- KRAS might now be treatable with an early-stage Amgen drug.
- Accelerated approval is becoming a strategy for cancer drugmakers.
- Immunotherapy provides long-term benefits.
- Improved tumor-targeting with alphalex technology.
- Kisquali and hormone therapy increase breast cancer survival rates.
What brought 5,000 of the most intellectual and compassionately-driven specialists in the cancer care industry together at ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) 2019?
One could say cancer, but we believe there’s a bigger answer.
Of course, there’s the science-based draw to ASCO 2019—the cancer research, trials, statistics, results, and breakthroughs. But there’s an entirely intangible, underestimated element at play, evident through the audience’s response to this question posed by ASCO President Monica M. Bertagnolli—
“What special area of knowledge do you bring to the Oncology world?”
The words “empathy” and “compassion” repeatedly flashed on the screen as an audience of 40,000 cancer caregivers responded using an automated response tool on their cell phones. According to the ASCO 2019 audience, the most important things they can bring to the world of oncology are empathy and compassion.
The ASCO 2019 opening session, presented by young Malaysian Oncologist Edmond Ang, fell immediately in-line with these responses. He answered the age-old question of “what’s the most important thing in the world” with the wisdom shared by his patients in New Zealand—it is the people, it is the people, it is the people.
We won’t credit cancer for bringing us together at ASCO 2019. We know that the reason we gather at this annual meeting is for people—to learn from people, connect with people, and discover new ways to save more people. Humans beings are the most critical element in our work, and we are powerful—more powerful than cancer—when we come together. To see the impact of compassion, empathy, and coming together, check out the following ASCO 2019 highlights.
Top 5 Highlights from ASCO 2019
- Untreatable? Pshh. KRAS, a common yet treatment-resistant genetic mutation known to drive cancer growth, might now be treatable with an early-stage Amgen drug. Recent trials involved lung cancer patients and hinted that biotech might be able to drug the undruggable—Mirati Therapeutics jumped on the bandwagon in developing a similar KRAS-inhibitor and will release study results later this year. At ASCO 2019, despite decades of setbacks, biotech investors see promise in both drugs.
- Fast-track approvals. Accelerated approval is becoming a strategy for cancer drugmakers. Over the last four years, 17 of 22 treatments granted the early ‘okay’ were cancer treatments. So when time is a sensitive issue and response rates are high to new therapies, it’s difficult to wait for data and make comparisons with other drugs. However, ‘accelerated approval’ has been criticized for utilizing treatments in which data doesn’t fully articulate an improvement in overall survival. Regardless, at ASCO 2019, we see how accelerated approval becomes a trending strategy.
- Benefits of Immunotherapy. Although Keytruda (Merck & Co.’s) & Opdivo (Bristol-Meyers Squibb) were approved about five years ago, ASCO 2019 has provided deeper insight into how well the drug has performed over time. With Keyruda, the survival rate was five percent and improved times four. With Yervoy (Bristol Meyers), the follow-up survival rate was 57 percent. ASCO 2019 shows long-term promise for those who do respond to immunotherapy.
- Improved tumor targeting. Cybrexa released a new technology platform, alphalex, that presents a new way to target HRD-negative cancers without inducing significant bone-marrow toxicity. ASCO 2019 shared this tumor-targeting approach that not only almost completely spared bone marrow but reduced normal tissue toxicity.
- Lengthen lives with breast cancer. The drug, Kisqali, has been approved for treating younger women with advanced breast cancer—but studies show that when combined with hormone therapy, it can extend these patients’ lives. After three point five years, 46 percent of patients given only hormone therapy survived; when given hormone therapy AND Kisquali, 70 percent experienced long-term survival effects and are still alive today.
These highlights reflect on how cancer genomics is moving towards the center stage amidst the most revolutionary cancer care conversations. Of the five advances presented during the plenary session at ASCO 2019, two reported on adult and pediatric trials where DNA changes in their cancers lead patient care. Our healthcare system, including regulators, payers, and providers, are beginning to implement cancer genomics into care. The Food & Drug Administration is working with genomic-based oncology tests. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network considered a gold standard for best practices in cancer care, acknowledges NGS (next-generation sequencing) as a technology to identify genetic variants in eighteen cancer guidelines.
At ASCO 2019, we witnessed empathy, compassion, and cancer genomics gain momentum and move towards the center stage in the most life-changing oncological conversations.