Business briefs: IOM, AstraZeneca, Roche

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The Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report on the state of cancer care in the US that says doctors are coming up short Reuters reports. Among the problems researchers found: a growing demand for cancer care paired with a shrinking oncology workforce. Researchers also said that oncology has become so complex that doctors are having trouble keeping up with the latest research. Familiar doctor-patient communication issues also surfaced, with the study finding that doctors often skip explaining treatment options and risks and fail to to ask patients about their treatment preferences.

AstraZeneca is taking on Merck's Phase IIa cancer drug MK-1775. The companies announced Wednesday that Merck is handing over a worldwide license for the experimental ovarian cancer treatment for $50 million, plus additional milestone and royalty payments. The deal was announced just after Merck's R&D chief Roger Perlmutter sat down with analysts to share his vision for the company. Among the goals, reports Bloomberg: a greater emphasis on biotech and cancer. Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson noted in his September 2 research note that Merck has a “general lack of presence” in the field compared to peers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche. This is despite a PD-1 oncology candidate Anderson found interesting, while also noting Merck "runs the risk of being outmaneuvered," by BMS and Roche.

An FDA advisory panel is set to review Roche's Perjeta for an earlier use in breast cancer Thursday. The drug is already approved for advanced breast cancer. The FDA put this indication in the “Priority Review” track in July, and an approval would make it the first approved treatment for cancer that is given after diagnosis, but before surgery, a tactic known as neoadjuvant treatment. Earlier treatment could shrink tumors before surgery, making them easier to extract. Bloomberg reports that the FDA found significant improvements in tumor tissue eradication, but wants Roche to do additional research into the cardiovascular impact.

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