Media Gets Sneak Peek at Annual Meeting Scientific Presentations

This year, the AACR Annual Meeting, the premier cancer research meeting in the world, is happening at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, March 29–April 3.

National and international cancer researchers, clinicians, advocates, policymakers, other stakeholders in the cancer field, and the media are eagerly waiting to travel to Atlanta and learn about exciting breakthroughs in cancer research.

On Wednesday, nearly 70 journalists got a sneak peek at four studies to be presented at the meeting during a press conference moderated by AACR President Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, and AACR Annual Meeting 2019 Program Chair John D. Carpten, PhD. These studies reflect key scientific topics from this year’s meeting: precision medicine, immunotherapy, health disparities, and clinical trials.

During the press conference, Carpten noted that the theme of this year’s meeting, Integrative Cancer Science • Global Impact • Individualized Patient Care, “contains several aspects that are extremely timely. Although the AACR has been among the world’s leaders in helping to drive interest in the field of disparities … we really want to move that discipline even more forward during this year’s official annual conference,” he said, noting that there will be several symposia and educational sessions dedicated to addressing this important and timely topic.

“The Annual Meeting is quite comprehensive,” added Jaffee, who went on to explain how the presentations made in different small and large sessions will “cover the entire spectrum of cancer research.” She noted that there will be more than 975 speakers from 23 different countries speaking at the conference of more than 22,000 attendees, which speaks to the enthusiasm of the cancer research community in learning about the cutting-edge advances and furthering their research to make progress against cancer.

In a study presented by Vassiliki Papadimitrakopoulou, MD, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, researchers tested whether Guardant360, a liquid biopsy test that utilizes cell-free tumor DNA (cfDNA) in blood, can detect all seven guideline-recommended predictive biomarker mutations (EGFR, ALK, ROS1, BRAF, RET, MET, ERBB2) and one prognostic biomarker mutation (KRAS) at the same rate as traditional tissue genotyping tests in a prospective, multi-center study of 282 patients with newly diagnosed advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

They found that Guardant360 could detect biomarkers at a rate similar to that of standard-of-care tissue genotyping tests, but with a faster turn-around time.

At least one of the guideline-recommended biomarkers was detected in 60 patients using tissue-based tests alone. By adding Guardant360, the rate of detection increased by 48 percent, from 60 patients to 89 patients, which included those whose samples were negative by tissue (7), not tested (16), or did not have enough material (6) for the tissue-based tests. The test turn-around time, defined as time from test order to final results, was a median of nine days for Guardant360 versus a median of 15 days for tissue-based testing.

Given that tissue biopsy-based tests are invasive, time-consuming, and the specimens are often inadequate, results of this study suggest that liquid biopsy-based tests, such as Guardant360, could serve as a better alternative to tissue testing in ensuring all patients receive adequate tests to determine their treatment options. Time, Bloomberg, and STAT, among many other news outlets, covered the study.

Data presented by Christine Spencer, PhD, from the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, showed that eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and a high-fiber diet was positively associated with bacteria previously shown to confer response to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy, while diets high in added sugars and processed meat were negatively associated with these bacteria.

Gut bacteria microbiome. Image by Getty Images.

Patients who consumed a high-fiber diet were about five times as likely to respond to anti-PD-1 treatment compared to patients who consumed a low-fiber diet, and consumption of probiotic supplements was associated with lower gut microbiome diversity. This group had previously published in Science that low gut microbiome diversity is associated with poorer response to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy.

These results suggest that cancer patients intending to receive anti-PD-1 immunotherapy would benefit from choosing their over-the-counter supplements carefully and discussing their diet and lifestyle choices with their health care providers. Forbes and HealthDay were among numerous news outlets that wrote about these study results.

The study presented by Grace Lu-Yao, PhD, MPH, from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health investigated real-world clinical outcomes among patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease treated with abiraterone acetate for advanced prostate cancer.

The researchers found that the patient outcomes of abiraterone acetate treatment seen in clinical trials may not always apply to patients in the real world, particularly those who are often excluded from the clinical trials because they do not meet the eligibility criteria. The exclusion criteria for trial enrollment often mean that patients with a history of cardiovascular disease or uncontrolled hypertension are excluded.

This study, which utilized data from Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)–Medicare Health Outcomes Survey Linked Data Resource from 2,845 prostate cancer patients, found that in the real world, 67.6 percent of patients had at least one serious cardiovascular condition, such as acute myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, stroke, and ischemic heart disease, before starting treatment with abiraterone acetate. These patients had a significantly higher all-cause mortality in the six months after starting abiraterone acetate compared with those who had no pre-existing cardiovascular disease. This study was covered by Medpage Today.

In a study presented by Ronit Yarden, PhD, MHSA, of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, researchers conducted a survey of patients with, and survivors of, young-onset colorectal cancer to collect information on their clinical, psychosocial, financial, and quality-of-life experiences. The respondents were diagnosed with young-onset colorectal cancer before age 49.

The survey showed that 71 percent of respondents were diagnosed with late-stage colorectal cancer, which contrasts with patients over age 50, who are significantly more likely to be diagnosed at earlier stages of the disease. About 60 percent of respondents had waited up to 12 months to see a doctor after the onset of symptoms, often because they did not recognize their symptoms as signs of colorectal cancer. The survey also showed that 67 percent saw about two to four physicians before receiving a colorectal cancer diagnosis. Because many were initially misdiagnosed, there were delays in these patients’ treatment.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults age 50 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer, and some professional societies recommend starting regular screening at age 45. The study authors emphasize that anyone with a family history of colorectal cancer should initiate screening 10 years prior to the patient’s age at diagnosis, or by age 40. Yarden’s study was featured on and Healio.

New this year at the AACR Annual Meeting, there is an extra day of excitement and enrichment: The meeting starts a day earlier, on Friday, March 29, to accommodate the more than 60 unique Educational Sessions and Methods Workshops. The Online Program Planner is now available, where users can browse and search all Annual Meeting sessions and presentations by author, title, session type, or track/organ site. See you all in Atlanta!

For those of you who are unable to attend, follow us on our various social media platforms, including our blog, Cancer Research Catalyst; Twitter @AACR, #AACR19; and Facebook