The ASCO conference took place earlier this month in Chicago, Illinois, and was attended by over 40,000 experts in oncology, making it the largest cancer conference in the world.
This conference provided researchers, healthcare professionals, and representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, an opportunity to hear about new developments in oncology, including areas like surgery, novel drugs, radiotherapy, and symptom management.
Additionally, ASCO set the stage for experts to present ground-breaking research, including findings from completed or ongoing clinical trials, as well as patient management. Sharing this information sets the foundation for future research and advancements in oncology.
It allows those attending to translate findings from other disciplines and apply them to their own research or treatments plans.
There were updates on two major brain tumour trials that particularly caught my attention:
The CATNON study is an international clinical trial that has been underway in Europe, UK, USA, Australia, and Canada since 2005. The trial is testing if the addition of temozolomide (chemotherapy), to radiotherapy, would improve outcomes of people diagnosed with an anaplastic (grade III) glioma.
However, 2005 was quite a while ago and new developments have come to light. Importantly for this trial, the World Health Organisation (WHO) updated the brain tumour classification system in 2016 to include changes in a gene called IDH.
If the anaplastic glioma has a change in IDH (known as an IDH mutation), the tumour tends to be less aggressive. But if the IDH is unchanged (known as IDH wildtype), the tumour may be more aggressive, and the CATNON trial needs to take this into account when their results are analysed
The people enrolled on the CATNON trial have a mix of IDH mutant and IDH wildtype tumours. This means that the results of the trial could be confused and unclear because researchers don’t know which IDH types are present.
Funding provided by us allowed the research team, led by Professor Martin van den Bent, to use sophisticated tests to find out which participants have IDH mutations in their tumour and which didn’t.
Further analysis still needs to be conducted however, early findings show that that temozolomide as an adjuvant treatment (following radiotherapy) improves survival in people who have IDH mutations in their tumours. Unfortunately, this follow-on chemotherapy doesn’t have the same benefits for people with IDH wildtype tumours.
Results of this study will give new insight to clinicians recommending treatments for people with anaplastic gliomas. It will also help tailor treatments by identifying which people would benefit from more or less intense treatment and hopefully improve quality of survival.
SurVaxM is a cancer vaccine that is designed to stimulate the immune system to target the tumour. SurVaxM was awarded orphan drug designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017, which is a special designation given to drugs to treat a rare disease or condition that helps develop the drug faster.
This vaccine was tested in 63 people with newly diagnosed glioblastoma in a phase 2 clinical trial. The participants were given SurVaxM in addition to the current standard treatment which included surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by radiotherapy and temozolomide.
The research team presented the final results at ASCO and reported that the combination of standard treatment plus SurVaxM was well-tolerated in most participants.
Furthermore, the data suggests that this vaccine could delay disease progression and improve overall survival when compared to patients receiving standard therapy alone.
It is important to note that the primary goal of a phase 2 clinical trial is to evaluate drug tolerance. Further research, including a phase 3 clinical trial, is needed in order to properly assess the value of SurVaxM.
The team also report that the further studies testing SurVaxM are to open at the Cleveland Clinic and Roswell Park in the US in the coming months.
In summary, the 2019 ASCO conference highlighted how clinical trials are evolving and that showed new immunotherapy drugs in the pipeline to help defeat brain tumours.
We’ll be eagerly awaiting more information of these trials, so watch this space and we’ll keep you updated once the results are released.
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