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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Women with higher-risk, early-stage breast cancer who received weekly chemotherapy with paclitaxel (Taxol) after surgery as part of a clinical trial lived for the same amount of time without the cancer returning as those who received higher doses of the same drug every two weeks (known as dose-dense therapy). However, the researchers found that the women who received chemotherapy every week experienced fewer and less serious treatment-related side effects.
In a recent genetic study, researchers found that one in five African American women with breast cancer have an inherited (passed down in the family) mutation (change) in at least one of the 18 genes that are linked with a higher risk of breast cancer. Compared to the general population, African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, die from the disease, and have triple-negative breast cancer. Triple-negative breast cancer is a fast-growing and difficult-to-treat cancer that does not have hormone receptors (for the hormones estrogen and/or progesterone) or HER2 receptors (a protein found on some breast tumors). Researchers have suspected that these differences are due to inherited genes linked to breast cancer, but this is the first study to look at all known breast cancer gene mutations, not just BRCA genes.
Results from a recent study show that directing radiation therapy to the underarm lymph nodes works as well as removing the lymph nodes with surgery and is less likely to cause lymphedema for women with early-stage breast cancer. Lymphedema is the abnormal buildup of fluid (lymph) in the arm, causing swelling that can be painful and limit a person’s movement. It is a common side effect from both surgery and radiation therapy to the underarm lymph nodes.
A recent study comparing five or 10 years of tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Soltamox) therapy for early-stage, estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer showed that continuing tamoxifen for longer than five years further lowers the risk of a breast cancer recurrence (return of the cancer) and death. ER-positive breast cancer uses the hormone estrogen to grow and spread. Tamoxifen is a type of hormonal therapy that blocks the effects of estrogen on tumor growth and has been proven to lower the risk of a breast cancer recurrence and lengthen the lives of women with early-stage breast cancer. Currently, the standard length of tamoxifen therapy is five years, and women start it right after finishing surgery or chemotherapy.
In a recent study, researchers found that the drug sorafenib (Nexavar) keeps metastatic differentiated thyroid cancer from worsening when treatment with radioactive iodine has stopped working. Differentiated thyroid cancer is the most common type of thyroid cancer; it is called “differentiated” because the cancerous thyroid cells look like normal thyroid cells when viewed under a microscope. Metastatic cancer means the thyroid cancer has spread outside of the thyroid.
In a new study, researchers found that adding bevacizumab (Avastin) to first-line (first treatments given) chemoradiation therapy did not lengthen the lives of patients with a common and aggressive type of brain tumor called glioblastoma. Chemoradiation therapy is a combination of chemotherapy, which is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, and radiation therapy, which is the use of high energy x-rays or other particles to kill cancer cells.
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.
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.
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.
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).