Sean Parker: Health care’s big breakthroughs aren’t going to come out of Google or Amazon

https://www.statnews.com/2018/11/13/sean-parker-health-cares-big-breakthroughs-arent-going-to-come-out-of-google-or-amazon/?utm_source=STAT%20Newsletters&utm_campaign=033f0dac05-MR_COPY_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_8cab1d7961-033f0dac05-150487325

Sean Parker, the tech billionaire and cancer research philanthropist, may be a product of a Silicon Valley tech giant — but he’s skeptical about the impact those companies will have as they increasingly make a play in medicine.

“I just don’t think the innovations that are going to drive this revolution in health care and discovery are going to come out of Amazon or Google,” Parker said Tuesday at an event put on by the Washington Post. “Google has a big group that’s focused on this — they’re really smart, they’re not unsophisticated, they’re not naive — but I don’t think that’s where you’re going to see the big breakthroughs happening.”

Silicon Valley’s tech giants have invested significant resources in health care and science in recent years — and attracted big-name talent.

Amazon, along with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway, has launched a new health care company aimed at developing solutions that could be implemented elsewhere in the U.S. health care system.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been scooping up some of the biggest names in health care. Google just hired David Feinberg, the forward-thinking CEO of the Geisinger health system, the Pennsylvania health plan and hospital system confirmed last week. Dr. Toby Cosgrove, the longtime president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, joined Google earlier this year. And Dr. Robert Califf, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, last year joined Verily, Alphabet’s unit working on solutions to disease.

While coders face their own formidable challenges, Parker said, “tech people coming from tech to biology so dramatically underestimate the complexity of the human body. It’s not designed by us. It doesn’t work in ways that make sense.”

Parker, the former president of Facebook, has since become a major funder of research into therapies that seek to fight cancer by harnessing the patient’s own immune system through his foundation Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which he founded in 2016. It has funded prominent research scientists across the country, most notably James Allison, one of the recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine.

 

 

Cancer vaccine made from stem cells could open another door in immunotherapy

https://www.statnews.com/2018/02/15/cancer-vaccine-stem-cells/?%3Futm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=facebook_sponsored&utm_medium=vc

With a special type of stem cell that can be spun from skin or blood, researchers have developed a vaccine that helped stave off cancer in mice, opening up another branch in the booming field of immunotherapy.

Cancer cells and stem cells share some of the same molecules on their surfaces. In the new research, which was described Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell, scientists injected mice with their own stem cells, essentially training their immune systems to launch attacks when they identified those molecules — called antigens — elsewhere, including on cancer cells.

 

Doctors want to give their cancer patients every chance. But are they pushing off hard talks too long?

https://www.statnews.com/2017/09/01/immunotherapy-doctors-end-of-life/

A new generation of immune-boosting therapies has been hailed as nothing short of revolutionary, shrinking tumors and extending lives. When late-stage cancer patients run out of other options, some doctors are increasingly nudging them to give immunotherapy a try.

But that advice is now coming with unintended consequences. Doctors who counsel immunotherapy, experts say, are postponing conversations about palliative care and end-of-life wishes with their patients — sometimes, until it’s too late.

“In the oncology community, there’s this concept of ‘no one should die without a dose of immunotherapy,’” said Dr. Eric Roeland, an oncologist and palliative care specialist at University of California, San Diego. “And it’s almost in lieu of having discussions about advance-care planning, so they’re kicking the can down the street.”

Can Patrick Soon-Shiong silence his many critics?

http://medcitynews.com/2017/06/can-patrick-soon-shiong-silence-critics/?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52710181&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–xSW_9lwPF0HGbAGNGgwOKT_0f7zGjMd_RfqVqfjHdiA1PTx6TAi7zgKG1KDNZVWxfaN0-WLDrrkcvVZznkpoOJueU1A&_hsmi=52710181

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: CEO of Abraxis Health Institute Patrick Soon-Shiong during a Urban Economic Forum co-hosted by White House Business Council and U.S. Small Business Administration at Loyola Marymount University on March 22, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Topics discussed at the forum included the Obama administration's support for policies that create private sector-jobs and future entrepreneurs. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

On the phone, Patrick Soon-Shiong speaks slowly and deliberately. He clearly trusts himself, but he doesn’t trust journalists anymore.

A series of scathing articles by STAT News and Politico sent stocks in his publicly-traded companies tumbling earlier this year. On Monday, he has an opportunity to change that narrative somewhat, with the unveiling of data from human trials of his cancer vaccine at a major oncology conference.

The stories allege that despite his bold claims, Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks subsidiaries are underperforming and reliant on contracts from other companies in the group. Reporters have also claimed that one of his companies, NantHealth, has received contracts from institutions that had received donations from his nonprofit foundation — a major conflict of interest. This was not adequately disclosed prior to the massive initial public offering of NantHealth, they argue, which may violate SEC laws.

For his part, Soon-Shiong, dismisses the allegations noting that part of the motivation behind those stories was political: “They had never written about me until they saw this picture of me with Trump.”

Speaking to MedCity on Wednesday after his recent appointment to a national health IT advisory committee, Soon-Shiong detailed how the various threads of his career are converging toward a pivotal moment. A solution for healthcare is almost within reach and he’s poised to unveil what he believes is a disruptive cancer therapy – the Nant vaccine – at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago on Monday.

This story clearly clashes with many other viewpoints in the industry.

Cancer immunotherapy is moving fast. Here’s what you need to know.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/09/28/cancer-immunotherapy-is-moving-fast-heres-what-you-need-to-know-now/?_hsenc=p2ANqtz-90GFt-2pDEeiq7Ku9hLdsslR1XHDgKpjVctG0o9kL7exd66VU__9Dx29EN9MGPnc53jtuSofaZSJj3dQKQj8BU9lhksQ&_hsmi=35091656&utm_campaign=KHN%3A%20Daily%20Health%20Policy%20Report&utm_content=35091656&utm_medium=email&utm_source=hs_email

Image result for cancer immunotherapy

The idea of using the body’s immune system to fight cancer has been around for a century, but only in the past half a dozen years have dramatic breakthroughs begun rocking the medical world.

“That’s when the tsunami came,” says Drew Pardoll, director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunology at Johns Hopkins University, and those advances are spawning hundreds of clinical trials nationwide, plus generating intense interest from patients, physicians and investors.

Many cancer researchers compare the progress to medical milestones such as the discovery of penicillin or the development of chemotherapy. Over the next decade, the growth in the field will be “exponential,” predicts Philip Greenberg, head of the immunology program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “Making something better is enormously different than making something work that doesn’t work.”

At the same time, researchers remember the past anti-cancer efforts that fizzled after initially showing promise. That explains the consensus sentiment at this week’s international immunotherapy conference in New York: Turning science into cures will take years of perseverance against daunting hurdles.

Here’s a primer about new treatments and how they work: