An Update on the Cancer Drug Shortage, FDA Approvals and Cervical Cancer


CURE® editors take a look back on last week’s major oncology headlines, from the cancer drug shortage to FDA approvals and the potential benefit of sexual activity for cervical cancer survivors.

Last week brought the approval of two new cancer therapies, as well as some data about the ongoing cancer drug shortage and which groups of patients may be affected most. Also, CURE® spoke to an expert about how sexual activity — while not a requirement — may help follow-up exams be more comfortable for cervical cancer survivors.

In this episode, we’re looking back at the top oncology news from last week, and brining patients the information they need to know.

Patients on Medicaid Disproportionately Affected by Drug Shortage

Despite initiatives from the federal government, the shortage of chemotherapy drugs — namely cisplatin and carboplatin — continues. Now, a recent survey from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network found that patients who are insured by Medicaid are three times more likely to be affected by the chemo shortage than individuals who get their health insurance through their provider. Findings also showed that 38% of patients who experienced delays in treatment had delays that lasted a month or more, while 35% said that they had difficulty getting insurance to fill a prescription related to a shortage, such as a substitute drug.

Back in September, the White House outlined steps that they’re taking to mitigate the ongoing drug shortage, such as collaborating with health care providers and drug manufacturers.

FDA Approves Loqtorzi Regimens for Advanced Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

The first of two FDA approvals last week happened on Monday, Oct. 30, when the agency approved Loqtorzi plus the chemotherapy drugs, gemcitabine and cisplatin, for the treatment of patients with metastatic or recurrent locally advanced nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The drug was also approved on Monday as a single agent — that means given alone — for patients with unresectable, recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal carcinoma that got worse on or after platinum-based chemotherapy.

The Loqtorzi/chemotherapy combination was based off findings from the JUPITER-02 trial, while the POLARIS-02 trial led to the single-agent approval. The former found that the Loqtorzi-containing regimen improved progression-free survival (time from treatment until disease worsens or death) compared to placebo plus the chemo drugs, while the latter showed improved response rates with Loqtorzi.

FDA Approves Keytruda Plus Chemo for Locally Advanced, Metastatic Biliary Tract Cancer

On Wednesday, the FDA approved the immunotherapy drug, Keytruda, plus two chemotherapy drugs — gemcitabine and cisplatin — for the treatment of patients with locally advanced or unresectable metastatic biliary tract cancer.

Findings from the phase 3 KEYNOTE-966 clinical trial, which showed that overall survival (time from treatment until death of any cause) was better with the Keytruda-containing regimen than it was for the chemotherapy duo alone. Notably, there was no significant difference in progression-free survival between the two regimens. Essentially, that means that patients tended to experience disease worsening at around the same rate or time, however, those in the Keytruda group tended to live longer. Trial results also showed that there was a higher percentage of patients in the Keytruda group whose disease completely disappeared.

Follow-Up Exams More ‘Tolerable’ With Sexual Activity After Cervical Cancer

In the gynecologic cancer space, recent research presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology Annual Meeting found that cervical cancer follow-up appointments may be more comfortable or tolerable for patients who are sexually active.

CURE® spoke with one of the study authors, Dr. Kathrin Kirchheiner, who mentioned that sexual activity is by no means necessary for this patient population. She understands that the disease and its treatments can affect libido or make sex physically uncomfortable. However, if patients with gynecologic cancer are experiencing sexual side effects, they should certainly bring it up to their health care providers.

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