This week, cancer treatment and care are in the spotlight in the Innovation Partners BioBlog. Treatment for AML and new drugs to target various cancers are in the news in addition to the price transparency rule and findings related to Medicare charges. Read on for more in this week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog.
Hospitals sue CMS over price transparency rule
Several major hospital groups and individual facilities filed suit against the Trump administration this week over its price transparency rule. The rule, which requires hospitals to post payer-negotiated rates for 300 procedures for the public to review, has been called by the groups “unlawful.” According to the lawsuit, these privately negotiated rates should not be made public. To do so will undermine competition. The Trump administration believes the opposite: that to make rates public will increase competition.
Medicare charges spike for specialties most associated with surprise bills
A new analysis conducted by the Brookings Institution finds that the average charges to Medicare for emergency medicine grew by 6.7% annually from 2012 to 2017. Most of these charges stemmed from anesthesiology bills or emergency medicine, the two most common reasons for surprise bills. Payments for anesthesiology increased by 4.4% annually over the same period. In comparison, the average annual growth rate for all other specialties’ Medicare charges was 1.6% from 2012 to 2017.
ASH: Bristol-Myers’ CAR-T poised for FDA filing after banishing lymphoma in 53% of patients
A newly released study indicates that Bristol-Myers Squibb’s CAR-T therapy banished tumors in more than half of relapsed blood cancer patients and shrank tumors in nearly three-quarters of them. Bristol-Myers Squibb obtained the treatment through their Celgene buyout. If approved, the treatment could help patients with large B-cell lymphomas whose disease has worsened despite trying other treatments. Currently, Roche’s Rituxan, in combination with chemotherapy drugs, is the first-line treatment for patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphomas (DLBCL). Roche’s treatment works for many, but for those it cannot help, stem cell treatment is the next option.
ASH: Eli Lilly plots ‘ambitious’ cancer program after sharing early BTK data
Eli Lilly plans an ambitious cancer program now that it has early BTK data. The company shared initial clinical data on BTK, acquired from Loxo Oncology. This data reveals that among the 16 chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients in the trial, Lilly recorded eight partial responses and two partial responses with ongoing lymphocytosis, and all ten are still benefiting from the therapy. As only 13 of the CLL patients were evaluable, Lilly put the objective response rate (ORR) at 77%. Many responses occurred among patients for whom other treatments have failed. Lilly views the data as an early yet extremely positive sign of efficacy and plans to put more backing behind its cancer program.
Study casts doubt on link between consolidation and improved care quality
Although rural hospitals may find financial incentive to consolidate, care quality appears to be compromised. The trend of hospital consolidation has led to debates over the long-term economic benefits of such moves. A new study published in Health Affairs finds that affiliating does not appear to be improving broad measures of care quality for patients. There’s evidence that consolidation could potentially hurt access to care Researchers found significant reductions in the availability of obstetric and primary care services at rural hospitals after consolidation, as well as sharp declines in the number of outpatient non-emergency visits per year.
Merck Makes a Big Blood Cancer Bet With $2.7B Deal for ArQule
Merck announced it plans to acquire ArQule, a cancer drug developer, in a 2.7 billion dollar deal. The deal would bring ArQule’s early-stage compounds to Merck’s group in a challenge to Abbvie’s leukemia drug. ArQule’s focus has been on kinase inhibitors. Kinases are proteins that play a role in the growth and spread of cancer. ARQ 531 is a small molecule currently in Phase 2 dose-expansion study in B-cell malignancies, or blood cancers, that have not responded to other treatments. The drug targets Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK), a protein that plays a key role in the expansion of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common form of leukemia.
Combination therapy more effective than chemotherapy alone for many newly diagnosed leukemia patients
Enasidenib plus azacitidine significantly improves complete remission and overall response for patients with acute myeloid leukemia tied to IDH2 mutations. A study led by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center showed that pairing standard chemotherapy azacitidine (AZA) with a drug called enasidenib (ENA) measurably boosts complete remission in patients newly diagnosed with a specific form of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The study examined AML involving mutations in a gene known as isocitrate dehydrogenase or IDH2. IDH2 mutations occur in 8% to 19% of patients with AML. One hundred one patients were randomized to receive either ENA plus AZA or AZA alone. Median ages were 74 years for the combination group, and 75 years for the AZA only cohort. Overall response rates for patients receiving both therapies was 68% versus 42% for those receiving AZA alone. Complete remissions were reported in 50% of the combination group versus 12% in the AZA only group.
Yale Cancer Center study highlights challenges for care of AML patients during initial chemotherapy
Yale Cancer Center released a new study on the challenges inherent in the care of AML patients during initial chemotherapy. The study looked at patients receiving “7+3” or anthracycline and cytarabine. Very little is known about this regimen outside of studies or large cancer centers. The team studied outcomes and found that despite patients being deemed fit for the treatment, many died. The results indicate that less toxic treatments for AML are needed.