The eagle has . . . . . landed? ASCO12 Day 1

Lots of delays arriving at the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago which included Christopher P. Adams, Ph.D. – a colorectal cancer survivor, economist at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and guest blogger who along with Fight CRC team Carlea Bauman, Kim Ryan and Anjee Davis is sharing the ASCO conference experience. Take it away Chris . . .



My first day at ASCO got off to an inauspicious start with a delay leaving DC for Chicago. I then spent hours waiting in the cold for the shuttle, finally giving up and taking a taxi. When I arrived at McCormick Place I realized I was not alone as hundreds of taxis lined up to drop people into the cavernous convention center. Apparently the President of the United States had disrupted pathways from the hotels to the conference center.

On arrival, my first tasks were to get my lanyard and bag. I was hoping that my bag would come with a useful map, but no luck so I then has to work out where the heck I was in relation to where I wanted to go. I wanted to head to a special poster session for colorectal cancer, but for the life of me I couldn’t seem to find out where E450 was. No signs were pointing to the E building. In desperation I just picked a direction. Luckily it was a good choice and I found my session.

The poster session was set of about 30 studies that had been picked out by the organizers for some special treatment. I walked around and looked at the posters and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to sound intelligent while talking to the presenters. At the end of the poster session there was a “discussion” of the various posters by famous scientists (I assume). I knew I was in the right place when I spotted my doctor come into the auditorium (my wife thinks I’m stalking him, it is not true although I was tempted to follow when I saw him get up to go to the bathroom and I did eventually catchup with him on an escalator in a hotel in another part of the city, but I’m definitely not stalking him).

The posters covered a range of important issues in colon cancer research including the early trials of new or new combinations of targeted therapies for patients with metastatic disease. Of most interest to me were the retrospective studies taking a closer look genetic mutations to determine risks and effectiveness of various therapies. These studies are made possible by doctors and patients who had the foresight 10 years ago to donate tissue samples. One speaker thanked the patients who allowed their tumor samples to be taken. Another pointed to important results from these samples even in trials that had found negative results for the drug they were testing.

I had the opportunity to chat with a young researcher who was looking back at the use of chemotherapy for stage 2 patients. While on the whole such therapy may not be effective, initial analysis suggested certain therapies were in fact effective for some groups of stage 2 patients. Moreover, standard tests could be used to work who those patients were. Another study on gene expression tests, suggested that for some stage 3 patients there was little to no benefit to the standard of care and such patients may be needlessly exposing themselves to side-effects such as neuropathy. Again the study suggested tests for determining for which patients such treatments were unnecessary.

It was a long but I think productive first day at ASCO.

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