Presence of Biomarkers Predicts Whether Checkpoint Inhibitor Works

(p. D1) A collaboration between an immunologist helping his stepmother fight cancer and the oncologist who treated her led to a discovery that could help many more patients benefit from a transformative new therapy.
A new class of drugs called checkpoint inhibitors works by releasing a molecular brake that stops the immune system from attacking tumors. So-called immunotherapy has been approved for several types of cancers and found to extend lives of patients with advanced disease for many years. The problem is that for most patients immunotherapy doesn’t work.
The researchers, from University of California, San Francisco, said they identified a unique type of immune-system cell that “robustly” predicts whether patients will respond to one of the medicines–an achievement has the potential to significantly expand the number of cancer patients who benefit from checkpoint inhibitors.
The new discovery is based on a high-tech analysis of melanoma tissue from 40 patients treated with a checkpoint inhibitor from Merck & Co. called Keytruda, which targets an immune-system brake called PD-1. Although researchers say it will take further research to determine its value in treating patients, the finding offers fresh insight into the complex relationship between the immune system and tumor cells.
. . .
(p. D3) The researchers analyzed results of a study involving Keytruda before it was approved. They looked at the CD8 cells that had infiltrated the melanoma tumors of 20 patients treated with the drug and found that if at least 30% of those cells were marked by PD-1 and CTLA-4, the patient responded to treatment. When fewer than 20% of the infiltrated cells had those markers, not one patient responded.

For the full story, see:
RON WINSLOW. “Road to a Cancer Advance.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Aug. 16, 2016): D1 & D3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 15, 2016, and has the title “Chance Collaboration Yields an Advance in Cancer Treatment.”)

Fracking Entrepreneur Aubrey McClendon Was Pressured by Antitrust Indictment on the Day Before Fatal Car Crash

(p. C2) Mr. McClendon, who co-founded Chesapeake Energy Corp. in 1989 and was a key figure in the shale boom that has upended global energy markets, was ousted from the energy company in 2013 over corporate-governance issues. He spent the three years after leaving Chesapeake building a new energy empire, raising more than $15 billion from investors, including major financial firms, to finance his comeback. But in 2014, oil prices plunged and natural-gas prices languished in a glut partly of his making, pressuring several of his new energy companies and making it more difficult for him to raise cash.
. . .
Exacerbating the pressure on Mr. McClendon was a federal antitrust investigation that culminated in his indictment the day before he died, on a single count of conspiring to rig oil-and-gas leases. Mr. McClendon vowed to fight the felony charge; local authorities later ruled they found no evidence of suicide.

For the full story, see:
RYAN DEZEMBER and KEVIN HELLIKER. “Oil Man Delivers for Heirs.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Aug. 31, 2016): C1-C2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 30, 2016, and has the title “Oil-Deal Score Helps Aubrey McClendon’s Heirs Hang on to NBA’s Thunder, for Now.”)

Intuit Tries to Disrupt Itself

(p. B1) MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Three decades ago, at the dawn of the personal computer age, Intuit shook up the financial software world with its first product, Quicken. The program, which was centered on the simple notion of a virtual checkbook, suddenly made the PC a very useful tool for people to manage the chores of paying bills and tracking personal finances.
Last month, Intuit said goodbye to that heritage and sold Quicken, which still has loyal fans but weak growth prospects, to a private equity firm.
Intuit, a Silicon Valley company, is now focusing on its TurboTax software, which tens of millions of Americans use to file their tax returns, and on QuickBooks Online, an Internet-based version of the company’s flagship bookkeeping software for small businesses and their accounting firms.
Giving up Quicken was difficult, said Brad D. Smith, Intuit’s chief executive, during an interview at the company’s lush green campus here. The kitchen table where the founders designed the product in 1983 still sits in the cafeteria to inspire employees.
But Intuit decided to shed its PC roots and become a cloud software company. “We try to live up to being a 33-year-old start-up,” Mr. Smith said. So the company faced a hard choice: “Do we have this beautiful child that we’ve had for 33 years that we know we’re not going to feed, or do we find it a new home?”

For the full story, see:
VINDU GOEL. “Intuit Sheds PC Roots to Rise as Cloud Service.” The New York Times (Mon., APRIL 11, 2016): B1 & B5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 10, 2016, and has the title “Intuit Sheds Its PC Roots and Rises as a Cloud Software Company.”)