Newswise — SEATTLE — May 24, 2018 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s latest findings will be featured at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, “Delivering Discoveries: Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine,” to be held June 1–5 in Chicago.

Here are several highlights:


This year’s ASCO annual meeting showcases the cost-analysis work of Hutch researchers, including comparisons between single and multipayer systems of care, combined versus stand-alone therapies and industry affordability ratings.

  • The potential cost-effectiveness of first-line immunotherapy + chemotherapy for advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In May 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval for pembrolizumab and a chemotherapy regimen for non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer patients. HICOR researcher Joshua Roth and team studied the value of the combination treatment compared with the stand-alone chemotherapy regimen to evaluate comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. In preliminary results, the authors concluded that the combination regimen is expected to increase survival, but does so at an additional cost that is unlikely to be considered cost-effective relative to contemporary standards of value in cancer treatment in the United States. 


Fred Hutch researchers address why CAR T immunotherapy has led to durable remissions in some blood cancer patients, how another immunotherapy approach (checkpoint inhibitors) is gaining traction in a rare skin cancer, and ways immunotherapies could be used in sarcomas.


  • Patient comorbid conditions and cancer clinical trial participation. ASCO recently recommended modernizing criteria related to comorbid conditions routinely used to exclude patients from clinical trials. Joe Unger and colleagues investigated how comorbidities influence patient decision-making about clinical trial participation. Patients with one or more comorbid conditions were 24 percent less likely to participate in a trial. The modernization of trial eligibility criteria could provide the opportunity for several thousand more patients to participate in cancer clinical trials each year.   
  • Geographic distribution and survival outcomes for rural cancer patients treated in clinical trials. Studies show that rural cancer patients have worse outcomes than urban patients. But studies relying on cancer population data are unable to account for differences in access to care. In contrast, clinical trial patients receive standardized care by design, so large clinical trial databases are ideal for examining the impact of residency on outcomes. Joe Unger and colleagues found that rural and urban cancer patients with the same access to care through clinical trial participation experienced similar outcomes, which suggests that improving access to uniform treatment strategies for cancer patients may help resolve the rural/urban disparity in cancer outcomes.


Our researchers evaluate cost issues related to new therapeutics and genetic-testing technologies that have the potential to offer more precise care for patients.

  • The emergence of cancer biosimilars in the United States: A clinician’s guide. In an education session, Gary Lyman will reference insights from his May 23 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine on “Rationale, Opportunities, and Reality of Biosimilar Medications.” New biological therapeutics —like Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Neupogen (filgrastim) —have revolutionized the practice of clinical medicine but they also have contributed to the rise in health care costs. As patents on these biologic therapies expire, it should be possible to reduce cost and improve access by creating biosimilars of these agents. However, that would require medical providers to relentlessly monitor efficacy data and address reimbursement and coverage issues. 
  • Cost-effectiveness of multi-gene panel sequencing (MGPS) for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (aNSCLC) patients. Genetic testing for various cancer mutations can connect patients with targeted therapies and potentially extend their lives. But is it more cost effective to do multi-gene panel sequencing (testing for various mutations simultaneously) or single-marker genetic testing (testing one gene at a time)? Lotte Steuten and colleagues examined the data of approximately 5,700 advanced lung cancer patients who had received either type of testing (though most received single-marker testing). Multi-gene sequencing identified an additional 8 percent of patients with mutations and enabled 2 percent more patients to receive targeted therapies. Steuten’s team determined that although lifetime total costs were higher for those who had undergone multi-gene sequencing, expected life years also increased, making multi-gene sequencing moderately cost-effective.

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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.