Research

ASCO 2016 Focuses on Precision Medicine

By Lena Huang

Courtesy of NHGRI

Precision medicine was a main focus at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual meeting, themed “Collective Wisdom: The Future of Patient-Centered Care and Research.” The meeting took place June 3–7 in Chicago and attracted over 30,000 oncologists and healthcare providers.

Some precision medicine highlights of the meeting were:

•   In a phase 2 trial that matches patients with targeted treatments based on molecular testing of their tumors, 29 patients with advanced cancers responded to treatments not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their cancer types. Researchers focused on patients with molecular abnormalities in HER2, BRAF, Hedgehog, or EGFR pathways to match with a variety of targeted treatments, and enrolled 129 patients with 12 different types of advanced cancers. The study, called MyPathway, continues to recruit patients across the country.

•  A liquid biopsy study deemed “one of the largest cancer genomics studies ever conducted” examined blood samples from over 15,000 patients with 50 different tumor types. Researchers found genetic changes in the blood were close to those identified in traditional tumor biopsies. Liquid biopsies examine the circulating tumor DNA in blood and are being studied as an alternative to repeated tissue biopsies since only a blood draw is needed. Researchers also identified possible treatment options, both FDA-approved and/or in clinical trial, for almost two-thirds of the patients tested based on the genetic changes in their blood.

•  Since many metastatic breast cancer patients reside in cities where genomic studies are not being conducted, researchers launched a direct-to-patient initiative, called the Metastatic Breast Cancer Project, through social media, advocates, and other channels to increase participation in studies that researchers hope will lead to better treatments for the disease. Since October 2015, over 2,000 patients have enrolled and 95 percent of those patients have provided detailed information about their cancers and their treatments. Researchers are using this data, combined with collecting tumor and saliva samples, to understand the biology of metastatic breast cancer to accelerate development of treatments. Similar direct-to-patient initiatives in other cancer types will be launched in the near future.

•  Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the ASCO meeting on June 6. He announced the formation of the Genomic Data Commons (GDC), a public database that will provide researchers free access to genomic and clinical data to improve care and advance the development of treatments. The GDC will start with data from 12,000 patients and will be overseen by the National Cancer Institute. It is part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, a program led by Biden to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.

For more ASCO news and information, visit www.asco.org.