Five things we learned from the ASCO 2019 meeting

The world’s biggest cancer conference—held by the American Society of Clinical Oncology— took place in Chicago this week. Here are five things we learned.

1. Medicare helped close health disparities for many different groups

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 resulted in, patients under 65 with ovarian cancer being diagnosed and treated earlier. Data analysis, presented by the National Cancer Database, also found that after the ACA’s implementation, more ovarian cancer patients received treatment within 30 days of diagnosis.

The expansion of Medicaid also reduced racial disparities in time to cancer treatment between African American and white patients—to the point of near elimination. Based on the electronic health records of more than 30,000 patients from Flatiron Health’s database, researchers found that, pre-expansion, African American patients were 4.9% less likely to receive timely treatment. Post expansion, their rate of receiving timely cancer treatment increased the most of all races.

2. Maintenance therapy with PARP inhibitor olaparib delays progression of BRCA-related pancreatic cancer

Big news from ASCO this year was the announcement that maintenance therapy with the PARP inhibitor olaparib significantly improved the progression-free survival of metastatic pancreatic cancer patients with a germline BRCA gene mutation.

In the phase III POLO trial, patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer were given olaparib following the completion of first-line platinum-based chemotherapy. After two years, 22% had no disease progression—compared to the 9% who received the placebo.

3. A new ‘liquid biopsy’ for breast cancer’s return

Researchers from the London-based Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) presented their findings on genomic markers of early progression in breast cancer. It has the potential for a new blood test for breast cancer patients that can predict how their disease will respond to a drug—and whether it will relapse following treatment. In this trial, changes in circulating tumor DNA were identified that were associated with relapse and risk of metastatic disease.

Patients with p53 mutations, FGFR1 amplification, or tumor parity in plasma were found to be at risk of early progression.

4. Cancer patients who live in higher-income areas have a greater chance of survival

New statistics from the National Cancer Database show that multiple myeloma survival may depend on where you live. Patients who had private insurance, received treatment from an academic institution, and lived in a higher-income area had better overall survival rates. Every year, an estimated 32,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

5. Enzalutamide may help improve survival for prostate cancer patients

Adding enzalutamide to standard first-line treatment of metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer can help improve survival rates for men. A new study found that 80% of men who received enzalutamide in addition to first-line therapy were alive after three years—compared to 72% who received standard treatment alone.

Also, introducing the Department of Hematology Oncology!

Figure 1 recently launched its first-ever specialty group, a space where only hematologists and oncologists can share and discuss cases, treatment plans, and whatever else is top of mind. For verified specialists on Figure 1, you’re already a member. Come on in.