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Genentech seeks expanded approval for Herceptin

BY Alaric DeArment

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. Genentech hopes to get one of its breast cancer drugs approved as a treatment for stomach cancer, the biotech company said Friday.

Genentech, part of Swiss drug maker Roche, applied for Food and Drug Administration approval of Herceptin (trastuzumab) plus chemotherapy as a treatment for adenocarcinoma of the stomach that includes the protein human epidermal factor receptor 2, or HER2, which Herceptin is supposed to inhibit. Cancers that include HER2 tend to be more aggressive than those that don’t.

“This application reflects our commitment to developing more personalized medicines for people with cancer,” Genentech EVP global development and chief medical officer Hal Barron said. “By using diagnostics to help identify the right patients for our medicines, it is our hope that Herceptin used with chemotherapy will become the first targeted option for advanced HER2-positive stomach cancer.”

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Weis Markets hires sustainability specialist

BY Allison Cerra

SUNBURY, Pa. Patti Olenick, a former long-time state environmental official, has joined Weis Markets as the company’s first-ever sustainability specialist.

Olenick will help the company develop its sustainability and environmental responsibility programs.

“We take our environmental responsibilities seriously,” said Weis Markets president and CEO David Hepfinger. “For decades, we’ve recycled enormous quantities of cardboard and plastic and in recent years, we’ve utilized energy and water usage reduction systems throughout our company.  Patti will help us develop a more systematic approach to our sustainability programs and bring greater cohesion to our efforts.”

Olenick joins the company from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. She has extensive experience in waste management, recycling and composting. During her 20-year government career, she helped develop a number of innovative programs including The Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania, the Community Illegal Dump Cleanup Grant Program and a statewide backyard composting program.

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Study: Benlysta added to lupus treatments yields higher response rates

BY Alaric DeArment

LONDON An investigational biotech drug for lupus worked better when added to standard treatments than the standard treatments alone, according to late-stage clinical trial results released this week.

British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline and U.S. drug maker Human Genome Sciences announced results of a 76-week study of Benlysta (belimumab) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic and potentially fatal autoimmune disease that affects around 1.5 million Americans.

The study found that Benlysta added to standard treatments showed higher response rates than the standard treatments with placebo by the 76th week. The results of the 76-week study were not statistically significant, though efficacy results were in a 52-week study, and both studies indicated the drug was safe.

“We view the results of these studies as strongly supportive of our view that Benlysta has the potential to become the first new approved drug in more than 50 years for people living with systemic lupus,” Human Genome Sciences president and CEO H. Thomas Watkins said.

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