This section contains the latest highlighted research for patients from ASCO medical journals, including the Journal of Clinical Oncology, as well as an archive of research highlights from previous ASCO scientific meetings (2011-2015). For the latest research highlights from more recent ASCO meetings, visit the Cancer.Net Blog or check out Cancer.Net’s audio podcasts and videos for patients.
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A large clinical study that followed 150,000 women in India over 15 years found that screening with visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA), or vinegar, every other year reduced the number of cervical cancer deaths by nearly one-third (31%). Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women living in many developing countries where there is little or no access to Pap tests (a procedure in which the doctor gently scrapes the outside of the cervix and vagina to take samples of the cells for testing). The researchers estimated that easy, low-cost screening with VIA could prevent 22,000 cervical cancer deaths every year in India and close to 73,000 deaths in developing countries around the world.
According to a recent study, adding the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) to chemotherapy for advanced or recurrent (cancer that has come back) cervical cancer lengthens patients’ lives. Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, but it is often ineffective for treating advanced cervical cancer. Bevacizumab is a type of targeted therapy, which is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival.
In a recent study, combining a high dose of ipilimumab (Yervoy) with GM-CSF (Sargramostim, Leukine) helped patients with metastatic melanoma live longer than those who received ipilimumab alone. Both ipilimumab and GM-CSF are types of immunotherapy, a treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. Specifically, ipilimumab works to take the brakes off the immune system by targeting CTLA-4, a protein found on the surface of tumor cells that keeps the immune system from destroying the cancer. GM-CSF, on the other hand, is a growth factor that the body produces to help increase the number and function of white blood cells. It is commonly used to boost white blood cell counts after chemotherapy or stem cell transplantation.
Long-term follow-up of patients participating in an early study for advanced melanoma showed that nivolumab was able to shrink tumors and continue working for a longer time than other approved melanoma treatments. Nivolumab is a type of immunotherapy, a treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. Specifically, nivolumab targets PD-1, which is found on the surface of tumor cells and prevents the immune system from destroying the cancer. Nivolumab stops PD-1 from working so the immune system can get rid of the cancer.
Results from a new study show that the drug selumetinib keeps metastatic (cancer that has spread) melanoma of the eye from worsening and lengthens patients’ lives. Melanoma of the eye (also called uveal melanoma) is a rare cancer. Most patients with uveal melanoma are diagnosed when the cancer is located in the eye. But, the cancer eventually spreads outside of the eye to other parts of the body in about half of patients, and these patients usually live about nine to 12 months after diagnosis, so a drug that can lengthen patients’ lives is a major breakthrough.
In a new study, researchers found that spouses of patients with human papilloma virus (HPV)-related oropharyngeal cancer were not more likely to have an HPV infection than the general population. Oropharyngeal cancer begins in the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat behind the mouth, and includes the base of the tongue, the soft palate, the side and back walls of the throat and the tonsils. HPV infection is very common among men and women in the United States and is a risk factor for several types of cancer, including oropharyngeal cancer. However, most people with an HPV infection will not get cancer. When a cancer contains signs of HPV, it is called HPV-positive.
According to a recent study, initial treatment with the drug cetuximab (Erbitux) plus the chemotherapy regimen FOLFIRI lengthens the lives of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer when compared with bevacizumab (Avastin) plus FOLFIRI. The chemotherapy regimen FOLFIRI includes the drugs leucovorin (Wellcovorin), fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil), and irinotecan (Camptosar).
Women with advanced ovarian cancer or a related gynecologic cancer who receive treatment with the targeted therapy pazopanib (Votrient) following successful chemotherapy lived longer without their disease coming back than those receiving a placebo (an inactive treatment, often called a “sugar pill”), according to the results of a recent clinical trial. Pazopanib is medication taken by mouth that focuses on stopping angiogenesis, which is the process of making new blood vessels. Because a tumor needs the nutrients delivered by blood vessels to grow and spread, the goal of anti-angiogenesis therapy is to starve the tumor.
In early, ongoing research, the drug, idelalisib helped to shrink tumors for patients with recurrent or treatment-resistant chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL is a slow-growing cancer and many patients do not need treatment until they start having symptoms. However, after treatment, most patients will have the disease come back, called recurrent or relapsed CLL. About 20% of patients will develop treatment-resistant or refractory CLL, meaning the disease comes back quickly or the original treatment did not work.
Most diffuse large B-cell lymphomas (DLBCL) that recur (come back after treatment) are found based on symptoms reported by patients, abnormal blood test results, or abnormal findings on a physical examination, rather than by a computed tomography (CT) scan, according to a recent study. DLBCL is the most common form of lymphoma and is typically curable. However, up to a third of patients will have the disease recur. A CT scan is a way to create pictures of the inside of the body and is currently recommended as a regular part of follow-up care for patients with DLBCL to watch for a recurrence.