Using genomics – analyzing a cancer patient’s genetic profile to identify what is causing the malignancy and then using a drug that will work best for that patient’s subtype of cancer – has been evolving over at least two decades. The approach has accelerated in recent years as the technology has improved.
And with it there have been stunning successes along with some disappointments.
On Saturday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting (#ASCO18) in Chicago, results from a number of clinical trials of therapies that target specific genetic mutations were presented with varying outcomes for patients.
Chicago is once again the site of the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting (#ASCO18), where more than 30,000 scientists, advocates and representatives from the biopharmaceutical industry have gathered to share the their latest clinical findings and to learn from each other in education sessions, scientific presentations and opportunities for networking. The meeting began Friday and continues through Tuesday.
The field of cancer science is moving so rapidly and it’s exciting to see the progress being made, particularly in areas of immunotherapy and precision medicine.
Friday afternoon myeloma was in the spotlight, with a dozen scientific studies presented. Remarkable advances have been achieved over the past decade in treating this painful blood cancer that begins in the plasma cells in the bone marrow. While a cure has not yet been achieved, survival rates have been dramatically extended with the median five-year survival rate improved from 34.6 percent in 2000 to 52.4 percent in 2015, thanks to a multitude of new therapies over the past decade.
With so many new agents to work with, the next phase for physicians who treat patients with multiple myeloma is to optimize dosing and combinations. Several studies presented “triplets” of therapy – regimens involving three therapies. MM standard of care is lenalidomide (Revlimid), a drug that stimulates the immune system, combined with dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid. But most myeloma patients eventually relapse from this combination or do not respond – meaning they are refractory.
During yesterday’s session, several abstracts were presented testing various newer combinations of therapy – several of these were “triplets’ combining three different drugs:
pomalidomide (Pomalyst), a more potent immunomodulator, with bortezomib (Revlimid), and dexamethasone;
daratumomab (Darzalex), a monoclonal antibody, with carfilzomib (Kyrpolis) a targeted therapy that inhibits a type of protein called proteasome that plays an important role in cell growth and programmed cell death;
venetoclax, a therapy that blocks BCL-2, a protein that prevents cell death, a necessary process that rids the body of damaged cells, combined with carfilzomib and dexamethasone.
Each of these combinations showed good efficacy and promise for extending life; the potential cost of combining multiple therapies is, of course, also a concern.
A study was presented showing the effectiveness of changing the dosing regimen of carfilzomib from two times a week to once a week, increasing convenience without doing harm to outcomes for patients.
The key takeaway from this session: Tripling drug combinations may extend lives of myeloma patients, and simplifying the dosing regimen will add convenience and improve adherence
On October 12, 2016, the world lost a skateboarding legend: 28-year-old Dylan Rieder who battled leukemia for over two years. He left behind a huge legacy in a short period of time, turning pro at age 18 with his breakout part in Transworld Skateboarding’s 2006 video A Time To Shine. He was recognized as The Skateboard Mag's “Am of the Year” in 2006 and was featured in Supreme's 2014 video "Cherry," for which he won Transworld Skateboarding's award for Best Part in 2015. In addition, Dylan had a budding career in the fashion and retail space, which included a feature in the 2014 Spring ad campaign of DKNY and an appearance in a Vogue fashion photo spread of designer Alexander Wang.
Dylan was adored and admired by many, but there are no words to describe how much he was loved by his mother, Dana Ortiz. Dana and Dylan were very close, and she was his caregiver when he became ill. She had dreams of one day running the Boston Marathon and had begun training when Dylan was diagnosed. He had always encouraged her to follow her dreams and wanted her to train as much as she needed to even while he was battling leukemia. Dana focused on helping Dylan and continued to be by his side until the end.
For the past several months, Dana has been training with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s leading sports endurance training for charity program, Team In Training, and on June 3, 2018, she’ll take on the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon in hopes to qualify for Boston in honor of Dylan.
“I am finally ready to run that marathon Dylan and I had always talked about,” said Dana. “Dylan was a huge support to me in my marathon training while he was still in good health and he knew I wanted to run Boston, so I’m giving this race my all – for Dylan.”
Dana has already surpassed her fundraising goal of $10,000, raising an astonishing $30,000 and counting.
Team In Training is the world’s largest and most successful endurance sports fundraising and training program. Since its inception in 1988, when a team of 38 runners trained together for the New York City Marathon and raised $320,000, Team In Training has raised more than $1.5 billion, trained more than 650,000 people and helped LLS invest more than $1.2 billion in research to advance breakthrough cancer treatments that are saving lives today.