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.

What Will it Take to Re­al­ize the Promise and Po­ten­tial of Im­mune Cell Ther­a­pies?

What does it take to get to the finish line with a new cancer therapy – fast? With approvals in place and hundreds of immune cell therapy candidates in the pipeline, the global industry is poised to create a fundamental shift in cancer treatments towards precision medicine. At the same time, unique challenges associated with cell and process complexity present manufacturing bottlenecks that delay speed to market and heighten cost of goods sold (COGS) — these hurdles must be overcome to make precision treatments an option for every cancer patient. This series of articles highlights some of the key manufacturing challenges associated with the production of cell-based cancer therapies as well as the solutions needed to transcend them. Automation, process knowledge, scalability, and assured supply of high-quality starting material and reagents are all critical to realizing the full potential of CAR-based therapies and sustaining the momentum achieved in recent years. The articles will highlight leading-edge technologies that incorporate these features to integrate across workflows, accelerate timelines and reduce COGS – along with how these approaches are enabling the biopharmaceutical industry to cross the finish line faster with new treatment options for patients in need.

The biggest ques­tions fac­ing gene ther­a­py, the XLMTM com­mu­ni­ty, and Astel­las af­ter fourth pa­tient death

After three patients died last year in an Astellas gene therapy trial, the company halted the study and began figuring out how to safely get the program back on track. They would, executives eventually explained, cut the dose by more than half and institute a battery of other measures to try to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Then tragically, Astellas announced this week that the first patient to receive the new regimen had died, just weeks after administration.

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EQRx chairman Alexis Borisy and CEO Melanie Nallichieri

EQRx, CStone un­furl full lung can­cer da­ta for PD-L1 drug in what the part­ners are call­ing a first

As a self-stylized drug pricing disruptor, EQRx has high hopes for its lead PD-(L)1 to offer proof of concept for the entire business model. After touting a win back in May, the biotech is back with full data in lung cancer that could back up an approval.

Patients dosed with EQRx and CStone Pharmaceuticals’ sugemalimab posted median progression-free survival of 9 months compared with 5.8 months for patients given placebo (p=0.0026), according to full data from the Phase III GEMSTONE-301 study in Stage III non-small cell lung cancer set to be presented at this weekend’s #ESMO21.

Amgen VP of R&D David Reese

Am­gen rolls out da­ta for KRAS in­hibitor com­bo study in col­orec­tal can­cer, hop­ing to move on from ug­ly ear­ly re­sults

With the first win for its KRAS inhibitor sotorasib in hand, Amgen is pushing ahead with an aggressive clinical plan to capitalize on its first-to-market standing. The drugmaker thinks combinations — in-house or otherwise — could offer a path forward, and one early readout from that strategy is bearing fruit.

A combination of Amgen’s sotorasib and its EGFR inhibitor Vectibix posted an overall response rate of 27% in 26 patients with advanced colorectal cancer (CRC) with the KRAS-G12C mutation, according to data from the larger Phase Ib/II CODEBREAK 101 study set to present at this weekend’s virtual ESMO Congress.

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As­traZeneca touts Imfinzi im­munother­a­py com­bos for lung can­cer in push to dri­ve PD-L1 drug up­take

Facing the big dogs in the PD-(L)1 space, AstraZeneca has taken its own contender Imfinzi into blockbuster territory in its four years on the market but sees even bigger things for the drug. Combinations could be the key, and early results from a mid-stage test are adding some fuel to that strategy.

Imfinzi combined with one of two investigational immunotherapies — a CD73 antibody dubbed oleclumab or an Innate’s anti-NGK2a named monalizumab — topped Imfinzi alone in terms of overall response and progression-free survival in patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors had not worsened during concurrent chemoradiation, according to interim data from the Phase II COAST trial set to be presented at #ESMO21.

Gri­fols drops $1B on Ger­man hold­ing com­pa­ny in con­tin­ued plas­ma push

One Spanish biotech is beefing up its plasma therapy operations, and on Friday, it announced that it’s doing so in a billion-dollar deal.

Grifols is now the largest shareholder of Biotest, a company valued at more than $1.8 billion. By teaming up, the two will try to increase the number of plasma therapies available and increase patient access around the world, Grifols said in a press release.

The company did so by acquiring holding company Tiancheng Pharmaceutical, the Germany-based owner of nearly 90% of Biotest shares, for nearly $1.27 billion. Grifols now owns nearly 90% of Biotest voting rights and almost 45% of the total share capital of Biotest.

Dan O'Day, Gilead CEO (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Eu­ro­pean study finds that Gilead­'s Covid-19 an­tivi­ral remde­sivir shows no clin­i­cal ben­e­fit

Gilead’s remdesivir — or Veklury, as it’s marketed in the US — raked in around $2.8 billion last year as the only FDA-approved antiviral to treat Covid-19. But new data from a European study suggest the drug, which has been given to about half of hospitalized Covid patients in the country, has no actual benefit.

The open-label DisCoVeRy trial enrolled Covid-19 patients across 48 sites in Europe to test a handful of treatments, including remdesivir, lopinavir–ritonavir, lopinavir–ritonavir and interferon beta-1a, and hydroxychloroquine. To participate, patients had to show symptoms for seven days and require oxygen support. A total of 429 patients were randomized to receive remdesivir plus standard of care, while 428 were assigned to standard of care alone.

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Ali Tehrani, Zymeworks CEO

Zymeworks squares up with Her­ceptin af­ter HER2 bis­pe­cif­ic aces mid-stage test in esophageal can­cer

Roche’s Herceptin has long stood as standard of care across multiple advanced cancers, but a suite of next-gen players are looking to beat the aging giant at its own game. In HER2-expressing esophageal cancer, BeiGene partner Zymeworks thinks its bispecific antibody could have the juice to get it done.

Zymeworks’ bispecific antibody zanidatamab, combined with one of two chemotherapy regimens, posted an overall response rate of 75% in patients with advanced gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma (GEA) who had not previously received a HER2-targeted cancer therapy, the Vancouver-based biotech said Thursday.

Covid-19 roundup: FDA re­veals boost­er ad­comm ques­tion; Eli Lil­ly's an­ti­body cock­tail cleared for pre­ven­tion

The FDA released briefing documents this week from the agency and Pfizer each outlining their arguments for today’s Covid-19 booster shot adcomm, but one thing conspicuously missing was the question on which panel members would be voting. But late Thursday night, regulators published that question.

Adcomm members will be asked whether or not the safety and efficacy data from Pfizer/BioNTech’s original Phase III study “support approval” of a booster shot at least six months after the second dose in individuals older than 16. The question notably excludes the real-world data from Israel and other analyses that Pfizer and the Biden administration had said would be a centerpiece of their arguments for boosters.