BCRF shares highlights from the first day of ASCO’s 2017 Annual Meeting.

The 53rd annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Oncology officially kicked off Saturday, June 3. Over 38,000 oncology professionals and stakeholders in the future of cancer care from 120 nations are in attendance, making this the largest ASCO annual meeting to date.

A battle against the Emperor of All Maladies

The opening ceremony included guest speaker Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book  The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and more recently, The Gene, An Intimate History. Dr. Mukherjee’s talk highlighted key tenants of modern medicine that have emerged in the 10 years since Emperor of All Maladies was published. In particular, that:

  • Targeting unique cancer vulnerabilities especially with combination therapies is successful in many cases, but not all;
  • Targeting the tumor microenvironment including immune factors is possible and effective for some cancers;
  • Early therapy, particularly definitive local therapy is more effective than late therapy.

These tenets, he emphasized, are not yet generalizable across cancers, and there is much work to be done. Cancer medicine he said is in its adolescence and precision medicine is in its infancy. Dr. Mukherjee expressed profound optimism for the future but stressed responsibility of the oncology community to provide patients a different cancer experience by:

  • Rationally deploying what we’ve learned in compassionate and comprehensive cancer care;
  • Finding ways to identify those patients who will do well with less treatment

President’s Address on Making a Difference in Cancer Care:

The theme of this year’s meeting, which was hosted by outgoing ASCO president and BCRF investigator, Dr. Daniel Hayes is “Making a Difference in Cancer Care.” He emphasized ASCO’s commitment to empowering it’s 40,000 plus membership of cancer care professionals in addressing the challenges of the future.

In his president’s address, Dr. Hayes highlighted the advances in cancer care that he has witnessed over his 35 year career as a medical oncologist, noting that “We are curing some cancers, but we don’t cure enough of them fast enough.” He emphasized the following priorities in achieving his vision of making a difference in cancer care:

  • Research: Closing the funding gap to ensure that we realize the promises of precision medicine in cancer care;
  • Education: Ensuring the next generation of highly trained cancer researchers and oncologists;
  • Access to care: Ensuring access to evidence-based quality care for all who need it;
  • Survivorship: Ensuring that every cancer patient enjoys a healthy life after cancer treatment

BCRF Highlights of the Day

Every year ASCO announces new inductees into the Fellows of ASCO. BCRF congratulates the following BCRF investigators and new FASCO Fellows:

  • Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
  • Dr. James Ford, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  • Dr. Arti Hurria, City of Hope, Duarte, CA
  • Dr. Hope Rugo, University of California, San Francisco, CA

Dr. Funmi Olopade was named the 2017 ASCO Humanitarian Award Recipient in recognition of her global work in health disparities and health equity and cancer prevention. In her award lecture, Dr. Olopade emphasized the need to diversify the workforce in order to achieve health equity and to democratize access to affordable health care globally.

Dr. Eric Winer is the recipient of the 2017 Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award. In his award lecture, he highlighted the tremendous progress in treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer which was a lethal disease prior to the development of trastuzumab (Herceptin®). In spite of the success in HER2-targeted therapies, he said, there are prevailing challenges including:

  • Avoiding overtreatment: Appropriate biomarkers are needed to personalize treatments;
  • Brain metastasis: Developing better treatments to target the most common site of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer;
  • Resistance to therapy: Developing rational combination therapies to prevent resistant and effectively cure the disease.

Stay tuned as we continue to provide updates from the ASCO Annual Meeting.

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