A record 43,000 oncologists, researchers, patient advocates, and industry representatives attended the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting—one of the field’s most important conferences. BCRF team members attended this year’s meeting along with BCRF investigators, who took home top awards, presented new findings, and participated in panels and symposia.
Below, we summarize key updates in breast cancer and link to more in-depth BCRF coverage of the meeting.
For the last year, BCRF investigator and Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Eric Winer has served as the 59th president of ASCO—a voluntary position that’s considered a tremendous honor in the field.
Dr. Winer’s deeply moving and personal presidential address opened the meeting and tied in with his presidential theme: “Partnering With Patients: The Cornerstone of Clinical Care and Research.”
Dr. Winer spoke at length about his own experience as a patient, beginning when he was diagnosed with hemophilia at birth. Chronicling his years of treatment and how it influenced his decision to become a doctor, Dr. Winer connected his story to the theme of his ASCO presidency, sharing five lessons for improving the physician-patient relationship with those in the room.
“We may have different struggles, but we all face adversity and can learn and grow from it,” he said in his lecture. “We all have a lived experience that we can draw upon and is relevant to the work that we do as oncologists. Our own narratives can help us form better partnerships.”
Watch or read Dr. Winer’s presidential address here
Among the major breast cancer clinical trials presented at ASCO this year, there was a notable focus on CDK4/6 inhibitors and antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), along with a few other practice-changing results:
Read more about these trials and others presented at ASCO here
At ASCO’s annual meetings, BCRF supports the Dr. Bernard Fisher Memorial Annual Clinical Science Symposium—named in honor of the late researcher who revolutionized breast cancer care through rigorous clinical trials. This year’s symposium was chaired by Dr. Ana Garrido-Castro of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and focused on harnessing the immune response in breast cancer.
BCRF investigators Drs. Kim Blenman and Sherene Loi served as discussion leaders for four presentations given by Drs. Florentine Hilbers (Netherlands Cancer Institute), Daniel Stover (The Ohio State University), Hanna Huebner (University Hospital Erlangen), and Amy Sanders Clark (University Of Pennsylvania).
Among the symposium’s highlights were presentations on stromal tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (sTILs) as a potential important biomarker in metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Hilbers provided updates on the BCRF-supported AURORA projects, the largest global effort to improve our understanding of metastatic breast cancer. She and her team are characterizing the microenvironment of lesions in primary and metastatic breast cancer and have thus far found that sTILs were decreased in metastatic lesions compared to primary tumors, depending on where they were in the body.
Researchers also noted that in triple-negative breast cancer, high sTILs were associated with longer overall survival, and that artificial intelligence and machine learning tools may improve TILs scoring for this promising new direction in metastasis research.
Obesity is associated with a higher risk of recurrence and death after a breast cancer diagnosis—making research to further understand this link and devise interventions critical.
Dr. Jennifer Ligibel of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute presented the latest results from the phase 3 BCRF-supported Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) clinical trial assessing the impact of a telephone-based weight loss intervention on invasive disease-free survival. The study involved patients with overweight and obesity (as measured by a BMI of 27 or greater) who were diagnosed with stage 2 or 3 hormone receptor (HR)-positive/HER2-negative breast cancer or triple-negative breast cancer.
Dr. Ligibel’s research team observed that trial participants lost 4.8 percent of their body weight after six months and maintained this loss at 12 months compared to the control group. Now that the investigators have proven the telephone-based intervention was effective, they will continue to measure the impact of weight loss intervention on invasive disease–free survival and other outcomes through follow-up with trial participants.
As in years past, BCRF investigators were among those honored with special awards at this year’s meeting for their impact on cancer research. For his pioneering basic research, Dr. Alan Ashworth received the Science of Oncology Award, and Dr. Angela DeMichele took home the Gianni Bonadonna Breast Cancer Award for work to change how the disease is treated and diagnosed.
Drs. Ashworth and DeMichele were invited to give award lectures at ASCO this year, and both stressed the importance of collaboration and team science throughout their careers.
Additionally, four BCRF investigators became ASCO fellow distinctions, and Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, former BCRF investigator and current National Cancer Institute director, received the Lichter Visionary Leader Award—another prestigious honor.
Read BCRF’s coverage of these awards here
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