Oncology NEWS International Vol 8 No 12

SWOG to Study Docetaxel/Estramustine in Advanced Prostate Cancer

December 01, 1999

SAN ANTONIO -The Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) has announced the start of the first major phase III trial to compare the chemotherapy combination of docetaxel (Taxotere) and estramustine phosphate (Emcyt) with the commonly used combination of mitoxantrone (Novantrone) and prednisone for the treatment of advanced, hormone-refractory prostate cancer.

US Smoking Rates No Longer Falling, Due to More Young Smokers

December 01, 1999

ATLANTA-Smoking rates among adults in the United States have dropped dramatically over the past 30 years, from 44% in 1965 to 25.5% in 1990, but now the rate seems to have leveled off, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report.

Americans Favor Higher Cigarette Tax to Balance the Budget

December 01, 1999

WASHINGTON-Americans across the political spectrum would prefer that Congress raise the federal excise tax on cigarettes rather than cut funding for existing programs or spend Social Security funds in order to meet federal budget needs, according to a new poll.

Saint Vincents Hospital Opens Comprehensive Cancer Center

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-On October 4, Sister Elizabeth Vermaelen, president of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of New York, welcomed His Eminence John Cardinal O’Connor, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and more than 200 other guests to celebrate the grand opening and dedication of The Saint Vincents Comprehensive Cancer Center.

New Breast Biopsy Techniques Allow ‘One-Stop’ Procedures

December 01, 1999

TOWSON, Md-New breast biopsy techniques are making it more likely that one-stop procedures will become standard of care for small lesions. With this technique, lesions are sampled and removed for biopsy in a minimally invasive procedure, said Rachel Brem, MD, assistant professor of radiology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions’ Breast Imaging Center.

Director of NCI Mentioned as a Candidate to Head NIH

December 01, 1999

WASHINGTON-National Cancer Institute director Richard D. Klausner, MD, was among the names immediately mentioned as Washington policy wonks and the biomedical community began speculating about who might replace Harold Varmus, MD, as director of the National Institutes of Health.

Challenges in Designing Chemoprevention Trials

December 01, 1999

BUFFALO, NY-The 1990s have seen a new focus on cancer prevention, particularly chemoprevention. Researchers must use results of basic, clinical, and translational chemoprevention studies to design more effective trials to further this field, Scott M. Lippman, MD, said at the New Horizons in Cancer Prevention Symposium, hosted by Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Black Women Underrepresented in Breast Cancer Trials

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-“African-American women face a substantially higher risk of dying from breast cancer than others in this country and tend to be diagnosed with the disease at a younger age,” Lisa A. Newman, MD, assistant professor of surgery at M.D. Anderson’s Nellie B. Connally Breast Center, said at a Komen Foundation press briefing on clinical trials. The explanation for these variations is unclear at this point, she said.

UnitedHealthcare Plan Gives Physicians Final Say on Care

December 01, 1999

MINNEAPOLIS-United-Healthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, has announced that it is further advancing its philosophies on consumer choice and physician autonomy through an initiative called Care Coordination. The new initiative makes obsolete certain programs associated with traditional managed care, such as preauthorization for inpatient hospital procedures.

New Agents, Sequential Schedules Hold Promise

December 01, 1999

VIENNA, Austria-Breast cancer management has booked steady progress thanks to the integration of new chemotherapeutic and biologic agents into standard regimens and the development of sequential and dose-dense schedules of administration, Larry Norton, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said at the 10th European Cancer Conference (ECCO 10).

Half-Day Workshop Can Improve Cancer Team’s Communication Skills

December 01, 1999

CLEVELAND-Communication between patients and a medical team can be improved with a single, brief workshop, according to a study conducted by the Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, University of Toronto.

The Search for Better SERMs Continues

December 01, 1999

BUFFALO, NY-Breast cancer offers a paradigm for cancer prevention issues. It has been shown that lower exposure to estrogen results in a lower risk of breast cancer. However, a decrease in overall estrogen may pose health risks for women such as increased risk for heart disease. Thus, patients and physicians must evaluate all options available, said Richard M. Elledge, MD, medical director of the Breast Care Center at Baylor College of Medicine-The Methodist Hospital, Houston.

Four SPORE Grants Will Support Ovarian Cancer Research

December 01, 1999

BETHESDA, Md-Four institutions have received SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) grants from the NCI for ovarian cancer research. The grants, totaling $5.85 million for the first year, went to:

$70 Million Will Fund Tobacco Study Centers at Seven Universities

December 01, 1999

BETHESDA, Md-Two components of the National Institutes of Health will spend about $70 million over 5 years to fund Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers at seven universities. The first year’s grants from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will total $14.5 million. In addition, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has committed another $14 million over the 5 years.

Cancer Risk of Veterans Exposed to Nuclear Weapons Tests Unresolved

December 01, 1999

WASHINGTON-The latest effort to establish whether exposure to radiation during nuclear weapons tests caused leukemia in some military personnel has left the issue largely unresolved. The study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found a 14% increase in leukemia deaths among test participants, compared with a control group, but the increase was not significant. The increase was significant, however, for soldiers exposed to land-based testing.

FDA Appeals Court Ruling About Off-Label Drug Materials

December 01, 1999

WASHINGTON-A federal appeals court has granted expeditious status to an appeal seeking to overturn a US District Court decision that found parts of the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act (FDAMA) unconstitutional. The district court ruling restricted the FDA’s powers to regulate the distribution by pharmaceutical companies to physicians of materials regarding off-label uses of drugs. [See Oncology News International, Oct. 1999, page 1.] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will hear oral arguments in the case on Jan. 4, 2000.

FDA Approves Taxol as Adjuvant Therapy for Node+ Breast Cancer

December 01, 1999

ROCKVILLE, Md-The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new indication for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Taxol (paclitaxel) for use in the adjuvant treatment of node-positive breast cancer administered sequentially to standard doxorubicin-based combination therapy. The approval does not exclude patients with receptor-positive tumors, even though a subgroup analysis of the supporting data suggested no benefit in this group.

HAART Offers Some HIV Patients Near-Normal Survival

December 01, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO-Long-term estimates of survival utilizing data on 4,500 patients suggest that some people with HIV taking HAART (highly active antiviral therapy) may have a near-normal life expectancy. In a session on HIV at the 39th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), A.C. Justice, MD, of the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System, presented 2 years of recent data estimating long-term or immediate survival in the post-HAART era.

Research Funding Lags for ‘Major Epidemic of the Next Century’

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-Less money is being spent on research for lung cancer than for other common cancers because “people believe that most lung cancer patients are to blame for their disease,” said Betty Layne, director of national planning and policy for the Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support, and Education (ALCASE). The group held a teleconference to draw attention to this issue, to inform the public about the disease, and to say that lung cancer patients, like all cancer patients, deserve the best in prevention, early detection, treatment, and support.

Advances in Prevention for Head & Neck Cancer

December 01, 1999

BUFFALO, NY-Techniques developed over the past 20 years have improved outcomes for patients with head and neck cancers. Speakers at the Surgical Oncology Symposium sponsored by Roswell Park Cancer Institute described new surgical methods that offer further improvement in quality of life and new studies of preventive agents.

Komen Foundation Expands Internationally

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-An organization that has pushed for early diagnosis and better treatment of breast cancer in the United States is expanding its outreach to other countries. “Affiliates of the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation are opening this year in Italy, Greece, and Argentina, and one probably will open in Germany next year,”said Susan Braun, president and CEO.

Breast Cancer Patients Benefit From 3-Day Nature Retreat

December 01, 1999

CLEVELAND-Preliminary results suggest that breast cancer survivors who attend a 3-day nature retreat designed for women who have been treated for breast cancer may realize positive biological and psychological health benefits for as long as a year after the event.

Sublingual Sufentanil May Help Relieve Breakthrough Cancer Pain

December 01, 1999

VIENNA, Austria-Management of breakthrough pain can sometimes be problematic in patients who are using transdermal fentanyl (Duragesic) as an alternative to morphine. Odette Spruyt, MD, reported at the 9th World Congress on Pain that sufentanil (Sufenta) used sublingually may help solve this problem. Dr. Spruyt is in the Palliative Care Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Solution to Cancer Lies at Molecular Level

December 01, 1999

BUFFALO, NY-Cancer encompasses more than 100 different diseases and is caused by a series of molecular changes affecting cellular function. “We will find the solution to cancer at the molecular level. There are common patterns in tumor formation and certain keys that are associated with those patterns,” said Carlo Croce, MD, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, and professor of microbiology and immunology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.

Preoperative Chemotherapy Holds Promise for Lung Cancer Patients

December 01, 1999

BUFFALO, NY-Although adjuvant therapies have made important inroads into improving overall survival for many cancer patients, lung cancer patients have not been so fortunate, Robert J. Ginsberg, MD, said at the Roswell Park Surgical Oncology Symposium.

Music Therapist Helps Cancer Patients Speak Through Song

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-The 24-year-old patient recuperating from a bone marrow transplant in a hospital room at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was depressed and not communicating. The staff thought Lucanne Magill, the hospital music therapist, could help.

Amifostine Reduces Acute and Chronic Xerostomia

December 01, 1999

SAN ANTONIO -Pretreatment with amifostine (Ethyol) reduced the incidence of both acute and chronic xero-stomia in patients undergoing head and neck radiotherapy, David M. Brizel, MD, reported at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO).

Reasons for Optimism in Treatment of Multiple Myeloma

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-New therapies, immunotherapy, and enhanced prognostic indicators were some of the developments in multiple myeloma discussed at a symposium co-sponsored by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and St. Vincents Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Program Aims to Increase Participation in Breast Cancer Trials

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-To increase enrollment in clinical trials, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation of Dallas is launching a well-funded initiative. Issues to be addressed include overcoming barriers to participation by physicians as well as by patients, the organization’s founder, Nancy Brinker, said at a press briefing that included a panel of foundation leaders and physicians with expertise in clinical trials.

Combination Promising in Head & Neck Cancer

December 01, 1999

SAN ANTONIO -“Extraordinary” tumor control has been achieved in patients with far advanced squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck with the triple combination of tirapazamine (investigational), cisplatin (Platinol), and radiotherapy, Lester J. Peters, MD, reported at the 41st Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO).

Mammoscintigraphy, Sentinel Node Biopsy ‘Here to Stay’

December 01, 1999

TOWSON, Md-Mammoscintig-raphy and sentinel node radiolocaliza-tion, “both hot topics at the leading edge of breast imaging,” are increasingly appropriate in the diagnosis and care of breast cancer, said Carlo Ludovico Maini, MD, director of nuclear medicine, Regina Elena National Cancer Institute, Rome, Italy.

COX-2 Inhibitor Reduces Polyp Number in FAP Patients

December 01, 1999

PHOENIX, Arizona-Drugs that inhibit cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) are the hottest thing in arthritis care this year and may have a role to play in combating colorectal cancer, according to a study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology 64th Annual Scientific Meeting.

Trex Medical Corporation Launches ‘Vision of Health Initiative’

December 01, 1999

DANBURY, Conn-Trex Medical Corporation has announced the launch of its Vision of Health Initiative, a new philanthropic program that will commit up to $100,000 a year to health education, research, and patient support programs across the country. Trex Medical has chosen the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO) as the first grant recipient. NABCO is a nonprofit organization providing information and resources on breast cancer.

First ‘Unconventional Innovations Program’ NCI Grants Awarded

December 01, 1999

BETHESDA, Md-Researchers at five institutions have received the first contracts awarded by a new National Cancer Institute program intended to develop novel “one-stop” technologies capable of both detecting and destroying tumor cells. The five contracts, each of which is for 3 years, totaled nearly $11.3 million.

Anti-VEGF Agent Active Against Kaposi’s Sarcoma

December 01, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO-Because Kaposi’s sarcoma is a highly vascular tumor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) may be a possible regulator for the edema and angiogenesis often seen in the disease, Parkash Gill, MD, of the Norris Cancer Center, University of Southern California, said at the 39th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC).

Renal Failure May Increase Need for Morphine Adjustment

December 01, 1999

VIENNA, Austria-Cancer pain patients with chronic renal failure are more likely than others to need changes in their morphine regimen, reported M. Escher, MD, of the Multidisciplinary Pain Center, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland. This retrospective study, reported at the 9th World Congress on Pain, reviewed medical records of 110 cancer patients who had been referred for a pain consultation and had been prescribed morphine.

Fenretinide Reduces Breast Cancer Recurrence in Premenopausal Patients

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-Premenopausal women who are at risk for breast cancer recurrence may benefit from a new chemopreventive agent, according to the lead researcher of a clinical trial of women with early stage breast cancer. And the agent holds promise for use as a primary chemopreventive in healthy high-risk premenopausal women.

Screening Mammography Increasing Among Older US Women, But Misconceptions Persist

December 01, 1999

WASHINGTON-Older American women are more aware of mammography and are using the procedure for breast cancer screening in increasing numbers, but ignorance and misconceptions about mammography persist, according to a new survey.

High-Dose Controlled-Release Oral Oxycodone Safety Reported

December 01, 1999

VIENNA, Austria-Daily doses of controlled-release oral oxycodone (OxyContin, Oxygesic) exceeding 80 mg are as safe as lower doses when therapy is individualized, researchers from Purdue Pharma L.P. reported at the 9th World Congress on Pain.

NCI Grants Establish 18 Biomarkers Developmental Laboratories

December 01, 1999

BETHESDA, Md-Nearly $8 million in grants will help 17 organizations establish 18 Biomarkers Developmental Laboratories, part of the National Cancer Institute’s new Early Detection Research Network. The laboratories are charged with identifying, characterizing, and refining techniques for finding molecular, genetic, and biologic biomarkers.

AUA Issues Guidelines for Treatment of Bladder Cancer

December 01, 1999

BALTIMORE-Physicians should consider using intravesical chemotherapy or immunotherapy as adjuvant therapy following surgery for non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer, according to new treatment guidelines released by the American Urological Association (AUA). “The fact that the peer-reviewed published data show that the use of intravesical agents after surgery lowers the probability of recurrence but not progression is the most important finding that we made,” panel chair Joseph A. Smith, Jr., MD, of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a news release.

Monoclonal Antibody Adds Punch to CHOP

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-Rituximab (Rituxan) used in combination with standard chemotherapy may prolong the duration of response for patients with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), Myron S. Czuczman, MD, said at the Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium VII.

Helping Patients Avoid Treatment-Related Nausea

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-Patients may talk about many treatment issues with their doctors but keep mum about treatment-related nausea. “When they go to their chemotherapy nurse, that’s when they say, ‘It was awful. I was sick for 3 days after chemotherapy,’” Terri Maxwell, RN, MSN, said at a teleconference sponsored by Cancer Care Inc.

Standards for Psychosocial Cancer Care Under Development

December 01, 1999

NEW YORK-“There are no minimum standards for the quality of the psychosocial care given at institutions,” said Jimmie C. Holland, MD, leadoff speaker at the Pan-American Congress of Psychosocial and Behavioral Oncology. “We would never let that happen with infectious disease,” said Dr. Holland, Wayne Chapman Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

OMB Restricts Access to Federally Funded Research Data

December 01, 1999

WASHINGTON-The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued a final rule that defines what research data the public can demand to see under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). To the relief of many in the biomedical sciences, the White House agency did not include data from research in progress or any information that could be used to identify particular persons in a research study.

Women With HIV at Greater Risk for Cervical Cancer

December 01, 1999

Cervical cancer has a high incidence and is a rapidly progressive illness among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected women. This cancer has received increasing attention since 1993 following its addition to the list of AIDS-defining illnesses monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[1] With increased heterosexual transmission of HIV and frequent co-infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV),[1] invasive cervical cancers will appear more often among HIV-infected women.

Brown Seaweed May Have Potential as a Breast Cancer Preventive

December 01, 1999

DALLAS-Consumption of seaweed and soy may contribute to the lower rates of postmenopausal breast cancer seen in Japan, and seaweed/soy supplementation could be a potential cancer preventive in this country, Jane Teas, PhD, of the University of South Carolina, said at the Susan G. Komen Foundation National Grant Conference.

Johns Hopkins Dedicates New Building for Cancer Center

December 01, 1999

BALTIMORE-Johns Hopkins Medicine has dedicated a new $125 million home for its comprehensive clinical cancer services. A decade in the planning, the half-million square foot Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building is the largest structure on the East Baltimore medical campus. It was designed from the ground up to meet the complex and exacting specifications of cancer specialists and their patients, Johns Hopkins said in a press release.