Show Preview: Cancer experts get ready to blow into the Windy City for ASCO 2017

World’s largest clinical cancer research meeting to highlight latest advances in patient and survivor care

DDNews Staff
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53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
June 2-6, 2017
McCormick Place, Chicago
Cancer experts get ready to blow into the Windy City
World’s largest clinical cancer research meeting to highlight latest advances in patient and survivor care
Studies spanning the spectrum of cancer prevention and care, from immunotherapy and precision medicine to survivorship, will be among the highlights of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Research results will be released in advance of and throughout the annual meeting, taking place June 2-6 in Chicago, which bears the theme this year of “Making a Difference in Cancer Care With You.”
More than 30,000 oncology professionals from around the world are expected to attend. More than 2,150 abstracts were accepted for presentation at the annual meeting, plus more than 2,890 additional abstracts were accepted for online publication. The vast majority of these abstracts will be publicly posted on after May 17.
ASCO wants you to know that if you think the annual meeting doesn’t kick off until Friday afternoon, you should think again. ASCO has created a slate of pre-annual meeting educational programs that take place prior to the official start of the meeting. The programs consist of both seminars and case-based courses that provide in-depth learning opportunities for attendees. Attendees can register for one seminar or case-based course in addition to their annual meeting registration.
As for programming during the show, here’s what’s in store:
  • Education Sessions: These offer interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary explorations of focused areas of clinical oncology. ASCO’s Cancer Education Committee determines the topics and format for these sessions that will best serve the educational needs of annual meeting attendees. Particular care is taken to ensure that these sessions address issues including surgical, radiation, and geriatric oncology; symptom management; health services research; international perspectives; and pathology, as appropriate.
  • Clinical Problems in Oncology Sessions: These sessions combine the use of case-based panel discussion with interactive keypad technology for audience participation. These sessions are ticketed and require an additional registration fee.
  • Meet the Professor Sessions: These enable interactive discussion between attendees and recognized experts in a variety of subspecialty fields. The format is informal with an emphasis on a face-to-face exchange with the expert. These sessions are ticketed and require an additional registration fee.
  • Plenary Session: The Plenary Session, which takes place June 4 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., includes 15-minute didactic presentations highlighting abstracts of scientific research deemed to have the highest merit and greatest impact on oncology research and practice. Experts in the field will serve as discussants to place research findings into perspective.
  • Oral Abstract Sessions: These include didactic presentations of abstracts representing important clinical and translational research findings by topic category. Presenting authors may use PowerPoint slides to accompany their oral presentation. Experts in the field are chosen to provide comprehensive themed discussions of the findings from predetermined abstracts.
  • Clinical Science Symposia: These provide a forum for science in oncology, providing foundational education on a specific topic with the presentation of abstracts. Experts in the field place studies in the appropriate context based on the strength of the evidence and critically discuss the conclusions in terms of their applicability to clinical practice.
  • Highlights of the Day Sessions: With this offering, ASCO invites expert discussants to present key findings, put abstracts into clinical context and provide an overview of the previous day’s oral abstract sessions.
  • Posters and Poster Discussion Sessions: Here abstracts are displayed in poster format; select posters will be chosen for Poster Discussion Sessions where expert discussants will highlight the most clinically applicable and novel posters, with abstract authors participating as panel members. These sessions will be followed by networking with discussants and authors.
  • Award Lectures: Presented throughout the annual meeting, award lectures recognize distinguished award recipients.
  • Annual Business Meeting: The ASCO Annual Business Meeting is for ASCO members to hear updates on the state of the society.
  • Opening Session: The Opening Session includes the Presidential Address, Guest Speaker’s Address and recognition of fellows of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Founded in 1964, ASCO is committed to making a world of difference in cancer care. As the world’s leading organization of its kind, ASCO represents more than 40,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer.

Researchers and scientists recognized for significant contributions to cancer care
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO (CCF) in March announced the winners of ASCO’s Special Awards, the society’s highest honors, and the CCF Women Who Conquer Cancer Mentorship Award. ASCO will recognize this year’s awardees at the 2017 annual meeting in Chicago.
“The meaningful contributions from each of this year’s honorees are leading to improvements throughout the cancer care continuum,” said Dr. Julie M. Vose, immediate past president of ASCO and chair of the Special Awards Selection Committee. “These oncology leaders are changing the lives of people with, or at risk for, cancer, and ASCO is proud to honor them with our most prestigious awards.”
David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture
First presented in 1970, the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture honors Dr. Karnofsky by recognizing an oncologist who has made outstanding contributions to cancer research, diagnosis and/or treatment. The winner is Dr. Carl H. June, director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies at the Perelman School of Medicine and the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania. He maintains a research laboratory that studies various mechanisms of lymphocyte activation related to immune tolerance and adoptive immunotherapy for cancer and chronic infection. In 2011, his research team published findings detailing a new therapy in which patients with refractory and relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia were treated with genetically engineered versions of their own T cells.
Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award and Lecture
First presented in 2007 and named in honor of cancer research pioneer Gianni Bonadonna, this award recognizes an active clinical and/or translational researcher with a distinguished record of accomplishments in advancing the field of breast cancer and with exceptional mentoring abilities. It goes this year to Dr. Eric P. Winer, who has devoted his professional career to breast cancer research and the treatment of individuals with breast cancer. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and holds several appointments at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Science of Oncology Award and Lecture
Created in 2005, the Science of Oncology Award and Lecture is presented annually in recognition of a recipient’s outstanding contributions to basic or translational research in cancer. Honored this year is Dr. Brian J. Druker, director of the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Druker’s work helped pioneer the practice of precision, or personalized, cancer medicine by performing preclinical studies and leading clinical trials that were instrumental to the development of imatinib, a drug that targets the molecular defect in chronic myeloid leukemia.
Allen S. Lichter Visionary Leader Award and Lecture
Created in 2016, this recognizes a recipient who has drastically changed the oncology field or who has made significant contributions to advance the mission of ASCO, CancerLinQ LLC or the Conquer Cancer Foundation through the honoree’s ability to lead and inspire. The recognition goes to Dr. Patrick J. Loehrer, recognized as a prolific clinical researcher and specialist in the treatment of a variety of cancers including testis, bladder, colon, pancreas and, most notably, thymic. His research on the drug ifosfamide led to its approval by the FDA.
Pediatric Oncology Award and Lecture
First presented in 2002, the Pediatric Oncology Award recognizes the career and achievements of an individual who has contributed outstanding scientific work-laboratory, clinical or epidemiologic-of major importance to the field of pediatric oncology. It goes to Dr. Michael P. Link, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist and the Lydia J. Lee Professor in Pediatric Oncology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. His research interests include the biology and treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphomas and Hodgkin disease, as well as clinical management of bone and soft tissue sarcomas in children.
ASCO-American Cancer Society Award and Lecture
First presented in 1993, the ASCO-ACS Award and Lecture recognizes significant contributions to cancer prevention and control research or practice, and the honoree this year is Dr. Dean E. Brenner, the Kutsche Family Memorial Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. His scientific career has been devoted to translational research in cancer therapeutics with the long-term goal of reducing morbidity and mortality from cancer. To pursue these scientific goals, he has targeted eicosanoids, primarily in the colonic mucosa as mechanistic therapeutic targets and as biomarkers for drugs, nutritional extracts and dietary interventions aimed at reversing or delaying carcinogenesis progression. Because of the dearth of useful endpoints to define preventive therapeutic efficacy, he has emphasized biomarker discovery and validation platforms that enable interrogation of molecular carcinogenesis events in representative models of human biology.
B.J. Kennedy Award and Lecture for Scientific Excellence in Geriatric Oncology
Created in 2007, this award and lectureship recognizes an ASCO member who has made outstanding contributions to the research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the elderly, and in bringing an understanding of geriatric oncology among fellows and junior faculty. This year’s winner is Dr. Jean-Pierre Droz, who has dedicated his work to the integration of geriatric assessment in decision making for treating older people with cancer and was key in the development of geriatric oncology in France and other countries acting through the International Society of Geriatric Oncology.
Distinguished Achievement Award
Created in 2009, this award recognizes leadership or mentorship by a scientist, practitioner or researcher in any subspecialty of oncology that has benefited ASCO members and/or their patients. The winner is Dr. Allen S. Lichter, who served as ASCO’s CEO from 2006 to 2016, has held two significant leadership roles at the University of Michigan and was the director of the Radiation Therapy Section of the NCI’s Radiation Oncology Branch.
Special Recognition Award
Created in 1992, this honors achievements of an individual whose research and innovations have had a transforming and lasting effect in areas of clinical oncology, cancer research, clinical trials or patient advocacy activities, or outstanding long-term service to ASCO and/or to clinical oncology. It goes to Dr. Lowell E. Schnipper, a clinician-scientist and medical educator who is the Theodore W. and Evelyn G. Berenson Professor Emeritus at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Excellence in Teaching Award
First awarded in 2014, the Excellence in Teaching Award recognizes an ASCO member who has had a demonstrable impact on their trainees and who has inspired and shaped the trainee’s practice of cancer medicine. This year’s honoree is Dr. Ross C. Donehower, who has led the hematology oncology fellowship program at Johns Hopkins University, where nearly 90 percent of graduates have taken positions in academic medicine.
Partners in Progress Award
First awarded in 2003, this award recognizes a person involved in patient advocacy activities that have an impact on public awareness about cancer, its causes, cures or treatment, or activities that result in additional support either legislatively or fiscally for cancer research, treatment, prevention or care. It goes to Dr. Susan L. Weiner, founder and director of The Children’s Cause for Cancer Advocacy. Throughout her career, Dr. Weiner has acted as a dedicated advocate for young patients with cancer and their families by pressing for innovative and efficient pediatric oncology drug development, early clinical trials, and quality care for survivors of childhood cancer.
Humanitarian Award
First presented in 2011, the Humanitarian Award recognizes an oncologist who personifies ASCO’s mission and values by going above and beyond the call of duty in providing outstanding patient care through innovative means or exceptional service or leadership in the United States or abroad. It goes to Olufunmilayo I. Olopade, a medical oncologist and international renowned expert in breast cancer, who serves as Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at The University of Chicago. Her laboratory research is focused on defining molecular mechanisms of cancer through studies of genetic and nongenetic factors contributing to tumor progression in at-risk individuals from diverse populations.
Women Who Conquer Cancer Mentorship Award
First presented in 2016, this honors extraordinary female leaders in oncology who have both excelled as mentors and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the professional development of women colleagues as clinicians, educators and researchers in oncology. It goes to Dr. Mary K. Gospodarowicz, the medical director at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and regional vice president of Cancer Care Ontario. Her research interests focus on the role of radiation therapy in lymphomas, prostate cancer, bladder cancer and testis cancer clinical trials.
Also receiving this honor this year is Dr. Elizabeth J. Shpall, a well-known expert in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy. She is currently the medical director of the Cell Therapy Laboratory, the director of the Cord Blood Bank, and deputy chair of the stem cell transplantation and cellular therapy at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

ASCO issues recommendations for reducing cancer disparities among sexual and gender minority populations
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) on March 31 issued recommendations addressing the needs of sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations as they relate to cancer. The recommendations, published in a policy statement in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, are designed to focus attention on the challenges facing the SGM community—including discrimination and greater risk of anxiety and depression, resulting in disparate care—and concrete steps that can help minimize health disparities among SGM individuals.
“Sexual and gender minorities face unique challenges related to cancer risk, discrimination and other psychosocial issues,” said ASCO President Dr. Daniel F. Hayes. “Compounding these challenges is the fact that providers may have a lack of knowledge and sensitivity about the health risks and health needs facing their SGM patients.”
Sexual and gender minorities include those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (also referred to as those with differences in sex development). The statement notes that SGM populations bear a disproportionate cancer burden stemming from several factors, including:
  • Lower rates of cancer screening, in part due to lower rates of insurance coverage, exclusion from traditional screening campaigns and previous experience of discrimination in the healthcare system
  • A hesitancy on the part of SGM patients to disclose their sexual orientation to providers due to a fear of stigmatization, which can create additional barriers to care.
In the statement, which was reviewed by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), ASCO calls for a coordinated effort to address health disparities among SGM populations, including:
  • Increased patient access to culturally competent support services
  • Expanded cancer prevention education for SGM individuals
  • Robust policies prohibiting discrimination
  • Adequate insurance coverage to meet the needs of SGM individuals affected by cancer
  • Inclusion of SGM status as a required data element in cancer registries and clinical trials
  • Increased focus on SGM populations in cancer research.
“Our objective was to raise awareness among oncology providers, patients, policy makers and other stakeholders about the cancer care needs of SGM populations and the barriers that SGM individuals face in getting the highest-quality care,” said Dr. Jennifer J. Griggs, lead author of the statement and professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Hematology & Oncology Division, and Department of Health Management & Policy at the University of Michigan. “To address these barriers, a coordinated effort is needed to enhance education for patients and providers, to improve outreach and support and to encourage productive policy and legislative action.”

ASCO releases position statement on access to investigational drugs
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) strongly supports increasing access to investigational new treatment options for patients with cancer, while raising serious concerns about recently proposed federal “right-to-try” (RTT) legislation as well as enacted state RTT laws. ASCO said these measures lack adequate patient protections and do not remove any of the major barriers patients face in accessing investigational drugs outside of clinical trials. 
“ASCO supports access to investigational drugs outside of clinical trials when adequate patient protections are in place,” said ASCO Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard L. Schilsky. “We don't support right-to-try legislation, however, because these laws ignore key patient protections without actually improving patient access to investigational drugs outside of clinical trials.”
ASCO's position statement, “American Society of Clinical Oncology Position Statement on Access to Investigational Drugs,” asserts that most RTT laws, while well intentioned, are “not an effective mechanism for improving access to investigational drugs for terminally ill patients and may cause unintended harms.”
The FDA offers access to investigational drugs outside of clinical trials—known as expanded access—for individual patients with terminal disease on a case-by-case basis. FDA recently streamlined its expanded access application process, and last year it approved approximately 99.5 percent of expanded access requests, with a median approval time of four days for non-emergency cases. Nevertheless, 33 states have passed RTT laws, which allow patients to request access to investigational treatments from drug manufacturers without the requirement of FDA review. Indeed, recently proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress would prohibit the FDA from restricting access to unapproved products when a patient has a terminal illness and lives in a state with a RTT law.
ASCO supports further improvements to existing mechanisms for expanded access, a number of which are included in the 21st Century Cures Act. These provisions will help simplify access to investigational drugs by requiring drug manufacturers to make information about their expanded access policies and processes readily available to patients and providers.
“New policy initiatives should focus on increasing transparency among pharmaceutical manufacturers’ expanded access policies,” said Schilsky, “while ensuring that existing expanded access programs are timely and efficient for patients and their physicians.”
To address delays in the expanded access process, ASCO supports development of a navigation service to assist patients in submitting requests to manufacturers for investigational drugs. Ideally, an online portal or tool could provide patients and physicians seeking drug access with a universal point-of-entry to facilitate the step-by-step process for obtaining access to investigational agents from drug manufacturers.
ASCO urges all stakeholders to work together to support expanded access programs that include FDA oversight and to promote the optimal functioning of these programs.

DDNews Staff

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