Oncology NEWS International Vol 6 No 10

Panel Recommends Thalidomide Approval For Leprosy, Studies in Cancer Are Reported

October 01, 1997

BETHESDA, Md-Thalidomide could be increasingly used off-label to treat several cancers and other diseases if the Food and Drug Administration takes the advice of an advisory committee and, for the first time, approves the agent for marketing in the United States.

Toremifene, Tamoxifen Equivalent in Advanced Breast Cancer

October 01, 1997

SOUTHAMPTON PRINCESS, Bermuda-Three large randomized studies comparing the antiestrogens toremifene (Fareston) and tamoxifen (Nolvadex) in patients with advanced breast cancer showed no significant differences in efficacy or toxicity, Richard A. Gams, MD, of the James Cancer Hospital, Ohio State University, said at a symposium on antiestrogen therapy for breast cancer sponsored by Schering.

Fluorescence ‘LIFE’ Images Spot Occult Lung Cancer Lesions

October 01, 1997

DUBLIN-A new diagnostic strategy using fluorescence bronchoscopy has proven six times more sensitive than white-light bronchoscopy alone in picking up preinvasive lung lesions, Stephen Lam, MD, of the University of British Columbia, reported at the 8th World Conference on Lung Cancer.

The Issue That Won’t Go Away: Screening Mammography

October 01, 1997

ATLANTA-Is there any value to yet another debate on screening mam-mography for women aged 40 to 49? Maybe so when one of the speakers is a breast cancer survivor whose disease was diagnosed mammographically at age 39. Especially since that speaker-Frances M. Visco, JD-spoke against universal mammographic screening for younger women.

News in Brief...

October 01, 1997

BETHESDA, Md-The low-fat message isn’t reaching America’s children. A National Cancer Institute analysis finds that, on average, children consume 35% of their calories as fat and that this figures holds across age, sex, ethnic, and income categories.

Concurrent Better Than Sequential Chemo-RT in NSCLC

October 01, 1997

DUBLIN-Two metaanalyses have pointed to small but clear-cut survival gains for patients with inoperable locally advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Now, a randomized phase III Japanese study indicates that response rates are higher and survival longer when the two therapeutic modalities are given concurrently rather than sequentially.

A Talk With Dr. Richard Klausner, Head of the NCI

October 01, 1997

BETHESDA, Md-Richard D. Klausner, MD, became the 11th director of the National Cancer Institute on Aug. 1, 1995. He took over a troubled organization, one torn by accusations of scientific misconduct against several of its researchers and grantees and the target of two critical evaluations.

Age Is a Factor in Survival of SqCC of the Head and Neck

October 01, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO-Most patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SqCC) of the head and neck are elderly, and this group has been well represented in studies of the disease, which generally include few patients under the age of 40, said Peter Lacy, MB, FRCSI, a fellow at the Clinical Outcomes Research Office, Washington University Medical Center (WUMC), St. Louis.

Symptom-Based Staging of Head & Neck Cancer

October 01, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO-Not all clinicians are satisfied with the current TNM staging system for head and neck cancers. The problem is that the TNM system is based on a morphologic description of the tumor.

Efficacy of HIV ‘Cocktail’ May Spur Efforts for National HIV Reporting

October 01, 1997

BOSTON-Two reports have confirmed the value of the so-called HIV cocktail, three-drug combinations that appear to restore immune function in people infected with HIV, at least temporarily. With such treatments available, many believe that the time has come to push for more HIV testing and reporting, so that people can get treatment early when it is most likely to be effective.

Paxene Wins ODAC Backing for Use In AIDS-Associated Kaposi’s Sarcoma

October 01, 1997

BETHESDA, Md-For the second time in as many meetings, the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) has recommended that the FDA approve a paclitaxel-based drug for the treatment of AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS).

Multiple Myeloma Patients Needed for Trial of MDR Reverser

October 01, 1997

BOSTON-The Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) is seeking to enroll 360 multiple myeloma patients with relapsing or refractory disease for a study of PSC 833, a cyclosporin D analog that may be able to reverse chemotherapy resistance. The trial will randomize patients to receive PSC 833 plus standard VAD (vincristine, Adriamycin, and dexamethasone) or standard VAD alone.

University of Pittsburgh Apologizes to Dr. Bernard Fisher

October 01, 1997

PITTSBURGH-Bernard Fisher, MD, Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, has accepted an apology and cash settlement from the University of Pittsburgh, and withdrawn his defamation suit against the University and the federal government.

Telomerase Gene Clone Sets Stage for Drug Development

October 01, 1997

MENLO PARK, Calif-Researchers have cloned a critical component of the human telomerase gene-the catalytic protein subunit. Some scientists view the finding as the “holy grail” of cell aging research.

How Budget Affects Physicians Who See Medicare Patients

October 01, 1997

The fiscal year (FY) 1998 Balanced Budget Act contains several important changes in the Medicare program that affect physicians, including a go-ahead for provider-sponsored organizations (PSOs) (closed networks run by hospitals, doctors, and other providers instead of insurance companies) and new opportunities for the private sector to compete in the Medicare+Choice plans.

Coincidence Detection Allows Wider Use of FDG Scans

October 01, 1997

GLASGOW-Gamma camera molecular coincidence detection (MCD) technology allows imaging of positron-emitting radiotracers such as FDG without the need for a dedicated PET scanner, and thus should make FDG imaging much more widely available, Henry N. Wagner, Jr., MD, professor of radiation health sciences at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, told Oncology News International.

Study Questions Value of Nerve-Sparing Prostatectomy

October 01, 1997

BOSTON-Between 1984 and 1990, the age-adjusted rate of radical prostatectomy to treat early prostate cancer increased almost sixfold. One reason may be that physicians and patients believed, based on published reports, that newer nerve-sparing procedures gave patients a much greater chance of retaining sexual potency after surgery.

Treatment Practices for Early Laryngeal Cancer Tend to Vary

October 01, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO-Treatment practices often vary in the United States between physicians and across geographic regions, and such variation may be more likely when definitive comparisons of treatment modalities are lacking, as is the case with the management of early laryngeal carcinoma.

Camp for Children With Cancer Has Its 15th Anniversary

October 01, 1997

IDYLLWILD, Calif-Actor Dustin Hoffman joined “Ronald McDonald,” the McDonald’s restaurant clown, and nearly 100 campers and their families in celebrating the 15th anniversary of Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times-one of the nation’s oldest and largest year-round recreational camping programs for children with cancer.

Topotecan Appears Effective for 2nd-Line SCLC Therapy

October 01, 1997

DUBLIN-Preliminary results suggest that the use of single-agent topotecan (Hycamtin) as second-line therapy for small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) in patients who failed after an initial response to first-line therapy provides efficacy similar to that of the commonly used regimen of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin (Adriamycin), and vincristine (CAV).

Foundation Sponsors National Lymphoma Awareness Week

October 01, 1997

LOS ANGELES-The Lymphoma Research Foundation of America launched its second annual National Lymphoma Awareness Week on October 12. Actress Kelly Lynch, whose sister Robyn Lynch is a lymphoma survivor, served as honorary chair of the week, which featured a slate of events to inform the public about this cancer.

MIC Regimen Along With RT Prolongs Survival in NSCLC

October 01, 1997

DUBLIN-Harnessing MIC chemotherapy to radiotherapy is more effective than radiotherapy alone in patients with locally advanced inoperable non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to the findings of a multicenter randomized UK trial reported at the 8th World Conference on Lung Cancer.

Center Sponsors Creative Workshops for Women With Cancer

October 01, 1997

NEW YORK-A strong belief in the healing power of creative activity spurred Geraldine Herbert to establish a place where women with cancer could go to express themselves through the visual, performing, literary, and domestic arts-The Creative Center for Women With Cancer, located in New York City.

Circulating Melanoma Cells Persist in CR Patients After IL-2

October 01, 1997

PARIS-At the University of Heidelberg, Dr. Ulrich Keilholz and his colleagues are exploring the molecular determinants of prognosis in melanoma patients. A crucial question is whether patients with no evidence of disease after treatment are actually disease free.

FNA Identifies Follicular Variant of Papillary Thyroid Cancer

October 01, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO-Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) may offer clinicians a partial solution to the problem of identifying follicular variants of papillary thyroid cancers, Larry Shemen, MD, said at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. The traditional method of identifying follicular lesions, frozen section analysis, is often inconclusive, he noted. With the frozen section technique, the hallmark of this cancer-capsular or vascular invasion-may not be seen in the particular field studied, producing a false-negative result.

Kodak Oncology Imaging Film System Wins R&D 100 Award

October 01, 1997

ROCHESTER, NY-The Eastman Kodak Company has been selected to receive the 1997 R&D 100 Award for its development of the Kodak EC-L film system for oncology imaging. The award-winning system provides high-contrast images for use in monitoring radiation treatment of cancer patients.

Expert Urges Cutback on Breast Cancer Follow-up

October 01, 1997

ATLANTA-With 8 million new breast cancer patients each year worldwide, “we’re looking at a tremendous number of individuals being followed for recurrence,” Hyman B. Muss, MD, of Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vermont, said at the Perspectives in Breast Cancer symposium.

First US Trial of Green Tea in Cancer Patients Is Underway

October 01, 1997

HOUSTON-The first clinical study in the United States of green tea as an anticancer agent is underway at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. If this trial and future studies show a benefit, the next step would be to get Americans to switch from their usual “black” tea to the Asian green variety, which has a milder flavor.

Studies Seek to Find Best Mix of Modalities in NSCLC

October 01, 1997

DUBLIN-The question of whether patients with locally advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) would live longer if they underwent chemotherapy prior to surgical resection would appear to be yes, based on two randomized trials reported in 1994.

PDT Appears Effective for Oral Cavity, Laryngeal Cancers

October 01, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO-Photodynamic therapy (PDT), using light tuned to specific wavelengths in order to activate a previously administered photosensitizing drug, holds significant promise as a new treatment modality for malignancies of the oral cavity and larynx, said Vanessa Schweitzer, MD, clinical professor of otolaryngology at the University of Michigan and senior staff physician at Henry Ford Health Care Systems, Detroit. [See page 64 for more on new uses of PDT.]

CDC Records First Drop in Number of New AIDS Cases

October 01, 1997

WASHINGTON-New cases of AIDS in the United States have fallen for the first time in the 16 years of the epidemic, dropping by 6% in 1996 from 1995 levels. The main reason for the fall, most experts believe, is the use of combination regimens including protease inhibitors that prevent HIV infection from progressing to AIDS. It is also possible that fewer individuals are becoming infected with the AIDS virus.

Gene Mutations May Slow Progression of HIV

October 01, 1997

FREDERICK, Md-Mutations in two genes that produce chemokine receptors-CCR5 and CCR2-account for about 30% of long-term survivors of HIV infection, that is, patients whose disease has not progressed to AIDS within 10 to 20 years of infection, said Stephen J. O’ Brien, PhD, of the NCI’s Laboratory of Genomic Diversity.

Molecular Markers Detect Early Lung Cancer

October 01, 1997

DUBLIN-The shift from histologic classification to molecular analysis of bronchial epithelial cells is opening up new prospects for detecting the molecular signature of lung cancer before the disease becomes clinically evident, James L. Mulshine, MD, of the National Cancer Institute, said at the 8th World Conference on Lung Cancer.

Panel Recommends PDT Approval for Use in Superficial NSCLC

October 01, 1997

BETHESDA, Md-The Food and Drug Administration’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC) has recommended approval of QLT Photo-Therapeutics’ Photofrin (porfimer sodium) for use as photodynamic therapy (PDT) of T1 stage endobronchial carcinoma in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) for whom surgery and radiotherapy are not indicated.

Public Health Groups Close Ranks Against Tobacco Industry

October 01, 1997

WASHINGTON-The Administration’s demand that Congress strengthen areas of the proposed tobacco agreement (see article above) won praise from a number of organizations that had criticized the initial settlement as too weak. “The opportunity to enact the right tobacco policy has never been greater,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.

Lessons Shared on How to Improve Cancer Pain Management

October 01, 1997

SAN DIEGO-Accepting an award for her national efforts to make cancer pain management a top priority, Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN, used her lecture opportunity to outline 10 philosophical precepts, or “lessons,” that form the basis for the development of good cancer pain management in the institutional setting.

FDA Plans to Get Tough On Clinical Trials That Don’t Include Women

October 01, 1997

WASHINGTON-The FDA has proposed a new regulation that would make sure pharmaceutical companies comply with a 1993 order to include women in all phases of drug testing. An examination of some 4,000 trials done in the last three years showed that approximately one quarter still excluded women of childbearing age solely because they could become pregnant during the trial.

Gene Therapy Is Moving Toward Cancer Treatment

October 01, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO-About 4,000 human diseases have a genetic cause, and many such diseases are untreatable or poorly treated by conventional medicine, said R. Michael Blaese, MD, chief of the Clinical Gene Therapy Branch at the NIH National Center for Human Genome Research. In theory, many of these diseases could be treated by adding, deleting, or altering genes.

The Envelope Please, and the ‘Phlemmy’ Goes to . . .

October 01, 1997

PASADENA, Calif-The Emmy Awards, honoring television’s best shows, may be more prestigious, but the Phlemmy Awards are gaining popularity, if not with television executives, then certainly with antismoking crusaders.

Voice Quality Preserved After Partial Laryngeal Surgery

October 01, 1997

SAN FRANCISCO-Surgery appears to offer better results than radiation as primary therapy for many laryngeal cancers. Results of a five-year study in Germany suggest that tumor excision and subsequent reconstruction offer better clinical outcomes, better preservation of voice function, and lower cost than radiation therapy.

FDA Advisory Panel Recommends Approval of Actiq

October 01, 1997

GAITHERSBURG, Md-An FDA advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend Anesta Corporation’s Actiq (oral transmucosal fentanyl citrate) for approval for use in cancer patients with breakthrough pain.