Best of ASCO18: key takeaways and the practice-changing talks

Presentations from this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting (ASCO, 1–5 June 2018, IL, USA) have unearthed a wealth of exciting data across the oncology spectrum. We have brought together our top takeaways from the 5 days of ASCO 2018.

From the thousands of presentations, which ones have been the most impactful?

The theme of this year’s ASCO meeting was ‘Delivering Discoveries, Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine’. From breast to lung cancer we saw great strides made in this area, as many key presentations highlighted that chemotherapy should not always be the default option.

A prime example of this was the TAILORx study. It dominated the headlines at ASCO this year, revealing that most women with a specific early-stage breast cancer and midrange score on the Oncotype Dx test do not need chemotherapy after surgery. These findings will spare thousands of women from the harmful effects of chemotherapy. Read more here.

We spoke with Genomic Health (CA, USA), who designed the Oncotype Dx assay, to discover insider details of the trial and what’s next for TAILORx. Keep an eye out for the interview, which will be coming soon.

Game-changing lung cancer data presentations

Meanwhile, there were also several game-changing presentations in the field of lung cancer. In particular we saw that checkpoints inhibitors could replace chemotherapy as a front-line treatment.

One of the most prominent trials was KEYNOTE-042. This is the largest clinical trial for pembrolizumab as a standalone therapy and demonstrated pembrolizumab to be more effective in most patients with advanced NSCLC, in comparison to the current standard-of-care, namely, chemotherapy. Full news story here.

Another pivotal lung cancer trial presented at ASCO was KEYNOTE-407, which found that pembrolizumab significantly improved overall survival and progression-free survival, in combination with carboplatin-paclitaxel or nab-paclitaxel, as a first-line treatment for squamous NSCLC.

“This trial is clearly a win,” commented Charles G. Drake from the Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (NY, USA, adding that the pembrolizumab/chemotherapy combination will become a new frontier standard-of-care. You can access the full news story here.

Rare cancer advancements

A rare cancer advancement also stood out at this year’s meeting; the novel chemotherapy strategy improved cure rates for a rare muscle tissue cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma.  The treatment strategy involves adding 6 months of low-dose maintenance chemotherapy after initial treatment

“We have been treating rhabdomyosarcoma the same way for more than 30 years, and although different approaches have been tried, this is the first randomized trial in rhabdomyosarcoma to show improved outcomes,” explained lead study author Gianni Bisogno from the University Hospital of Padova and the European Paediatric Soft tissue Sarcoma Study Group (both Italy).

Our ambassador and sarcoma expert, Robin Jones from the Royal Marsden (London, UK) is currently writing an editorial on the significance of this study, so make sure to keep an eye out!

Pancreatic cancer also experienced a major win when a rare advance was made in its treatment with the development of the FOLFIRIOX regimen; the four-drug chemotherapy combination dramatically improved survival compared with standard gemcitabine as postoperative therapy for resected pancreatic cancer patients.

“The FOLFIRINOX regimen should be considered the new standard of care after pancreatic cancer resection in patients with good performance status,” explained lead author Thierry Conroy from the Institut de Cancerologie de Lorraine (Nancy, France).

Remember you can catch-up on the biggest headlines from ASCO on our news page:

Our daily update posts will also provide you with the biggest news from each day of the meeting:

Day 1 update: Prostate cancer – abiraterone and chemo studies

Day 2 update: LOXO-292 and blood test for early-stage lung cancer

Day 3 update: TAILORx & KEYNOTE-042

Day 4 update: PREOPANC-1, PRODIGE 7 and ASPECT