Cancer News Highlights From the ASTRO Meeting
Advances in the use of blood tests to detect recurrences, insight into how to treat early breast cancer, and extending survival for late-stage lung cancer patients were among the highlights of this year’s ASTRO meeting in San Antonio.
By Shari Roan
Medically Reviewed by Thomas Marron, MD, PhD
Don't Miss This
Sign Up for OurCancer Care and PreventionNewsletter
Thanks for signing up!You might also like these other newsletters:
October 30, 2019
Recently, the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) met in San Antonio, Texas, to learn about some of the most recent advances in the cancer field. Here are some of the highlights from that meeting.
Liquid Biopsy Detects Remission in Patients With HPV-Associated Oral Cancer
What’s new:A blood test, known as a liquid biopsy, can detect tiny traces of cancer-specific DNA in the blood of patients treated for a type of head and neck cancer, thus providing an early signal of a relapse, said the authors of a study presented October 23 at the 60th annual meeting of ASTRO.
Researchers used the liquid biopsy test on 89 patients who had been treated with human papillomavirus (HPV) related oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer who were cancer-free following chemoradiation therapy. Nineteen of the patients had a positive blood test during the follow-up period, with eight diagnosed with cancer recurrence. The remaining 11 patients had no other evidence of cancer, though patients are being closely monitored for recurrence.
Why it matters:Liquid biopsy tests have the potential to save money by reducing the need for radiological imaging, such as CT scans, to check for cancer recurrence. The blood tests also provide patients with peace of mind. “It’s very good at finding patients with cancer recurrences,” said one author of the study, Bhisham Chera, MD, an associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I think we can help make our surveillance more effective.” It’s also possible that some form of the test can be used for other HPV-related cancers, such as cervical cancer, Dr. Chera said.
RELATED: 8 Things You May Not Know About HPV
Radiation Therapy Lowers Breast Cancer Recurrence Even in Low-Risk Patients
What’s new:Women with breast cancer who have a low risk of the cancer returning still benefit from undergoing radiation therapy after breast-conservation surgery, according to a study presented October 21 at ASTRO.
The research, done by scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, followed 629 patients with low-risk ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). After 12 years of follow-up, the study found that all DCIS patients had very low rates of cancer recurrence, but the rates were lowest among women who had whole breast radiation therapy and those who chose to take the medication tamoxifen. Radiation reduced the recurrence risk by half.
Why it matters:The news gives women options about how to pursue treatment. “For many patients, a recurrence risk of 1 percent per year without radiation is not very worrisome,” said an author of the study, Beryl McCormick, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Other patients, she says, are concerned about that risk and may want to do everything possible to lower it. “Patients and doctors should use this information for a meaningful doctor-patient discussion,” says Dr. McCormick.
RELATED: Many Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer Can Skip Chemotherapy
Aggressive Treatment Extends Survival for Late-Stage Lung Cancer Patients
What’s new:Patients with stage 4 lung cancer experience longer survival if they add radiation therapy or surgery to chemotherapy, according to research presented October 21 at ASTRO.
The study included patients from three hospitals who had stage 4 non-small-cell lung cancer that had spread to one to three other places in the body. The patients had received systemic therapy, such as chemotherapy or targeted medications. Some patients also had surgery or radiation. The patients who received the additional treatment survived without the cancer progressing for an average of 14.2 months compared with 4.4 months for those patients who received the standard treatment.
Why it matters: The survival time of 14.2 months is considered long for patients with such a severe disease and poor prognosis, the authors noted. The study suggests that stage 4 patients who have limited metastasis (the cancer has spread to only one to three other sites) may benefit from more aggressive treatment. Studies are ongoing to see if other treatment combinations, including immunotherapy, may further extend survival in these patients.
RELATED: Survival Odds Improving for Lung Cancer Patients
Radiation Plus Chemotherapy Established as Standard Care for HPV-Related Head and Neck Cancer
What’s new: A combination of radiation and cisplatin chemotherapy produces the best outcomes for patients with human papillomavirus (HPV) related head and neck cancer, according to a phase 3 study presented October 22 at ASTRO.
The study explored whether a combination of Erbitux (cetuximab), a drug used to treat head and neck cancers, and radiation would be less toxic than the combination of radiation and cisplatin chemotherapy — but without affecting survival rates. The study of 805 patients found a survival benefit to patients in the chemotherapy arm of the trial. The estimated five-year survival rate was 84.6 percent in the cisplatin chemotherapy group compared with 77.9 percent in the Erbitux group. The patients in the cisplatin group experienced slightly more serious side effects than those treated with Erbitux (82 percent compared with 77 percent).
Why it matters:The incidence of oral cancers linked to HPV infection has risen in recent decades and is the fastest-rising cancer in young white men in the United States. The study clarifies which type of treatment should now be considered the standard of care. “The question being asked in [the study] is can we de-intensify treatment or diminish the side effect profile of treatment while maintaining the high survival rate?” said the study coauthor Paul M. Harari, MD, the chair of the Department of Human Oncology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “The outcomes are very good in this population.”
RELATED: Oral Sex Plus Smoking a Cancer Danger for Men
Lymph Node Radiation Is a Good Practice in Some Prostate Cancer Patients
What’s new:Men who have signs of prostate cancer recurrence after surgery to remove the prostate appear to benefit from a combination of radiation therapy to the pelvic lymph nodes and short-term hormone therapy, say the authors of a large international clinical trial presented October 22 at ASTRO.
The trial, led by Alan Pollack, MD, PhD, the chair of radiation oncology at the University of Miami and the deputy director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, included 1,792 men who were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: radiation to the prostate region alone, radiation to the prostate region and short-term androgen deprivation (hormone) therapy, or radiation to the prostate region plus pelvic lymph node radiation and hormone therapy. Five years following treatment, the percentage of men who were free from disease progression were, respectively, 71.7 percent, 82.7 percent, and 89.1 percent.
Why it matters:Men who have a prostatectomy undergo prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood tests for signs that the cancer may still be present. The trial is the first to show that in men whose PSA is rising, radiation therapy to the pelvic lymph nodes in addition to standard radiation to the prostate region is of value. “The trial shows us is there is a significant proportion of patients who have lymph disease that has to be treated,” said Dr. Pollack. The study should help clarify treatment for this subset of patients, said Neha Vapiwala, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, who was not involved in the study. “We have struggled with the question of do you treat the lymph nodes,” she said.
RELATED: 5 Ways to Boost Your Quality of Life During Prostate Cancer Treatment
Once-Weekly Radiation Therapy Is Okay for Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer
What’s new:Women with early-stage breast cancer who receive fewer, larger doses of radiation experience similar rates of side effects compared with those who undergo conventional radiation therapy, which involves lower, daily doses of radiation, according to research presented October 21 at ASTRO.
Researchers from the University Hospitals of North Midlands and Keele University in the United Kingdom compared the long-term side effects of three different regimens of breast radiation, which included a once-weekly treatment, called hypofractionated radiation, for five weeks. Earlier results of the FAST trial, released after two years, showed similar rates of side effects, such as skin reactions, hardening of the breast and changes in breast shape and size. The new study analyzed eight additional years of follow-up and also found that moderate or severe side effects were low in all three groups, including women who received once-weekly, hypofractionated therapy. “This study says it’s possible to find a regimen that would allow early-stage breast cancer patients to be treated only once a week over five weeks rather than daily over the same time period,” said Murray Brunt, MD, a professor of clinical oncology at University Hospitals of North Midlands and Keele University and lead author of this study.
Why it matters:Guidelines issued by ASTRO earlier this year recommended hypofractionated therapy for breast cancer patients regardless of age, tumor stage, and whether they had received chemotherapy. But according to the authors, many patients are not offered it. “The findings should help doctors discuss risks and benefits with their patients for various courses of radiation therapy and inform shared decision-making between physicians and patients,” says Dr. Brunt.
RELATED: Early Breast Cancer: Genetic Testing Is Up, Chemotherapy Use Is Down
Researchers Develop a Safer Strategy for Whole-Brain Radiation
What’s new:Researchers have developed a technique to deliver radiation to the brain that may better preserve cognitive function in patients with brain metastases, according to a study presented October 23 at ASTRO.
The Mayo Clinic research team studied 518 patients who received either a technique called hippocampal-avoidance radiation or traditional whole-brain radiation. The study found that the patients receiving the hippocampal-avoidance radiation had better preservation of cognitive function compared with the traditional-therapy group. The two groups had similar cancer control and overall survival.
Why it matters:Whole-brain radiation is administered to patients whose cancers have spread to the brain — as many as 200,000 cases a year in the United States, the authors said. Previous studies have shown that radiation to the hippocampus part of the brain can result in cognitive problems, such as memory loss. The study is a phase 2 trial; additional research will be needed to fully understand the potential value of the hippocampal-avoidance technique.
Video: Chong Wei diagnosed with early stage nose cancer, says BAM
What The Colour Of Your Bedroom Says About Your Sex Life
ASOS X Lynx Peace T-Shirt Collection
Bored of Pumpkin Pie Try This Tasty Alternative for ThanksgivingDinner
Man causes delays at Paris Metro after boarding train with stolen goat
13 Ways to Make Your Desk a Healthier Space in2015
What Is Sickle Cell Anemia
Mischa Barton charged with DUI
Quiz: Is it Time to Break Up
Group Fitness: Reasons Its Good for You
How to Add a Wireless Router to Your Network
Latanoprost Ophthalmic Reviews
Kylie Jenner Just Announced Her Baby Girls Name And Its Not What We Expected