The End of Lung Cancer? New Novartis Drug Effective in Prolonging Patients' Lives
Cancer remains to be one of the leading causes of death in the world, with lung cancer being amongst the top five most common types. Pharma giant Novartis is attempting to extend the lives of those living with lung cancer and has reached success with its inaugural inhibitor Zykadia (ceritinib).
In a recent study of 246 patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive (ALK+) non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), those taking the inhibitor drug lived an average of more than 18 months without their cancer progressing.
“These findings are very exciting because until now, most ALK+ NSCLC patients experience disease progression within less than a year of treatment with an ALK inhibitor,” said lead investigator Enriqueta Felip, MD, PhD, Vall d’Hebron University. “This is the longest median progression-free survival data we’ve seen in this broad patient population and it is even more striking when you consider that most of them have received up to three rounds of chemotherapy before taking ceritinib as their first ALK inhibitor.”
Amongst the patients involved in the study, ceritinib achieved an overall response rate of 61.8 percent and a median progression-free survival of 9 months. In 124 patients who entered the trial with brain metastases, those treated with ceritinib achieved an overall response rate of 55.6 percent. Brain metastases were actually found to shrink in roughly one-third of the 29 patients who entered the study with measurable brain lesions.
“These findings in patients being treated with an ALK inhibitor for the first time reinforce the impressive ceritinib data that were already seen in patients who had stopped responding to an ALK inhibitor,” said Alessandro Riva, MD, Global Head, Novartis Oncology Development and Medical Affairs. “We are committed to bringing this treatment to ALK+ NSCLC patients around the world who are in need of effective options.”
The study is part of the ongoing Novartis clinical trial program in this patient population with several major studies evaluating treatment with ceritinib being conducted in more than 300 study centers across more than 30 countries.
Zykadia (ceritinib) is an FDA-approved prescription medicine that is indicated in the United States for the treatment of patients with ALK+ metastatic NSCLC who have progressed on or are intolerant to crizotinib. Currently available through a number of specialty pharmacies in the United States, Zykadia is an investigational agent and is undergoing regulatory reviews in the European Union and several countries within North America, South America, Central America and Asia.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.