Each year, oncologists around the globe gather to review the latest in scientific breakthroughs and present new research at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Scientific Meeting. This year’s conference was held virtually (thanks COVID) on June 4-8, 2021.
In breast cancer there were several exciting presentations that I want to highlight:
- In phase 3 clinical trial OlympiA, women and men with HER2-negative early breast cancer who had a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation were randomly assigned to take the drugLynparza (olaparib), a PARP inhibitor, for one year, while others were given a placebo. The patients who took olaparib were found to have a lower risk of having breast cancer come back somewhere else in the body (metastases) by 7%. This is likely practice-changing, although the medicine will still need to be approved for this indication before it is ready for widespread prescribing.
- Researchers presented results from several studies looking at genomic assays, tests that look at the genes of the tumor itself. Some of these trials were designed to predict which patients would benefit from a longer course of hormonal therapy, while another trial looked at whether some patients could omit hormonal therapy completely. Although no clear answers emerged, it was a ray of hope of moving toward “less is more” and more personalized treatment for hormonal therapy.
- We saw results from long-term follow-up from studies of two of the three CDK4/6 inhibitors that confirmed these medicines improve survival for persons with metastatic hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer. The CDK4/6 inhibitors — abemaciclib, palbociclib, and ribociclib — are the standard of care for first-line treatment for these patients.
- A study led by patient advocates explored how patients feel about dose reductions and dose modifications of their cancer treatment, even when limited information is available about that modification. Overall, the study showed that patients are very receptive to “me-sizing” their cancer drugs if it helps reduce side effects.
I always leave the ASCO Annual meeting hopeful about the questions the breast cancer community is working to answer. This year, there was clear momentum towards decreasing “collateral damage,” as Dr. Love likes to say while improving cancer survival.