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Some Lung Cancer Patients Can Breathe a Little Easier


Pfizer's new drug Xalkori has received FDA approval to treat ALK-positive non-small-cell lung cancer, reports Scott Hensley at the NPR Shots blog. The twice-a-day pill can only be prescribed to the few thousand people each year who develop ALK-positive lung cancer, quite a contrast from the blockbuster drugs taken by millions of patients that Pfizer is known for developing, Hensley says. Only about 3 percent to 5 percent of non-small-cell lung cancer patients test positive for ALK each year — about 6,500 to 11,000 people in the US. FDA approved the drug in combination with a companion diagnostic to detect the ALK variation. "The new, highly targeted cancer pill won't come cheap at about $9,600 a month. But the benefits for those with the ALK-positive cancers appear to be substantial. Half or more of patients in the studies cited in the FDA approval responded well to treatment with Xalkori. Their tumors shrank or disappeared," Hensley says. Xalkori was approved under and FDA priority review program reserved for drugs with "special promise," Hensley adds. It's still unknown whether the drug extends life, but Pfizer will continue to do research to confirm FDA's assessment of the drug.

The Scan

Looking for Omicron

NPR reports that SARS-CoV-2 testing in the US has gotten better but also that some experts say more needs to be done to better track the Omicron variant.

Holmes Alleges Abuse

The Associated Press reports that Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes has testified at her wire fraud trial that her business and romantic partner abused her.

Bit More Diverse, But More to Do

While Black and Hispanic patients are more likely to participate in cancer clinical trials than previously, they are still underrepresented, according to US News & World Report.

PNAS Papers on Yeast Gene Silencing, Zika Virus Inhibition, Immunoglobulin Hypermutation

In PNAS this week: gene silencing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, possible neuroprotective role for SHFL in a mouse model of Zika virus infection, and more.