Andi’s Highlights on ASCO 2014



by Andi Dwyer, Director of Health Promotion, Fight Colorectal Cancer

Working in the cancer prevention and survivorship field for nearly ten years, I was elated to attend my first ASCO.  However, nothing prepared me for the 35,000 people from throughout the world, gathered to unveil the latest in ‘all things’ cancer.  I came in with a notion this was a research conference; I discovered, it was so much more.

Policy, advocacy, pharmaceutical, basic research and clinical/medical science from the entire planet, collided into a single city for a solid four days.  It was intense and complete with opportunity and challenge but none-the-less, a guide for this year and beyond.

ASCO info about Biomarkers

Personalized medicine and implications of Biomarkers are blowing up the field.  The known RAS biomarkers that are yielding medical and clinical implication now are just the beginning of what is to come.  Newly AND previously diagnosed patients may learn about their course of therapy based on reserved biopsy samples once tested for biomarker status.  Results from a large phase III trial presented at Sunday’s Plenary Session noted that bevacizumab or cetuximab, in combination with either FOLFOX or FOLFIRI chemotherapy, yielded similar overall survival outcomes in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer and no KRAS mutations.  This study helps us think about Biomarkers in concert with other drugs and the influence of treatment.  We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg with KRAS.

Adjuvant Therapy with FOLFOX

Another exciting advancement came from the phase II ADORE study, presented during Monday’s Oral Abstract Session.  This study noted that adjuvant therapy with FOLFOX significantly improves 3-year disease-free survival (DFS) compared with adjuvant 5-FU/LV alone in patients with Stage II or III rectal cancer who were treated after preoperative chemoradiotherapy and surgery.  The combination of therapies and impact were nearly present in every discussion of cancer treatment.  The question is-where is the potential and how do we unlock it?

Both studies really speak to the caliber of science in action and indication we have established high quality standards in colorectal cancer research.  No denying the profoundness of findings when 5,000 smartphones pop up to snap a pic of the summary slide.

What Will Happen? What’s Our Role?

But beyond the treatment aspects and basic science, were questions about other types of impact.  Quality of Life and Cost.  What will we do with informed consent and clinical reaction to adverse reactions to therapy as noted in the phase III trial where skin toxicity was noted?  How will we address the gaps in care that Dr. Patti Ganz, noted on Monday?  And further, address the fiscal burden to each patient as she cited the expected jump in cancer care costs from $72 to $173 billion between 1994 and 2020, (2013 IOM report).  What about changes in treatment approach like chemotherapy in pill form and impact on cancer care and cost?

Towards the end of Monday, I looked at the thousands of people moving between sessions, coffee stands and exhibits and imagined the lives they would change based on information imparted at this 50th year of ASCO.  Further wondering about their role, my role and your role in that change, there is great opportunity to be engaged and to support the fight against colorectal cancer.

If you want to be a research advocate please let us know, contact us here.

Biomarker Testing for the Colorectal Cancer Patient

Biomarker Fact Sheet

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