This week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog comes to you a day later than our usual publication date and includes highlights of the AACR conference as well as an announcement from Memorial Sloan Kettering on a new study showing CAR T cell therapy results in metastatic lung and breast cancer as well as malignant pleural mesothelioma. Other stories include launches of new tools from United Healthcare and the government for 340B hospitals.

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Novel Memorial Sloan Kettering Study on CAR T Cell Therapy in Solid Tumors Highlighted in American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting Press Program

Memorial Sloan Kettering’s new study on CAR T cell therapy shows very promising results. The study used CAR T cells that targets the protein mesothelin, which is expressed on the surface of cancer cells in patients with diseases of the chest cavity — namely malignant pleural mesothelioma but also metastatic lung and breast cancer. The results from a phase I clinical trial were presented as part of the press program at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2019. The findings showed tumor reduction in patients who participated in the study and no evidence of toxicity.

AACR Roundup: Cancer Vaccines, New Approaches to Immuno-Oncology and More

The American Association for Cancer Research Atlanta meeting was filled with interesting and promising advances in the field of cancer research. Innata Pharma presented preclinical data from its combination of anti-CD39 monoclonal antibody, IPH5201 and ATP-inducing oxaliplatin in a preclinical mouse model. Earlier findings showed that IPH5201 enhances the stimulatory effect of ATP on antigen-presenting cells and helps free T-cells from the suppressing effect. Roche shared a Phase Ib trial of ipatasertib, Tecentriq (atezolizumab) and chemotherapy (Abraxane) as a first-line treatment for advanced triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The combination treatment showed a confirmed objective response rate (ORR) of 73%, regardless of tumor biomarker status. Other presentations are detailed in the article.

CMS approves Utah’s partial Medicaid expansion plan

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services granted Utah’s request for a partial Medicaid expansion. Voters in the state approved expansion through a ballot measure last year, and Utah officials requested a “bridge” expansion that would begin April 1, so that it could begin enrolling people in the program as it awaited additional funds from the Trump administration.

U.S. government boosts 2020 Medicare payments to insurers by 2.53 percent

The U.S. government on Monday said it would increase by 2.53 percent on average 2020 payments to the health insurers that manage Medicare Advantage insurance plans for seniors and the disabled. The increase reflects the estimated growth of medical costs moving forward. The rate affects how much insurers charge for monthly healthcare premiums and plan benefit; it also affects their profits. The new amount represents an increase over the 1.59 percent increase proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in February.

UnitedHealthcare, AMA partner to launch new diagnostic coding for social determinants of health

United Healthcare announced a new partnership with the American Medical Association to create and launch 24 new ICD-10 codes that will be used to refer patients to social and government supports that can meet their non-clinical needs. The codes will use patient self-reported information along with clinical data. These codes are similar to the ones United Healthcare launched with its Medicare Advantage plans.

HRSA rolls out drug pricing site for 340B hospitals

HRSA launched an online tool that 340B hospitals can use to determine the maximum that pharmaceutical companies can charge for drugs. It is one of the elements manded in the January 1 final rule on 340B pricing. The rule was delayed five times by the Trump Administration before it went into effect this year.