Oncology NEWS International Vol 7 No 4

New NCCN Outcomes Data Base Sparks Great Interest

April 10, 1998

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla--The much-anticipated, prospective, comprehensive outcomes data base of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a consortium of 16 US cancer centers, is now up and running, and includes data on almost 400 patients with newly diagnosed breast cancer collected at five NCCN sites over 3 months.

ODAC Recommends Approval of Two New Taxol Indications

April 01, 1998

BETHESDA, Md--Bristol-Myers Squibb went 2-for-2 before the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee (ODAC). The panel recommended that the FDA approve injectable Taxol (pacli-taxel), in combination with cisplatin (Platinol), for both the first-line treatment of ovarian cancer and for the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in patients who are not candidates for potentially curative surgery and/or radiation therapy.

Research into Neuropathic Pain Yields Potential Therapies

April 01, 1998

PHILADELPHIA--An expanding understanding of chronic neuropathic pain has led scientists to promising new treatments. One drug is already approved, as an antiseizure medication, and others may be in use within 3 years, Gary J. Bennett, PhD, said at a special panel held at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting.

Vice President Gore Is Featured In Antismoking Radio Spots

April 01, 1998

WASHINGTON--The Food and Drug Administration plans a national multimedia education and advertising campaign aimed at reducing illegal sales of tobacco products to children. It will feature public service announcements on the radio by Vice President Al Gore.

Genetically Modified Dendritic Cells Enhance Immune Response

April 01, 1998

BUFFALO, NY--Some researchers are beginning to think of cancer as a chronic inflammatory disease, and new research shows that patients with increased numbers of dendritic cells as part of their immune response to their tumor have a better prognosis.

Research Sets Stage for Possible Autoimmune Therapy

April 01, 1998

BUFFALO, NY--Autoimmune prostatitis has been suggested as a new method for treating prostate cancer, and prostate-specific proteins are currently being sought to serve as targets for an autoimmune attack that could offer therapeutic benefits in prostate cancer.

Proposed Stark II Regulations Spell Trouble for Oncology Care

April 01, 1998

MIAMI, Fla--Some of the proposed regulations to implement the Stark II legislation (limiting physician self-referrals) are so bizarre "you don’t know whether to laugh or cry," said Joseph S. Bailes, MD, chairman of ASCO’s clinical practice committee and 1999 president-elect.

Optimal Salvage Therapy for Ovarian Cancer Focus of ICACT

April 01, 1998

PARIS--The demonstration that adding paclitaxel (Taxol) to platinum boosts survival in advanced ovarian cancer has made this combination the gold standard of chemotherapy for previously untreated patients. [ODAC recently recommended to the FDA that paclitaxel be formally approved for this indication; see page 33.] However, although as many as three-quarters of women will respond to platinum-paclitaxel and one-half will achieve complete clinical remission, most will eventually relapse.

Ten-Year Study of Survival Rates for Ovarian Cancer

April 01, 1998

ORLANDO--In a retrospective review of ovarian cancer patients treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, positive findings from second-look surgery in stage I patients were so rare that the researchers no longer perform such surgery in these patients, Stephen C. Rubin, MD, told the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists.

Virtual Colonoscopy a ‘Kinder, Gentler’ Colon Exam

April 01, 1998

COLUMBUS, Ohio--Although virtual colonoscopy is a new and still evolving technology, it could one day prove to be more convenient and less expensive than traditional methods of colon cancer screening, said David J. Vining, MD, assistant professor of diagnostic radiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Tamoxifen: Dramatic Decrease in Breast Cancer

April 01, 1998

WASHINGTON--Researchers terminated the treatment portion of the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT) in late March, 14 months earlier than expected, after the study’s independent monitoring committee determined that patients receiving tamoxifen (Nolvadex) had a 45% reduction in breast cancer incidence, compared to the placebo arm.

Bishop Is Named New Chair of NCAB

April 01, 1998

WASHINGTON--President Clinton has appointed J. Michael Bishop, MD, as chair of the 18-member National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB), which advises the National Cancer Institute director. He replaces Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, of Duke University, who resigned last fall to head the NCI’s new Division of Cancer Control and Population Science.

Immunologic Test May Redefine Remission in ALL

April 01, 1998

MEMPHIS, Tenn--Children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who are in apparent remission but have detectable residual leukemic cells using immunologic techniques are four to nine times more likely to relapse than those with no detectable leukemic cells, says Dario Campana, MD, PhD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

New Report Confirms Radon Contributes to Lung Cancer Deaths

April 01, 1998

WASHINGTON--Radon contributes to a significant number of lung cancer deaths each year, perhaps as many as 12% of those in the United States, a new National Research Council (NRC) report confirms. The threat is greatest for smokers, and reducing radon levels in all homes below the current recommended guideline could prevent about one-third of the lung cancer deaths associated with radon exposure.

Carlson Updates NCCN Guideline on Breast Cancer

April 01, 1998

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla--The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) continues to fine tune its breast cancer guideline, introduced 2 years ago. Robert Carlson, MD, of Stanford University, and chair of the Breast Cancer Guideline Committee, reviewed the proposed revisions at the NCCN’s third conference. The Network is a coalition of 16 US cancer centers.

Six Centers Form Consortium for Biologic Therapy of Cancer

April 01, 1998

BUFFALO, NY--Six major cancer centers in the tri-state area of Western New York, Western Pennsylvania, and Ohio have joined forces to create a regional consortium to address clinical and scientific issues related to immunotherapy and other biological strategies in the treatment of cancer.

Case Managers Play Crucial Preapproval Role

April 01, 1998

ORLANDO--Last year, more than 80% of eligible patients at Response Oncology were preapproved for autologous stem cell transplant in an average of 28 days. "The skill of case managers has been instrumental to this success,"

CALGB Psycho-Oncology Committee Focuses on QOL

April 01, 1998

PARIS--The development of valid, reliable yardsticks for measuring quality of life (QOL) is now making it possible for clinicians to advise patients about what they can realistically expect from a particular treatment, Jimmie Holland, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said at the Eighth International Congress on Anti-Cancer Treatment (ICACT).

Different Types of Dendritic Cells Vary in Immune Activity

April 01, 1998

BUFFALO, NY--Dendritic cells play a critical role in the immune response to cancer and to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Their function is to migrate to sites of inflammation, take up antigen, and present the antigen to T cells to create an immune response. [See related story on page 7.]

Role of Axillary Dissection Debated at European Meeting

April 01, 1998

PARIS--Although axillary dissection has long been a cornerstone of the surgical management of breast cancer, its role is now the focus of heated debate. Supporters of the procedure claim that it is justified because it provides important prognostic information, guides the choice of systemic therapy, and helps control regional disease. In addition, they say, the morbidity associated with today’s less extensive dissections is considerably lower than in the past.

Physicians Can Help Patients Resolve Their Fears of Intimacy After Breast Cancer Treatment

April 01, 1998

NEW YORK--After treatment, many breast cancer patients have fears and misconceptions that hamper their sexual activity, and their partners may have them, too, Marisa Weiss, MD, said at a Cancer Care teleconference. Women may assume their partner finds them unattractive, while their partner may be afraid of causing injury.

Judges Urged to Appoint Their Own Expert Witnesses

April 01, 1998

PHILADELPHIA--Science in the courtroom has drawn increasing attention in recent years, and has generated proposals that justice would be better served if judges relied on their own panels of expert witnesses when they try complicated cases. A group of panelists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) addressed this idea and the overall status of science and litigation.

Smoking Bans May Not Hurt Business in Bars and Restaurants

April 01, 1998

NEW YORK--Contrary to the fears of restaurateurs and bar owners, smoking bans may actually be good for business. In a survey from the University of Massachusetts and Boston University, two-thirds of 2,356 adult Massachusetts residents sampled reported that smoking bans in restaurants and bars would not affect their patronage.

Overall US Cancer Incidence Falls for First Time in 18 Years

April 01, 1998

WASHINGTON--For the first time since 1973, when the government began tracking cancer rates, epidemiologists have documented a significant drop in overall cancer incidence in the United States. They also found that mortality rates for all cancers combined continued to drop in 1995.

An Oncologist’s Postmortem of An IPA That Failed to Flourish

April 01, 1998

ORLANDO--A group of San Diego County oncologists, spurred by the rapid advancement of managed care in California, felt they were taking the right step in forming an independent practice association (IPA) known as the Cancer Care Specialist Medical Group (CCSMG). But the group failed to survive. Joel Lamon, MD, a founding member, conducted a postmortem of this IPA at ASCO’s fall educational meeting.

The Ventura County Cancer Network--An IPA Case Study

April 01, 1998

ORLANDO--When Alice goes through the looking glass in Lewis Carroll’s classic, she finds her once familiar world turned upside down and inside out. This is how Rosemary McIntyre, MD, described her feelings during the formation of the Ventura County Cancer Network.

New Carcinogen Review Includes Alcohol and Second-Hand Smoke

April 01, 1998

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC--Alcoholic beverages and environmental tobacco smoke top a list of eight things the National Toxicology Program recently announced it would review for listing in the federal government’s Ninth Report on Carcinogens, which will go to Congress in 1999.

NCCN Recommends Annual Mammography For All Women Over 40

April 01, 1998

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla--The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a consortium of 16 leading US cancer centers, has ventured into the contentious area of breast cancer screening, and in its first draft, the breast cancer screening committee has recommended annual mammography screening for all women age 40 and over.

Adding Retinoid to Adjuvant Chemotherapy May Improve Outcome in Early Breast Cancer Patients

April 01, 1998

VILLEJUIF, France--The addition of a retinoid to adjuvant chemotherapy provided a hint of a survival advantage over chemotherapy alone for breast cancer patients, but the difference did not achieve statistical significance, according to 13-year follow-up data from a randomized clinical trial.

Vitamin E Supplements May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk by One Third

April 01, 1998

HELSINKI, Finland--Supplemental vitamin E significantly decreased both the incidence and mortality of prostate cancer in a large randomized trial of male smokers in Finland, said Olli P. Heinonen, MD, DSc, and his colleagues from the University of Helsinki, the National Cancer Institute, and Montefiore Medical Center, New York.

Toward Development of Guidelines for Managing Fatigue

April 01, 1998

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla--It is difficult to develop guidelines for managing fatigue in cancer patients because of what David Cella, PhD, termed a "shameful lack of research in this area." At its third annual conference, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a coalition of 16 leading US cancer centers, invited Dr. Cella to offer suggestions on how such guidelines might be formulated.

ER Physicians Need Current Source for Cancer Information

April 01, 1998

I am an emergency medicine physician who practices in a small town. We have one oncologist on our hospital staff. When oncology patients have problems outside of the oncologist’s office hours, they are routinely told to "go to the ER."