Feb 08, 2019 9:00 AM

A woman in a lab coat looks into a microscope at Huntsman Cancer Institute

HCI Researchers Contribute to ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently published Clinical Cancer Advances, their 2019 annual report on the progress against cancer. The report examines the most transformative research of the past year and looks ahead to future research priorities.

“Progress is moving at a quicker pace than ever before,” says Monica Bertagnolli, MD, ASCO President, in the report. “From new success with immunotherapies and targeted therapies, to new insights for molecular diagnostics and the microbiome, we’ve seen truly impactful advances in many types of cancer, especially in rare cancers.”

The report was developed under the direction of a 20-plus person editorial board of experts in different oncology subspecialities, including two physician-scientists from Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). Neeraj Agarwal, MD, professor of medicine, is an oncologist who treats genitourinary cancers and leads multiple clinical trials at HCI. N. Lynn Henry, MD, associate professor of oncology, specializes in the care of patients with all stages of breast cancer.

ASCO named progress in treating rare cancers as their Advance of the Year. In the United States, rare cancers account for about 20% of all cancers diagnosed each year. ASCO reports these five significant studies offer important advances for rare cancers:

  • A new combination of targeted therapies for a rare, hard-to-treat form of thyroid cancer produced responses in more than two thirds of patients.
  • Sorafenib became the first treatment to improve progression-free survival for desmoid tumors, a rare type of sarcoma.
  • A new therapy that delivers targeted radiation to tumor cells, lutetium-177 (177Lu)–Dotatate, lowered the risk of disease progression or death by 79% for patients with advanced somatostatin receptor-positive midgut neuroendocrine tumors, compared with standard treatment.
  • Trastuzumab, a standard treatment for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)–positive breast cancer, significantly slowed progression of HER2-positive uterine serous carcinoma.
  • The first promising therapy—the colony-stimulating factor-1 (CSF-1) inhibitor pexidartinib—for a rare cancer of the joints known as tenosynovial giant cell tumor showed an overall response rate of 39.3% in patients taking pexidartinib versus 0% in patients taking a placebo.

Along with these discoveries, there were major advances in some of today’s most significant areas of cancer research:

  • In molecular diagnostics, the TAILORx breast cancer study offered reprieve from chemotherapy for as many as 70% of women with hormone receptor-positive, nod-negative breast cancer.
  • In immunotherapy, advances expanded to cancers in which there have been few immunotherapy treatment successes. A new combination immunotherapy was approved as the new standard of care for patients with renal cell cancer, and an investigational PD-1 inhibitor showed promise for advanced squamous cell cancer of the skin.
  • In targeted therapies, new medicines were introduced to delay the progression of breast and lung cancers.
  • In the field of microbiome research, scientists identified specific bacteria possibly associated with risk for certain head and neck cancers.

Finally, the editors of the report identified future research priorities critical to improving patient care and outcomes:

  • Identify strategies that better predict response to immunotherapies
  • Better define the patient populations that benefit from postoperative (adjuvant) therapy
  • Translate innovations in cellular therapies to solid tumors
  • Increase precision medicine research and treatment approaches in pediatric cancers
  • Optimize care for older adults with cancer
  • Increase equitable access to cancer clinical trials
  • Reduce the long-term consequences of cancer treatment
  • Reduce obesity and its impact on cancer incidence and outcomes
  • Identify strategies to detect and treat premalignant lesions

Read ASCO’s full report at asco.org/cca.

Learn about clinical research at HCI at huntsmancancer.org/clinicaltrials.


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