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Cancer and politics are intimately related. Here are just a few examples where our national political process and cancer intertwine:
  • Research funding at the National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • Regulation of treatments at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Insurance coverage of treatments through Medicare and Medicaid
  • Campaign financing by corporate interests

Some of these big picture issues can have a major impact on just plain folks.

Many cancer organizations are politically active on a local and national level. If you're interested in getting political about cancer, send us an email at newsletter@canceractionnow.org explaining your area of interest and we'll put you in touch with an appropriate group.

Cancer Politics Update

Feb. 6, 2003

Overpriced cancer drugs
New York Times Editorial/Op-Ed - Feb. 6, 2003 - Cancer doctors buy chemotherapy drugs at discount prices but bill the patients and their insurers at much higher rates, making a substantial profit on the differential. The best solution to that problem would be for Medicare to pay the real wholesale price for the drugs and adjust its formulas to pay doctors the full cost of administering them.
Read it here

. . .

ImClone to offer Erbitux to sickest cancer patients
NEW YORK - Feb. 6, 2003 (Reuters) - ImClone Systems Inc. and marketing partner Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. on Thursday said they will make available the experimental cancer drug Erbitux to terminally ill colon cancer patients. Under the Food and Drug Administration's compassionate use program, patients in life-threatening situations can be offered an experimental drug.
Read the New York Times here
Read Reuters here
Read AP here
Read ImClone/Bristol-Myers Squibb press release here

. . .

Celgene receives fast track status from FDA for Revimid(TM) in multiple myeloma
WARREN, N.J., Feb. 4, 2003 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/-- Celgene Corporation announced that REVIMID(TM) (CC-5013) received fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma. The FDA grants fast track designation to compounds that may provide a significant improvement in the safety or effectiveness of the treatment for a serious or life-threatening disease. Compounds that receive the designation are also eligible for priority review, which provides for a six-month review of a new drug application by the FDA.
Read it here

. . .

Millennium seeks European regulatory approval for Bortezomib
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 4, 2003 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced it has submitted an application to the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) for the approval of bortezomib (VELCADE) as a treatment for relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma. This application was submitted approximately one week after the company filed a New Drug Application (NDA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the same indication.
Read it here

. . .

Australian report calls for cancer funding reform
ABC News Online - Feb. 4, 2003 - A report recommending the reform of cancer care in Australia has been released in Sydney on World Cancer Day. The report, released by the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia, coincides with the launch of CAN Australia - a new national alliance for cancer survivors. Both the report and the group are pushing for changes to cancer-care in the federal health system.
Read it here

. . .

Britain plans bowel cancer screening program
LONDON (Reuters Health) Feb. 4, 2003 - Britain plans to introduce a national screening program for bowel cancer, which kills 14,000 people in England each year, the government said on Tuesday. The program will be part of a package of measures to improve the diagnosis and treatment of a disease that is the country's second biggest cancer killer.
Read it here

. . .

Bush NIH budget could delay new therapies
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2003 (UPI) -- President Bush's budget proposal for 2004 released Monday only allocates a 2 percent increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, essentially halting the double-digit increases NIH has come to expect over each of the past five years. Medical researchers and patient groups said the budget shortfall could delay progress in developing new medical therapies. A bipartisan group of senators responded by announcing their intentions to introduce legislation to triple the NIH budget over a 10-year span.
Read it here

. . .

New guidelines call for more vigorous screening
WebMDHealth - Feb. 3, 2003 -- New colorectal cancer screening guidelines released today emphasize the need to start screening at age 50, but scale back the frequency of surveillance or follow-up screening for most people who have already had potentially pre-cancerous growths in their colon removed.
Read it here

Jan. 29, 2003

FDA clarifies guidelines for approval of drugs, devices
Jan. 31, 2003 (AP) - Worried about a serious slowdown in the creation of novel drugs, the government is taking steps it hopes will speed medical innovation, largely by making clarer how companies can prove a new product works before they waste time researching the wrong thing. Today the Food and Drug Administration is announcing guidelines to speed treatments for cancer, obesity and diabetes — three of the country's leading ailments.
Read it here

. . .

Antiangiogenesis treatment studied in early clinical trial
American Cancer Society - Jan. 29, 2003 - Patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to other parts of the body may benefit from a novel form of treatment, according to a recent study. Researchers found that by adding the new drug, bevacizumab (Avastin, made by Genentech), to standard chemotherapy, more patients responded to treatment, and the responses tended to last longer than with chemotherapy alone. They reported their results in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (Vol. 21; 1: 60-65).
Read it here

. . .

From killer to chronic disease: Drugs redefine cancer for many
Washington Post - Jan. 29, 2003 - An increasing number of cancer patients who, while not cured, are not hobbled by their disease or facing imminent death. Instead, they live somewhere between the healthy and the dying -- still sick, but leading relatively normal lives. Today, an estimated 9 million Americans are cancer survivors, up from an estimated 6 million in 1990. Perhaps 1 million of them fall into this category -- living with cancer as a chronic disease, much like asthma, diabetes and, more recently, AIDS.
Read it here

. . .

Treatment: A Cancer Regimen Abandoned
New York Times - Jan. 28, 2003 - Doctors treating breast cancer patients often fail to use chemotherapy as frequently as federal guidelines recommend, especially when patients are older, a study reports. The older the woman is, researchers found, the less likely she is to be given the treatment. The study, in Annals of Internal Medicine, examines the use of chemotherapy in women who had tumors removed. The goal was to determine how closely doctors followed the recommendations of the National Institutes of Health.
Read it here

. . .

Sifting Through the Online Medical Jumble
New York Times - Jan. 28, 2003 - Those who have combed the Internet for mainstream medical advice have, no doubt, been barraged with far more information than they could possibly want: scientific articles and pseudoscience; anecdotes of personal triumphs and tragedies; references to books and videos; and, of course, online support groups. Few people are qualified to distinguish between the truths and half-truths that cascade from search engines or to sift hype from reality. Now there are a few services that, for a fee, promise to take over that work, to weed through the deluge of information, selecting effective treatments and trashing fakes.
Read it here

. . .

Emerging technologies in screening for colorectal cancer
The American Cancer Society's (ACS) Colorectal Cancer Advisory Group held a workshop on new technologies for the early detection of colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps as part of a regular review of ACS guidelines for colorectal cancer screening. The Advisory Group formally reviewed CT colonography, immunochemical fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) and stool screening using molecular markers and also addressed other technologies including capsule video endoscopy. With the exception of immunochemical stool testing, the ACS determined there is insufficient evidence to recommend these technologies for routine colorectal cancer screening.
Read it here

. . .

Taxotere® receives european approval as first-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer
Aventis Press Release - Strasbourg, France - Jan. 14, 2003 - Aventis announced that Taxotere (docetaxel), a chemotherapy agent, has been granted marketing authorization by the European Commission (EC) as a first-line, or first option, treatment for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in combination with cisplatin.
Read it here

. . .

Millennium pushes Velcade out of nest
NEW YORK - Forbes - Jan. 22, 2003 - This morning, Millennium Pharmaceuticals said it had asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its first cancer drug, Velcade, as a treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood and bone that kills 14,000 people per year.
Read it here

. . .

Bioscience policy group gets closer to the action in Sacto
San Francisco Business Times - Jan. 27, 2003 - The California Healthcare Institute, a nonprofit public policy research and advocacy organization for California's bioscience industry, opened an office in Sacramento as part of an effort to raise the industry's visibility to legislators.
Read it here

. . .

Biotech conference to help open doors
New Mexico Business Weekly - Jan. 27, 2003 - Ask anyone connected to the state's economy, and they'll tell you the local technology industry, especially its biomedical and biotech sector, has great potential to put New Mexico on the map. Some say the components of that industry could become a formidable force in the tech economy if they did one thing better — cooperate. The New Mexico Biotech and Biomedical Association (NMBBA), in partnership with Technology Ventures Corp. (TVC) and Next Generation Economy, will try to tackle the barriers to establishing alliances between private industry and public research institutions during a Jan. 31 conference, "Growing the Rio Grande Biomedical and Biotech Corridor: Overcoming Barriers to Institutional Partnering."
Read it here

. . .

Drug sales bring huge profits, scrutiny, to cancer doctors
New York Times - Jan. 26, 2003 - Among cancer doctors, it is called the chemotherapy concession. At a time when overall spending on prescription drugs is soaring, cancer specialists are pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars each year by selling drugs to patients — a practice that almost no other doctors follow. Some private health insurers are now studying ways to reduce these profits, and the issue is getting close attention in Congress.
Read it here

Jan. 22, 2003

Anti-cancer drug routinely misused
Asahi Shimbun - Jan. 21, 2003 - A controversial anti-lung cancer drug known to have serious side effects has been routinely misused throughout Japan by doctors prescribing it for other cancers, according to unnamed sources. The drug, Gefitinib — better known as Iressa — also was used in cocktails with other anti-cancer drugs without the combinations being properly tested. Gefitinib is said to be effective in about 20 percent of lung-cancer patients if used properly. However, the prevalence of its use on other cancers and in tandem with other drugs has led the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ask its producer, AstraZeneca PLC of Britain, to clarify usage guidelines.
Read it here

. . .

Millennium pushes Velcade out of nest
NEW YORK - Forbes - Jan. 22, 2003 - This morning, Millennium Pharmaceuticals said it had asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its first cancer drug, Velcade, as a treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood and bone that kills 14,000 people per year.
Read it here

. . .

Taxotere® receives european approval as first-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer
Aventis Press Release - Strasbourg, France - Jan. 14, 2003 - Aventis announced that Taxotere (docetaxel), a chemotherapy agent, has been granted marketing authorization by the European Commission (EC) as a first-line, or first option, treatment for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in combination with cisplatin.
Read it here

. . .

Pervasive medical research conflicts found
Jan. 23, 2003 - AP - About one-fourth of university-based medical researchers receive funding from drug companies — ties that sometimes distort study results, according to a review done by two researchers with industry connections of their own. "Anecdotal reports suggest that industry may alter, obstruct or even stop publication of negative studies," the researchers said. Industry ties are vital and have resulted in important medical advances, but they need to be better disclosed and better monitored, the two researchers said. Their review appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. JAMA has joined several other major medical journals in strengthening financial disclosure requirements for research they publish.
Read it here

. . .

Large Scale Biology gains 'orphan drug' status for Fabry's disease treatment
Sacramento Bee - Jan. 23, 2003 - A struggling Vacaville biotechnology company will announce a potentially lucrative milestone today in treating a rare genetic disorder with an experimental drug manufactured in tobacco plants. Large Scale Biology Corp. officials said they have received so-called "orphan drug" designation for a proposed drug targeting Fabry's disease, a malady that can cause kidney damage, strokes and heart attacks. Large Scale has been manufacturing quantities of the enzyme by growing it in tobacco plants -- the same unusual approach the Vacaville company is taking with another promising drug, a therapy for the cancer non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Read it here

. . .

Anti-cancer drug routinely misused
Asahi Shimbun - Jan. 21, 2003 - A controversial anti-lung cancer drug known to have serious side effects has been routinely misused throughout Japan by doctors prescribing it for other cancers, according to unnamed sources. The drug, Gefitinib — better known as Iressa — also was used in cocktails with other anti-cancer drugs without the combinations being properly tested. Gefitinib is said to be effective in about 20 percent of lung-cancer patients if used properly. However, the prevalence of its use on other cancers and in tandem with other drugs has led the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ask its producer, AstraZeneca PLC of Britain, to clarify usage guidelines.
Read it here

Dec. 26, 2002

Advancement for leukemia drug
HealthScoutNews - Dec. 26, 2002 — Gleevec, a drug that showed significant results in combating a rare and mostly fatal type of leukemia, has passed another hurdle. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) has been approved for the "first-line treatment of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), an uncommon life-threatening form of cancer - affecting about 40,000 people in the United States."

. . .

Review: Consent forms for cancer research don't mislead
CNN.com (AP) Dec. 26, 2002 -- While cancer patients participating in studies of experimental drugs may mistakenly expect benefits without risks, it's probably not because of the consent forms, federal researchers say. Their study found that the forms nearly always say the goal is to test the medicine's safety, not to help patients.

. . .

Editorial: New drug's side effects; Iressa-linked deaths show cancer-treatment risk
Asahi.com, Japan - Dec. 26, 2002 - Side effects of the anticancer drug Gefitinib, marketed in Japan as Iressa as a treatment for lung cancer, have been apparently linked to 124 deaths since use of the drug was approved in July, according to a review panel report to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Read it here

. . .

Pressing ahead to battle tumors
Los Angeles Times - Dec. 23, 2002 - Spotty trials deflated hype over angiogenesis as a way to stop cancer's growth. But scientists say it's early yet. It was a brand-new approach to fighting cancer: Instead of attacking tumors directly, clinicians would starve them to death by cutting off their blood supply. Then came the first, early human trials, and the results were lackluster. Had the hope for this approach — known as anti-angiogenesis — evaporated before the ink had even dried on the celebratory reports?

. . .

Trade talks fail to agree on drugs for poor nations
New York Times - WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2002 - The World Trade Organization failed to break a yearlong deadlock over providing impoverished countries with access to life-saving medicine, but the United States pledged that until a deal was reached it would not take any country to court for breaking current trade rules by exporting cut-rate medicine to poor countries. At issue is a draft agreement that would allow pharmaceutical companies in developing nations to export generic versions of patented drugs to countries too poor to make the medicine themselves. Corporations holding patents would not be consulted. Officials from the United States, Canada, the European Union, Switzerland and Japan said they were determined to protect the patents of research-based pharmaceutical companies while ensuring medicines were available to millions of people with AIDS, malaria and other diseases. But they insisted lower-price drugs should be available only for major epidemics in poor countries and not for a wide variety of ailments.
Read it here

. . .

FDA clears Biocompatibles tumor product
LONDON - Dow Jones Business News - Dec. 20, 2002 -- Biocompatibles International PLC Friday said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared its treatment to block blood flow to tumors and cure blood vessel malformations. Bead Block uses a microsphere made from polyvinyl alcohol for embolotherapy, a treatment which inhibits blood flow to tumors.

. . .

US clears Novartis' Gleevec as 1st-line treatment
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2002 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators said Friday they approved Novartis AG's drug Gleevec as a first-line treatment for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, an uncommon but life-threatening form of cancer. Gleevec was first approved in May 2001 for the advanced stages of chronic myleloid leukemia. About 40,000 people in the United States have that type of cancer, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

. . .

Merck KGaA conducts internal analysis of cetuximab colorectal cancer trialdData
DARMSTADT, Germany, Dec. 19, 2002 /PRNewswire/ -- Merck KGaA is in the process of an internal analysis of its European clinical trial of cetuximab (Erbitux, C225) in 330 patients with irinotecan-refractory colorectal cancer. Merck plans to file for approval of cetuximab with the European authorities in the first half of 2003. Results of an external analysis of the trial data by an independent radiologic assessment committee (IRAC) are expected to be completed in March 2003. Merck will submit an abstract for presentation of the results of the trial at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in May 2003. Merck licensed the rights to develop and market cetuximab outside of North America from ImClone Systems Incorporated of New York.
Read it here

. . .

FDA advisory committee requests further data on AstraZeneca's Casodex(R) (Bicalutamide) 150 mg for early prostate cancer
WILMINGTON, Del., Dec. 18, 2002 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals says the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did not recommend approval of the new indication for Casodex 150 mg for the treatment of early stage prostate cancer. The panel recommendation does not impact on the current use and approval of Casodex 50 mg formulation.
Read it here

. . .

Bush administration seeks pediatric drug testing
Health Scout Briefs - Dec. 17, 2002 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will work with Congress to devise new legislation that requires drug companies to conduct clinical trials on medications for children, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson says. Thompson says any new law devised must include clear FDA authority to require pediatric data to be provided by the manufacturer during the drug-approval process. The law should also mandate studies on children of drugs that are already on the market, he adds.

. . .

Biotech and F.D.A.: Blame game
New York Times - Dec. 16, 2002 - It's been a tough year for the biotechnology industry, with plunging stock prices, widespread layoffs, shortages of cash, a major scandal and numerous failures of drugs in clinical trials. When industry executives look for a source of all the troubles, they often point to the Food and Drug Administration. With a new commissioner in charge, changes are being made to streamline the process of drug approval. That's also caused an exodus of top regulators from the agency. Some say the agency is being made a scapegoat and the real problem is companies are rushing clinical trials and producing inadequate data.
Read it here

. . .

Cell Genesys reports lung cancer vaccine data
Memphis Business Journal - Dec. 16, 2002 - Cell Genesys is reporting encouraging follow-up data from the company's initial Phase I/II multi-center clinical trial of GVAX lung cancer vaccine, a patient-specific vaccine made directly from patient tumor biopsies. The trial, which was last updated in June, enrolled non small-cell lung cancer patients with advanced, heavily pretreated disease, 73% of whom had failed more than two prior chemotherapy regimens.
Read it here

. . .

Expanded use for chemotherapy drug
HealthScoutNews - Dec. 6, 2002 - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved expanded use of the chemotherapy drug Taxotere, allowing manufacturer Aventis to market the drug as a first-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. The drug is already widely used as a first-line treatment for breast cancer, meaning it is the first drug to be prescribed after diagnosis.

. . .

FDA rules hinder cancer vaccines
USA Today - Dec. 5, 2002 - Interest in cancer vaccines spiked recently when a promising vaccine for cervical cancer made headlines. The vaccine, developed by Merck, worked on 100% of the women involved in its first big trial.


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