OBR Daily Commentary

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DNA Pioneer James Watson Takes Aim at "Cancer Establishments"

(Reuters) Jan 9, 2013 - A day after an exhaustive national report on cancer found the United States is making only slow progress against the disease, one of the country's most iconic - and iconoclastic - scientists weighed in on "the war against cancer." And he does not like what he sees.

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H. Jack West, MD (Posted: January 09, 2013)

quotesBack in 1998, Dr. Watson made a brash statement in a front page article in the New York Times, that we'd cure cancer within 5 years, in light of news of Dr. Judah Folkman's emerging news of anti-angiogenic therapy. I remember reading that quote and thinking that this was a surprisingly naive and irresponsible comment from someone whose Nobel Prize might imply that he actually has a deep knowledge of biological science. Despite the fact that I was just entering my specialty training in medical oncology, I wasn't concerned about my job security, suspecting that cancer would be a harder nut to crack than Dr. Watson's comments glibly suggested. So here we are, 15 years later, and I'm sorry to say that I was right: cancer hasn't been cured in any broad sense, and now Dr. Watson is ranting about the poor work the cancer establishment is doing in making progress. Again we see a surprising lack of insight from someone who appears to not appreciate the complexity of cancer genetics and clinical medicine. Perhaps we should take his comments as the mutterings of someone who was a brilliant scientist several decades ago and not presume that being cutting edge in the late 1950s means that you're qualified to pontificate about cancer biology in the 21st century.quotes

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Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Provides Update on the Internal Review of Its Phase II Second-Line Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Trial

(4-traders) Jan 7, 2013 - Peregrine Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company developing first-in-class monoclonal antibodies focused on the treatment and diagnosis of cancer, today provided an update from its internal review of discrepancies from its Phase II randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of bavituximab in second-line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in 121 patients.

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H. Jack West, MD (Posted: January 07, 2013)

quotesAny time we see significant discrepancies in the conduct of a trial, it should raise some alarms about the integrity of the trial results, even if we receive reassurances that the discrepancies are limited and contained. Certainly, they reflect a more questionable quality of the data than in a trial without such concerns. This phase II trial with bavituximab demonstrated extremely provocative results that led to what I would consider to be some irrational exuberance. The questions around the reported discrepancies undermined all of that momentum, but I wouldn't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater either. I wouldn't consider the results of the phase II trial to represent an astonishing breakthrough, but I also wouldn't want to discount the potential of this treatment to be meaningfully beneficial if properly tested in a prospective phase III trial. I would say that this news of discrepancies should underscore that "you get what you pay for" with clinical trial data. Many large trials obtain vast numbers quickly by enrolling primarily from centers without a proven track record of quality control in data collection. Having directly reviewed the data coming from some of these centers in an audit of a phase III international trial, I found it to be an experience like visiting the sausage factory: You don't feel the same way about the product after seeing the quality of the parts going into it and how it's made.quotes

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Merck KGaA, Oncothyreon Lung Cancer Drug Fails Late-Stage Study

(TheStreet) Dec 19, 2012 - Stimuvax, an experimental cancer immunotherapy from Merck KGaA and Oncothyreon, failed to improve survival in a late-stage study of non-small cell lung cancer patients, the companies announced Wednesday.

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H. Jack West, MD (Posted: December 19, 2012)

quotesYet another promising approach based on phase II data fails in the larger phase III experience. We await details on whether there were meaningful overall trends and whether the allusions to benefits in identified subsets will be arguably meaningful. For now, these negative results are a reminder of the gulf between encouraging phase II results and proven phase III benefit. Though this platform has been the subject of some irrational exuberance by many patients, caregivers, and investors, I believe that most oncologists have been more judicious in their optimism, even at the risk of seeming like wet blankets to the rabid crowds who wanted to presume that this treatment would be miraculous even in the absence of actual phase III data. These results provide a sobering reminder of why our hope needs to be tempered by skepticism, even as we become enticed by the promise of various immunotherapies such as BMS-936558 and other novel strategies.quotes

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Meet the Editorial Board

Prostate Cancer
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Tomasz M. Beer, MD, FACP

Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Medical O...

Community Oncology
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Dean Gesme, MD

FACP FACPE FASCO President, Minnesota Oncology...

Breast Cancer
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Debu Tripathy, MD

Professor and Chair, Department of Breast Medical Oncol...

Lung Cancer
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H. Jack West, MD

Medical Director, Thoracic Oncology Program, Swedish Ca...

Gastrointestinal Cancers
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Howard S. Hochster, MD

Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Rutgers Robert Woo...

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Howard Sandler, MD, MS, FASTRO

Ronald H. Bloom Chair in Cancer Therapeutics
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Jeff Patton, M.D.

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Chief Medical Officer and Founder, N-of-One...

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Michael G. King Jr.

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Richard Goldberg, MD

Director WVU Cancer Institute Director of Cancer Signa...

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Robert A. Figlin, MD., FACP

Professor and Director, Division of Hematology Oncology...

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Ted Okon

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Thomas Marsland, MD

Vice President Integrated Community Oncology Network ...

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William Harwin MD

Florida Cancer Specialists President and Managing Part...

Health Policy
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William McGivney, PhD

National Health Policy Expert...

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Winston Wong, PharmD

President, W-Squared Group...