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.
To search this archive, use the drop-down menu below. You can select a specific year, meeting or publication, and/or a specific topic, such as a type of cancer. Selecting "All" will take you to a complete list of articles that appear under all categories.
Results from a long-term study on stage I seminoma show that surveillance, or watching for a cancer recurrence (cancer that comes back after treatment), is a safe option for most men. Seminoma is a type of testicular cancer that is generally slow growing and makes up about half of all testicular cancer diagnoses. In stage I seminoma, the tumor has not spread to the lymph nodes (tiny, bean-shaped organs that fight infection) or other parts of the body. Surgery is usually the first treatment given. Surveillance includes physical examinations and imaging and blood tests for five years. In the United States, about half of patients are monitored for a recurrence and the other half receives either radiation therapy or chemotherapy to help prevent a recurrence.
Results from an early, ongoing study suggest that pairing the drug ipilimumab (Yervoy) with a new drug called nivolumab works better to shrink advanced melanoma. Currently, ipilimumab is a standard treatment option for advanced melanoma in many countries. Nivolumab, when used by itself, has been shown to effectively treat melanoma, as well as other cancers, in previous studies. Both nivolumab and ipilimumab are types of immunotherapy, a treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Specifically, nivolumab targets PD-1 and ipilimumab targets CTLA-4, which are both found on the surface of tumor cells and keep the immune system from destroying the cancer. These drugs stop PD-1 and CTLA-4 from working so the immune system can get rid of the cancer.
A new type of targeted immunotherapy (called MPDL3280A) was able to shrink several different types of cancer, including lung, melanoma, kidney, colorectal, and stomach cancers in patients whose cancer had worsened while receiving other treatments. Immunotherapy is designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Specifically, this new treatment targets PD-L1, a protein on the surface of tumor cells that prevents the immune system from fighting the tumor. Basically, this treatment stops PD-L1 from working, which then allows the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.
In a large, 20-year study, researchers found that men with a high level of fitness at middle age have a lower risk of developing and dying from lung and colorectal cancers. They also found that better fitness lowers the risk of dying of prostate cancer.
Patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who participated in a recent study lived longer and had fewer side effects when they received the standard dose of radiation therapy and not the high-dose radiation therapy. Stage III NSCLC is usually difficult or impossible to remove with surgery. Radiation therapy is used to slow the growth and spread of the cancer to lengthen patients’ lives. The standard dose for radiation therapy is 60 Gray (Gy), a measurement of how much radiation is absorbed by the body, although many doctors use higher doses in the hope of better controlling the cancer’s growth.
According to a recent study, women survivors of childhood cancers who received low doses of radiation therapy aimed at the chest had a high risk of developing breast cancer at a young age. An increased risk of breast cancer is a known long-term side effect or late effect of moderate to high-dose radiation therapy to the chest. That is why the current screening recommendations for childhood cancer survivors recommend annual breast cancer screening for women who received moderate to high doses (20 or more Gray or Gy, a measure of the radiation dose) of radiation therapy to the chest. This study shows that even childhood cancer survivors who received lower doses of radiation therapy have a higher risk of breast cancer, and they may need to follow similar breast cancer screening recommendations.
A study in Germany showed that it is possible for local community hospitals to test non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) for molecular factors involved in the cancer. This means that a greater number of patients will have access to these tests. These molecular factors can be genes, proteins, or features of the tissue environment that contribute to cancer growth and survival. The results of tests for molecular factors often determine whether targeted therapy is a treatment option. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the molecular factors involved in cancer growth.
A recent study showed that the drug trametinib slowed tumor growth and lengthened the lives of patients who have advanced melanoma with a BRAF gene mutation (change). Trametinib is a type of treatment called targeted therapy. Targeted therapy targets the cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Currently, there is one targeted therapy approved to treat melanoma that targets the BRAF gene, called vemurafenib (Zelboraf). However, vemurafenib eventually stops controlling melanoma growth for most patients, highlighting the need for other treatment options. Trametinib targets the MEK protein, which affects melanoma growth similarly to a mutated BRAF gene, which is why researchers are studying this treatment for melanoma.
A new study showed that the targeted drug regorafenib is an effective treatment for patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) that has worsened because the other available treatments have stopped working. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets a tumor's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Specifically, regorafenib targets an abnormal enzyme called KIT. The currently available GIST treatments, imatinib (Gleevec) and sunitinib (Sutent), often slow or stop tumor growth at first, but eventually the drugs stop working and the cancer continues to grow. Regorafenib appears to work in a different way, even helping to slow GIST growth when other treatments are no longer working.
In a recent international study, researchers found that the targeted therapy drug afatinib kept advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with mutations (changes) to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) from worsening longer than the standard treatment. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets a cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Specifically, afatinib targets EGFR. In a healthy cell, EGFR allows cells to grow and divide. When there are too many receptors caused by a mutation, as happens in cancer, the cancer cells continue to grow and divide uncontrollably.