Society researchers present at prestigious international conference

03 June 2014

Toronto -

The most promising cancer treatments are in the spotlight at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, considered the premier educational and scientific event in the clinical cancer research community and attracting thousands of researchers from all over the world. The meeting takes place May 30 to June 3 in Chicago.

The following highlights study submissions from the NCIC Clinical Trials Group (NCIC CTG), which is supported by core funding from the Canadian Cancer Society. The NCIC CTG is a highly respected research group that develops, conducts and analyzes national and international trials on cancer prevention, treatment and supportive care. The NCIC CTG has led trials that have changed clinical practice across Canada and around the world.

Gene profile predicts response to breast cancer treatment

A breast cancer clinical trial found that the genetic profile called PAM50 can predict a patient’s relapse-free survival (the length of time following treatment without any evidence of the cancer). The finding means that oncologists can use the PAM50 genetic test to determine which patients will benefit most from the chemotherapy treatments CEF, EC/T or AC/T. The study is led in Canada by Dr Mark Levine in Hamilton, Ontario, and Dr Margot Burnell in Saint John, New Brunswick.

New therapy for hard-to-treat pancreatic cancer

Combining the drugs gemcitabine and erlotinib improves overall survival for pancreatic cancer patients who have low blood levels of the proteins IL-8, CEA or HIF-1, according to a clinical trial coordinated by the NCIC CTG and led by Dr Malcolm Moore in Toronto. The study also found that patients with lower IL-8 alone had improved overall survival when treated with gemcitabine alone. As pancreatic cancer often has a poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early, identifying more effective ways to treat the disease is crucial.

Biomarkers influence treatment, survival for fast-growing breast cancer

A protein called HER2/neu is found in unusually high amounts in approximately 1 in 5 breast cancer patients and plays an important role in cancer growth and spread. A clinical trial compared the effectiveness of lapatinib or trastuzumab each given with chemotherapy for patients with elevated levels of HER/neu. The researchers determined the influence of a set of biomarkers on the effectiveness of 2 treatment options. The trial found that elevated levels of the estrogen receptor biomarker was associated with longer progression-free survival, while elevated levels of another biomarker, the CK5 protein, had shorter progression-free survival. This finding will help clinicians more effectively identify which patients will benefit most from treatment toward longer progression-free survival. The trial was coordinated by the NCIC CTG and led by Dr Karen Gelmon in Vancouver.

Treating aggressive lung cancer

A clinical trial found that patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer who have not responded to standard therapy responded well to treatment with the drug dacomitinib compared to a placebo. The trial also found that patients taking the drug had longer progression-free survival.

Although there was no improvement in overall survival for most patients, a small subgroup with a mutation in the KRAS gene did experience improvement. The researchers concluded that these findings call for further exploration of dacomitinib to determine specific subgroups of patients who respond best to this treatment. The trial involved 720 patients ranging in age from 32 to 90. The drug dacomitinib may stop the growth of tumour cells by blocking some of the enzymes needed for cell growth. The trial was coordinated by the NCIC CTG and led by Dr Peter Ellis in Hamilton, Ontario.

Quality of life research findings underused

Quality of life results are often reported in clinical trials but a new study shows that most oncologists are not using these outcomes to guide their clinical decisions.

An international survey involving the NCIC CTG and clinical trials groups from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand asked respondents about their perceptions of quality of life results, how they used the results in clinical practice, barriers and facilitators to using the results, and preferences for the presentation of results in publications.

While most respondents said that quality of life outcomes were useful, more than 50% reported not using the results to help guide their clinical decisions. The barriers to using the information were lack of time (67%) and concerns about how to generalize the results (68%). The respondents suggested that including a summary of clinical implications with study results (76%), clear descriptions of missing data (86%) and joint publication of quality of life and clinical outcomes (96%) could assist them with integrating these results into clinical practice.