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.
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.
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.
This study included a range of specialists who were part of the Duffey Pain and Palliative team of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. The team of two nurses, a social worker, a palliative care doctor, a pharmacist, a nutritionist, and a chaplain help manage a patient’s symptoms and provide emotional support for patients before, during, and after hospitalization.
An analysis of information provided by oncology practices participating in the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®) showed that the practices were able to improve the quality of care provided to patients between 2006 and 2010. QOPI® is a national program designed to measure the care provided to patients so each doctor's office or treatment center that participates in the program can use that information to improve the cancer care they provide.
A large study on a new real-time performance tracking system showed that this system was able to improve the quality of care provided to patients with breast and colon cancers. Researchers also found that using this system reduced differences in cancer care related to age, race, and lack of health insurance. Developed by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons, the Rapid Quality Reporting System (RQRS) monitors whether treatment centers adhere to five specific standards of quality care for breast and colon cancer. It uses current information on the care patients are receiving, instead of information from the past, to improve how patients are cared for in the treatment centers using RQRS.
Women who have a higher risk of the cancer developing in the other breast often have at least two first-degree relatives with breast or ovarian cancer and/or have changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. In this survey, women who had those risk factors were more likely to choose CPM. However, worry about recurrence also caused women to choose CPM, as 90% of women who received CPM said they were “very worried about recurrence” compared with 80% of women who received a mastectomy for only the breast with cancer.
Using a specialized 21-gene test of a breast tumor’s genes, researchers found that the result, called a Recurrence Score (RS), predicted the prognosis (chance of recovery) for patients with estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer that has spread to the axillary (underarm) lymph nodes. Previous studies have shown that these 21 genes help predict the risk of recurrence (cancer that comes back after treatment) and the risk of death from cancer for women with breast cancer that has not spread to the axillary lymph nodes.
In a recent study, researchers found that a new device called MarginProbe helps make sure enough tissue is removed during a lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is the removal of the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue, called a margin, during an operation. Currently, surgeons often have to wait one or two weeks to find out if the tissue around the tumor that was removed during surgery contains cancer cells. Because of this, up to 40% of women who have had a lumpectomy need to have more surgeries to remove this additional cancerous tissue.