street analyst. However, the forecast, which is based on a $5,000-per-course US price tag, triggered the ire of one top drug price expert.

Drug man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ant Lon­za taps Roche/phar­ma ‘rein­ven­tion’ vet as its new CEO

Lonza chairman Albert Baehny took his time headhunting a new CEO for the company, making it absolutely clear he wanted a Big Pharma or biotech CEO with a good long track record in the business for the top spot. In the end, he went with the gold standard, turning to Roche’s ranks to recruit Pierre-Alain Ruffieux for the job.

Ruffieux, a member of the pharma leadership team at Roche, spent close to 5 years at the company. But like a small army of manufacturing execs, he gained much of his experience at the other Big Pharma in Basel, remaining at Novartis for 12 years before expanding his horizons.

Covid-19 roundup: Ab­b­Vie jumps in­to Covid-19 an­ti­body hunt; As­traZeneca shoots for 2B dos­es of Ox­ford vac­cine — with $750M from CEPI, Gavi

Another Big Pharma is entering the Covid-19 antibody hunt.

AbbVie has announced a collaboration with the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center and the Chinese-Dutch biotech Harbour Biomed to develop a neutralizing antibody that can treat Covid-19. The antibody, called 47D11, was discovered by AbbVie’s three partners, and AbbVie will support early preclinical work, while preparing for later preclinical and clinical development. Researchers described the antibody in Nature Communications last month.

Gilead bol­sters its case for block­buster hope­ful fil­go­tinib as FDA pon­ders its de­ci­sion

Before remdesivir soaked up the spotlight amid the coronavirus crisis, Gilead’s filgotinib was the star experimental drug tapped to rake in billions competing with other JAK inhibitors made by rivals including AbbVie and Eli Lilly.

Now, long term data on the drug — discovered by Gilead’s partners at Galapagos and posted as part of a virtual medical conference — have solidified the durability and safety of filgotinib in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, spanning data from three late-stage trials. An FDA decision on the drug is expected this year.