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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In a new study in Japan, researchers found that patients with pancreatic cancer lived longer when they received chemotherapy with a drug called S-1 after surgery. This study included Japanese patients with stage I, II, or III pancreatic cancer who were able to have surgery to remove the tumor. In the United States, more than half of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed after the disease has spread beyond the pancreas. Because of this, only 20% to 30% of patients with pancreatic cancer are able to have surgery. Typically, patients who are able to have surgery are offered the drug gemcitabine (Gemzar) after the surgery to help lengthen their lives. In previous studies, researchers have found that this new drug, S-1, works as well as gemcitabine for Asian patients with pancreatic cancer. However, other studies have shown that S-1 may cause more harmful side effects in patients who are not Asian.
An early ongoing study suggests that looking at gene expression (which genes within each tumor are turned on or off) may help doctors predict how well chemotherapy will work and monitor how well chemotherapy is treating the cancer. Some genes within pancreatic tumors are similar between patients and some are different. These differences affect how well cancer drugs work for each patient.
Recently, researchers confirmed that giving the drug docetaxel (Taxotere, Docefrez) as a second-line therapy lengthened the lives of patients with esophago-gastric cancers that worsened despite treatment. Second-line treatment is using treatments after the primary or first treatments (called first-line therapy) have ended or are no longer working. Esophago-gastric cancers include cancer of the esophagus, stomach, and the area where the esophagus and stomach join, called the esophago-gastric junction. These types of cancers are often difficult to treat and the disease worsens after first-line therapy for most patients, making the increase in survival seen in this study a major improvement.
A recent study showed that patients with gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) who received surgery to remove any tumors remaining after treatment with the drug imatinib (Gleevec) lived longer and were less likely to have their disease worsen than patients who received only imatinib. Imatinib is a type of targeted therapy, a treatment that targets the tumor’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. It is usually the first treatment for GIST that is metastatic (cancer that has spread) or recurrent (cancer that has come back after treatment), and works to treat the disease for about 80% to 85% of patients. However, most patients have tumors remaining after treatment with imatinib. These remaining tumors are thought to cause the disease to become resistant to imatinib, which means that the drug stops controlling the tumor’s growth. For this reason, researchers believed removing the remaining tumors with surgery would help prevent the tumor from becoming resistant to imatinib.
Recently, researchers developed a new way to classify stage II and III colorectal cancers based on gene expression (which genes within each tumor are turned on or off) into three separate subtypes. Each of these subtypes helps predict a patient’s prognosis (chance of recovery) and how a tumor responds to adjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy given after treatment). Previously studied genetic tests, such as Oncotype or ColoPrint, can help doctors find out which tumors are more likely to grow and spread quickly, but there are still no clear recommendations for identifying which patients should receive adjuvant chemotherapy and which patients wouldn’t benefit from additional chemotherapy..