The issue of value in cancer care was a prominent theme at the 2014 ASCO Annual Meeting. A question that inevitably arises in any discussion of value is what the professional and ethical obligations of practicing oncologists are in the current climate of escalating healthcare costs.
The story of how the targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and combinations of these therapies have been developed for use in patients with advanced melanoma holds a number of important lessons for the development of agents for use in other tumor types.
ASCO: Dr. Martine Piccart, in Karnofsky Lecture, Outlines Vision for the Empowering of Academic Research
The David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award, ASCO’s highest scientific honor, went this year to Dr. Martine J. Piccart, who is internationally recognized for her unflagging dedication and innovative approaches to the development of drugs and regimens that will truly make a difference in the lives of patients with breast cancer.
Results of two phase III trials, presented at ASCO, on the addition of bevacizumab (Avastin) to standard therapy in newly diagnosed glioblastoma found that the drug added no benefit.
Building on the landmark studies of the immunotherapeutic agent ipilimumab just a few years back, ASCO 2013 saw the presentation of truly impressive data on two PD1 blockers, as well as noteworthy studies of other immunotherapeutic approaches to advanced melanoma.
ASCO: MEK Inhibitors—Alone or Paired With a BRAF Inhibitor—Increase Options, Benefits for Patients With BRAF-Mutated Advanced Melanoma
At the ASCO annual meeting, researchers presented persuasive evidence that a new class of targeted agents—MEK inhibitors—may warrant inclusion in the growing armamentarium for patients with advanced BRAF-mutated melanoma.
ASCO: Phase II/III Data Establish Dabrafenib as Second BRAF Inhibitor With Proven Efficacy in Metastatic Melanoma
Data from the phase III BREAK-3 and the phase II BREAK-MB trials of dabrafenib establish the drug as the second BRAF inhibitor for BRAF V600E-mutated melanoma.
The class of agents that target the Programmed Death 1 (PD-1) pathway was described at ASCO as “likely the most exciting new agents recently developed in melanoma.”
ASCO: Expert Panel Explores Questions Regarding Drug Selection, Drug Sequencing in Advanced Melanoma
The new therapies that became available for advanced melanoma over the past year—the anti-CTLA4 antibody ipilimumab (Yervoy) and the selective BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib (Zelboraf)—represent promising new options for these patients, whose prognosis was heretofore almost universally dismal. However, the advent of new treatment strategies has made treatment decisions more complex.
In his plenary address as outgoing president of ASCO, Dr. George Sledge proposed that we are on the brink of a new era in cancer therapy – an era of genome-based treatment. He stressed that this new “genomic era” holds great promise for patients, citing as evidence a recent paper in JAMA that described a case in which the results of deep sequencing of a patient’s leukemic cells led to successful individualized therapy.