Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology

Research Summaries

Using the drop-down menu below, read about highlighted scientific news for patients from ASCO's Annual Meetings, Symposia, and medical journals for the past three years. 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.

The next ASCO Annual Meeting will be held May 30-June 3, 2014. To read the Annual Meeting summaries compiled into a yearly newsletter, you can also review Research Round Up: News for Patients from the ASCO Annual Meeting. Don’t forget to check out audio podcasts and videos about this news, as well. And a list of upcoming Symposia can be found here. And, in addition to the highlighted studies below, thousands of scientific abstracts are released each year at different ASCO meetings. To search the entire collection of meeting abstracts, visit ASCO's website.

June 3, 2013

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.

June 3, 2013

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.

June 2, 2013

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.

June 2, 2013

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.

June 2, 2013

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.

June 2, 2013

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.

June 2, 2013

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.

June 1, 2013

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.

June 1, 2013

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.

June 1, 2013

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.

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