Thursday, May 20, 2021 | Kaiser health news

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New cancer treatments show promise

A new drug from Bristol Myers Squibb combined with its best-selling cancer drug Opdivo extended the time it took for advanced melanoma to get worse. More promising cancer drug news from J&J, Allogene, and Merus.

Statistics: In a step forward for immunotherapy, the new drug from Bristol slows melanomean

An experimental immunotherapy developed by Bristol Myers Squibb prevented metastatic melanoma from getting worse when added to the company’s approved treatment, Opdivo, the company said on Wednesday. The result is an advance in immunotherapy, an area that has seen stagnant progress since the development of drugs such as Opdivo and Merck’s competing drug Keytruda. (Herper, May 19th)

Reuters: Bristol Myers’ new immunotherapy combination outperforms Opdivo alone in melanoma study

An experimental drug from Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY.N) from a new class of immunotherapies, used in combination with its high-selling cancer drug Opdivo, significantly increased time to worsening of advanced melanoma compared to Opdivo alone, study published Wednesday. Patients with previously untreated melanoma that had spread or could not be surgically removed and who received Relatlimab plus Opdivo followed an average of 10.1 months before the onset of fatal skin cancer, a measure known as median progression-free survival (PFS). This compared to a PFS of 4.6 months for those who received Opdivo alone in the more than 700 patient study. (German, May 19)

Statistics: J & J’s CAR-T drug is beneficial for myeloma patients with less advanced disease

Today, when doctors prescribe personalized cell therapy, the patient they are trying to help has blood cancer so other advanced drugs no longer work. In the future, these so-called CAR-T treatments could be used earlier for greater benefit when cancer patients are not so desperately ill. To achieve this goal, a CAR-T therapy called Cilta-Cel from Johnson & Johnson was more effective and better tolerated when used to treat patients with less advanced multiple myeloma, according to preliminary study results released on Wednesday. (Feuerstein, May 19)

Statistics: Allogene’s blood cancer data shows the shelf life of commercial CAR T cells

It is undisputed that a commercially available CAR-T cell therapy for cancer would offer flexibility and convenience compared to already used bespoke CAR-T therapies. But can these experimental treatments produce the same kind of permanent reactions? Allogene said Wednesday that its commercial CAR-T called ALLO-501 maintains a 36% complete response rate – an important measure of duration of response – after six months in patients with large B-cell lymphoma, a common and aggressive one Kind of blood cancer. (Feuerstein, May 19)

Statistics: Merus drug shows potential as a treatment for rare types of pancreatic cancer

A drug from Dutch biotech company Merus, said to disrupt a rare genetic mutation, shows early but promising anti-tumor responses in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer – a disease for which few effective treatments are available. When treated with infusions of the medicine Merus called zenocutuzumab, four out of 10 patients with pancreatic cancer had a partial response, which is an overall confirmed response rate of 40%. Another three patients had minor tumor reactions. (Feuerstein, May 19)

Statistics: Iovance CEO abruptly resigns after FDA setback on cancer drug

Hours after biotech company Iovance announced another regulatory delay for its cancer treatment study, the company announced on Wednesday that its CEO abruptly submitted her resignation, causing its share price to plummet. Maria Fardis, who has led Iovance since 2016, announced Tuesday that she was “stepping down” from her roles as CEO, president and board member, the company said in a two-sentence filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Iovance did not state whether Fardis’ resignation took effect immediately, and the company did not immediately respond to a request. (Guard, May 19th)

Statistics: Spark Therapeutics Sues Bluebird Bio for Use of Word “Spark”

An advertising campaign sparked a lawsuit between Spark Therapeutics and Bluebird Bio (BLUE) over the use of a single word: Spark. While Bluebird is working towards US approval for a gene therapy to combat sickle cell disease, the company has created a website and videos to promote awareness of the disease. And his efforts use such slogans as “Let’s Spark Change in Sickle Cell” and “Be the Spark”. The company is also looking, among other things, for four brands for “I AM THE SPARK” and “SPRK CHANGE”. (Silbermann, May 19)

Statistics: Health technology companies form coalition to advance the role of real data

On Wednesday, five health data analytics companies announced that they have partnered with an industry consortium aiming to transform the way new drugs and devices get to patients. The digitization of medical records has opened up vast amounts of data on patient outcomes over the past decade, but not all of it has found use. “Real world data itself isn’t that interesting, is it?” Said Michael Vasconcelles, chief medical officer of Flatiron Health, the initiator of the new alliance. “It is really the knowledge that is gained by asking important scientific questions that can then be answered or informed by this data.” (Palmer, May 19)

The New York Times: Health start-up Ro acquires modern fertility

Ro, the parent company of Roman, the brand best known for supplying drugs for erectile dysfunction and hair loss, announced on Wednesday that it had acquired Modern Fertility, a start-up offering fertility testing for women at home. The deal is valued at more than $ 225 million, according to people with knowledge of the acquisition, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the information was not public. It’s one of the largest investments in women’s health technology, known as Femtech, which attracted $ 592 million in venture capital in 2019, according to PitchBook analysis. (Haridasani Gupta, May 19)

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