University of Chicago Medicine Plays Major Role at ASCO 2013

American Society of Clinical Oncology plenary

Physicians and scientists from the University of Chicago Medicine will play major roles at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 Annual Meeting, the largest assembly of the world’s professional cancer community, beginning Friday, May 31, at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

The annual conference is expected to bring together more than 30,000 oncology professionals from a broad range of specialties worldwide. It is among the largest medical gatherings in the United States. The meeting offers four and a half days of scientific presentations and comprehensive educational content for cancer care specialists and oncology researchers.

The University of Chicago has strong ties to the American Society of Oncology (ASCO). Since ASCO was founded in 1964, four members of UChicago faculty—John Ultmann, MD, Samuel Hellman, MD, Harvey Golomb, MD, and Richard Schilsky, MD—have served as its president. Schilsky is now ASCO’s chief medical officer, and pediatric oncologist Susan Cohn, MD, is its treasurer.

Seven of ASCO’s major educational sessions this year will feature UChicago Medicine physicians:

  • Blase Polite, MD, MPH, will chair a session on diminishing the impact of race, age, and expertise as factors in patient outcome.
  • Tanguy Seiwert, MD, and Kerstin Stenson, MD, each will lead sessions on the science and clinical care of head and neck cancer.
  • Hedy Kindler, MD, and Katja Gwin, MD, PhD, each will head discussions of rare gastrointestinal and peritoneal tumors.
  • William Dale, MD, PhD, will lecture on the design and implementation of therapeutic clinical trials for older adults, and John Cunningham, MD, will discuss immunotherapy for childhood cancer.

Head and neck cancer specialist Ezra Cohen will speak at this year’s Plenary Session, which highlights scientific research “deemed to have the highest merit and greatest impact on oncology research and practice,” according to ASCO.

Cohen will serve as discussant to help provide perspective for a study on sorafenib in locally advanced or metastatic patients with radioactive iodine-refractory differentiated thyroid cancer. The session will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 2, in a hall that seats 15,000 people.

The core of the annual meeting for academic attendees is the presentation of new information about cancer and its treatment. A record 5,306 abstracts were submitted this year and more than 2,700 were selected for presentation in Oral Abstract Sessions, Clinical Science Symposia, or Poster Presentation Sessions—a testament, according to ASCO, to the “robustness of clinical cancer research and the exciting advances occurring in laboratories and practices across the globe.”

Researchers from UChicago were major contributors to 85 selected abstracts, covering every aspect of the disease, from basic cancer biology to innovations in treatment to physical, spiritual and sexual recovery after cancer care. Among the presentations:

  • Andrzej Jakubowiak, MD, PhD, will describe encouraging results for patients taking three drugs—lenalidomide, dexamethasone and a recently approved drug, carfilzomib—for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma. Extended follow-up of an earlier positive study found that patients continued to improve as the course of therapy was prolonged.
  • A team led by Cohen found that treatment with cabozantinib demonstrates long-term disease control in patients with metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. The drug offers an important new treatment option for patients with progressive, metastatic disease.
  • Another study suggests an alternative to prophylactic mastectomy, a procedure that gained renewed media attention after actress Angelina Jolie revealed she underwent the radical procedure to elude breast cancer. Rodrigo Guindalini, MD, a visiting scholar from Brazil, and researchers connected to UChicago’s cancer-risk clinic showed a screening approach that combines semiannual MRI scans with an annual mammogram can be effective for patients at very high risk for breast cancer. During the study, 11 cancers were screen-detected. All of the cancers were found in their earliest, most-treatable and curable stages, with an average tumor size of less than 1 centimeter. None had spread to the lymph nodes.
  • A team led by Scott Eggener, MD, found that the rapid acquisition of robotic surgical systems is raising the costs of care by increasing the rate of surgery for localized prostate cancer and lowering rates of radiation therapy and active surveillance. Because of this trajectory, the authors say, the increased cost of treating localized prostate cancer in 2012 was nearly $27 million.

Under a media embargo is a study to be presented on Monday, June 3, by Jane Churpek, MD, that looks at inherited mutations in breast cancer genes in African-American patients. The study is one of 16 selected for the annual meeting’s three press conferences.

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