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50 Years of progress in cancer ... and more to come at ASCO's annual meeting

BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | MAY 30, 2014

Elizabeth Whittington blog image

Starting today, more than 30,000 professionals in the oncology field are gathering in Chicago for the largest cancer research meeting in the world. Organizers predict it to be a record attendance this year, which also mark the organization's 50th anniversary of the annual meeting.

With five days of abstracts, presentations and meetings, it can be a little overwhelming.

Clifford Hudis, ASCO president and chief of the breast cancer medicine service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, led off the opening press conference today by mentioning the progress we've made in the past 50 years – that 2 out of 3 people now live at least five years after receiving a cancer diagnosis, the death rate has dropped, and people have a much better quality of life during and after cancer. It's real progress, he says, but there are many more challenges left to overcome.

I'm always amazed at how much information is disseminated in only five days, in the forms of poster abstracts, presentations, press conferences, exhibits and off-site meetings. This is also a chance for oncologists and researchers to collaborate and talk amongst themselves about clinical trials they're working on, what they are doing to help individual patients and treatment strategies. Meetings can start as early as 6:30 in the morning or end in the late hours of the day.

We at CURE will do our best over the next several days to bring you highlights and commentary from the meeting, as well as interviews with experts and a look into what cancer research has on the horizon for patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates.

While the meeting officially begins Friday afternoon, the Plenary Session on Sunday will reveal results of the top abstracts chosen by the ASCO committee. Those studies, which highlight research in breast, colorectal and prostate cancer, will hopefully hold good news and be helpful in patients who are currently being treated for those types of cancer.

Based on the released abstract titles, the studies may answer the following questions: Does a common aromatase inhibitor work better than tamoxifen in young women with hormone-positive, early-stage breast cancer? http://abstracts.asco.org/144/AbstView_144_129398.html

In newly metastatic, hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, does adding chemotherapy to hormone therapy improve overall survival for patients? http://abstracts.asco.org/144/AbstView_144_127755.html

Does adding either Avastin (bevacizumab), a targeted therapy that blocks blood vessel growth to tumors, or Xeloda (cetuximab) to standard chemotherapy improve survival in patients with newly diagnosed metastatic colorectal cancer? http://abstracts.asco.org/144/AbstView_144_126013.html

In patients with HER-positive breast cancer, which treatment regimen works best: Tykerb (lapatinib) alone, Herceptin (trastuzumab) alone, Herceptin followed by Tykerb or a combination of the two? Because they both target HER2, but in different ways, many have wondered if using both will improve outcome. This will be the first results from the phase 3 trial, which is why there is so much interest in the outcome. http://abstracts.asco.org/144/AbstView_144_128258.html

Results of these studies will be available Sunday morning through the abstract links listed above.

In addition to these studies, we will also keep an eye out for advances in other cancers, survivorship and quality of life issues, as well as other aspects of cancer care. We will be blogging from ASCO, and CURE will include coverage in our upcoming Summer issue in mid-June and in CURExtra, our online newsletter (sign up here).

You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #ASCO14.

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