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ASCO Releases Sixth Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer

Calls for Renewed Investment in Nation’s Cooperative Group Program


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The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has released Clinical Cancer Advances 2010: ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer, a critical review of the year’s most important clinical cancer research. This year’s report highlights 12 major advances and 41 notable advances, selected by a 14-person editorial board of prominent oncologists.

“This year’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer highlights those studies that have had the greatest impact on patient care,” says Mark G. Kris, MD, Executive Editor of the report. “Yet much work is still needed to advance clinical cancer research and care. We’re on the verge of great discoveries, but we will not be able to speed the pace of progress without revitalizing the nation’s clinical trial system.”

The report identifies the 12 most important advances, along with 41 other notable advances in prevention, screening, treatment, and survivorship.

In the report, ASCO calls for a doubling of funds for the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Cooperative Group trials program over the next five years. In real terms, funding for the program has actually declined over the past decade, limiting the number and speed of these important studies. ASCO’s report also urges the cancer community to collaborate on implementing the recommendations laid out in the recent Institute of Medicine (IoM) report, “A National Cancer Clinical Trials System for the 21st Century: Reinvigorating the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cooperative Group Program.”

Findings:
Research advances made this past year focus on progress against cancer, hard-to-treat cancers, reducing cancer recurrence, targeted therapies and personalized medicine, quality of life and new drug approvals. Highlights of this year’s report include:

  • Reducing the risk of cancer recurrence: Researchers discovered that a three-week hypofractionated radiation therapy course was just as effective in preventing recurrence as the standard five-week course for women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
  • Enhancing quality of life: Patients with advanced lung cancer who received standard chemotherapy coupled with palliative care immediately after diagnosis lived significantly longer and had a better quality of life than those who were treated with chemotherapy alone.
  • Advances in drug therapies: First-line treatment with FOLFIRINOX – a combination of the chemotherapy drugs 5-fluorouracil, leucovorin, irinotecan and oxaliplatin – resulted in better response rates, progression-free survival and overall survival for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
  • Addressing side effects: Researchers have found that the majority of patients (80 percent) undergoing chemotherapy for cancer suffer from sleep difficulties – a rate approximately two to three times higher than what is seen in the general population. This is a clear area where more awareness is needed so patients can get the additional help they need.
  • Improving progression-free survival in hard-to-treat cancer: Studies found that administering chemotherapy and bevacizumab (Avastin), followed by longer-term treatment with bevacizumab, was the most effective strategy for extending progression-free survival in patients with ovarian cancer.

Additional significant developments discussed in the report include:

  • The discovery that a monoclonal antibody, ipilimumab, improves survival in patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma – a major advance for a very difficult-to-treat cancer.
  • A study showing that the targeted drug crizotinib produces high response rates and shrinks tumors in many patients whose tumors harbor a specific gene mutation in the ALK gene.
  • Findings from an early-stage trial of advanced melanoma showing that a novel gene-targeted therapy, PLX4032, caused tumors to shrink in a majority of patients with a specific BRAF gene mutation.
  • A chemotherapy combination that was found to increase survival in elderly patients with advanced lung cancer, and is well-tolerated by these patients.
  • A report issued by leading U.S. health and cancer organizations showing continued declines in cancer incidence and death rates over recent years.
  • The FDA approvals of cabazitaxel (Jevtana) and sipuleucel-T (Provenge) – a therapeutic vaccine – for metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer.

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Source: American Society of Clinical Oncology, www.asco.org.