American Society of Clinical Oncology releases annual report on the best advances in cancer treatment
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released their review of the latest advances in cancer research that have shown the greatest impact on patient care during the past year. The Clinical Cancer Advances 2011: ASCO’s Annual Report on Progress Against Cancer also identified the most promising trends in oncology and explains where the group believes cancer treatment is heading.
The focus of this year’s advances focuses on those treatments most effective in reducing the reappearance of cancer, improvements against hard-to-treat cancers, and developments in preventive measures. Several recently approved drugs, for example, are able to target specific genetic subgroups of patients with cancer.
The results of a Phase III study for Zelboraf (vemurafenib), which has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of BRAF V600E, was nominated as one of the top 5 advances in this year’s report. Zelboraf is the world’s first personalized medical treatment to help people with mutation-positive BRAF V600E, a deadly form of melanoma that is usually inoperable. The treatment was shown to improve the survival rate of patients with this form of cancer compared to those who underwent traditional chemotherapy treatments.
The first hard-to-treat therapy approved by the FDA in the report was Crizotinib (Xalkori). It is aimed at dealing with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer that is associated with a specific type of defect in the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene. The results from clinical trials showed that 50 percent of patients displayed partial or complete shrinkage of tumors within an average period of 10 months, while 61 percent displayed reductions in a period of 12 months.
The second treatment lauded by ASCO was Ipilimumab (Yervoy), which is an immune therapy for treating patients with previously untreated metastatic melanoma. Ipilimumab stimulates a patient’s immune system’s T cells to increase the response of the immune system. It shows the most benefits when used in combination with dacarbazine, a common chemotherapy drug. The combination of the drugs resulted in an increase in survival time by 2 months.
ASCO also recognized an innovative technique developed to treat lung cancer patients that was able to decrease death rates by 20 percent. The treatment was developed through a nation-wide screening of more than 50,000 current and former heavy smokers. During these screenings, researchers were able to detect lung cancer formations that were smaller in size and earlier in stage by using low-dose spiral computed tomography versus traditional chest radiography examinations. A reduction in the mortality rate from lung cancer couldn’t come at a better time; as the number of people smoking in developing countries rises, many experts believe lung cancer rates will jump considerably in the coming years.
The group mentioned that evidence showed an aromatase inhibitor (AI) could reduce the risk of a woman developing a first case of breast cancer. The AIs serve to inhibit the conversion of androgen to estrogen, which would prevent breast tissue from being stimulated by estrogen. The decrease in production is a way of preventing the development or recurrence of breast tumor tissue. This would be a highly effective treatment option for postmenopausal women since they are at high risk of developing breast cancer.
In addition to these recent advancements in cancer treatments, the ASCO sought to improve clinical cancer research in the U.S. In their supplemental report “Accelerating Progress Against Cancer," the group provides guidelines for transforming clinical and translational research into a more effective process. Their vision is to shorten the overall process from initial discovery to the development of new therapies. The ASCO hopes that their new recommendations will help lay the groundwork for developing better cancer treatment over the next decade.