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Doctors Contend With Drug Shortages for Advanced Prostate Cancer

Oncologists have expressed concerns over shortages of Pluvicto (lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan), a drug that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in March 2022 for people with advanced prostate cancer. The drug maker, Novartis, warned the drug, which uses radioactive atoms to deliver targeted radiation to prostate cancer cells, is in short supply. As a result, the company has limited its use to existing patients and is working to increase production after it paused manufacturing of the drug in May due to quality concerns, CNN reported. Daniel Spratt, a radiation oncologist at the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, noted that many patients who are taking the life-extending drug have experienced treatment interruptions. “Many patients are missing months of therapy,” he said, in the March 21 article. “The real tragedy is the patients partially under treatment who have had great responses and we can’t get them the rest of their therapy in a timely fashion.” 

Cancer Rates Higher Among Military Pilots and Ground Crews

A yearlong study that analyzed cancer rates suggests military ground and air crews have an increased risk of developing cancer compared with the general population. The Pentagon study included close to 900,000 U.S. service members who flew on or worked on military aircraft between 1992 and 2017, a March 19 Associated Press story reported. Beyond looking at data from military pilots, the research also analyzed the impact to ground crews who fuel, maintain and launch aircraft. In general, air crews had a 24% higher rate of all cancer types, while ground crews had a 3% higher rate. Now, because higher cancer rates were found, the Pentagon must conduct a larger review to try to understand why the crews are getting sick, the AP noted. The initial study was required by Congress in the 2021 defense bill.

Coordination Cuts Time to Diagnosis in Underserved Population

A Dana-Farber Cancer Institute outreach program at a community health center has reduced the time to cancer diagnosis for its patients, from a median of 32 days to 12 days, according to study published online March 20 in JCO Oncology Practice. As part of the program, primary care doctors at the community health center, which serves historically underserved populations, referred patients to oncologists and a patient navigator from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who were on-site at the community health center. The Dana-Farber team would review cancer-related health concerns, including abnormal laboratory values, scans or prior family history of cancer, to ensure timely diagnosis. Oncologists from Dana-Farber did not provide treatment directly. Instead, the nurse navigator would ensure the appropriate next steps, including follow-up care or prevention services. Patients who were in need of scans, for example, may have been directed to a local hospital with the proper scanning equipment or to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on the basis of the patients’ history, preference and insurance, an article in the ASCO Post noted. “Our goal was to respond with a reasonable and sensible plan as quickly as possible,” said Christopher Lathan, who is the chief clinical access and equity officer and associate medical director at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. There was an additional benefit, the article noted: Researchers found that 10% of the patients who were involved in the study enrolled in clinical trials—doubling the historical rate of 5% for marginalized populations. Among the subset of patients seen at the community health center who were diagnosed with cancer, the enrollment rate for clinical trials was even higher.