Three Things You Need to Know about ASCO

More than 30,000 of the world’s top oncologists are meeting in Chicago this weekend to talk about cutting-edge research in cancer treatments. The conference is sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (hence the name ASCO), and it’s basically the cancer Olympics.

The theme for this year’s meeting is Collective Wisdom: The Future of Patient-Centered Care and Research, and the presentations will focus on helping patients by using a variety of therapies instead of just a standard package of treatments.

Here’s a quick look at breaking research that will be explored at the conference.

Genetics trumps location, but location is still important.

Cancers used to be grouped and treated according to where they were found in the body. Tumors that were found in the pancreas were all treated the same way, as were brain tumors and blood cancers. However, recent developments in DNA sequencing have shown that a tumor in the brain can have the same genetic profile as a tumor in the kidneys—and tumors in the brain may have nothing in common.

Now genetics trumps location. And researchers have found yet another reason for using the correct tumor profile in colorectal cancer patients. A recent study showed that tumors can have different profiles and respond differently to medications, depending on what side of the colon they develop in. It could mean some significant changes in the drugs used to treat this type of cancer.

And that’s big, especially considering that colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States.

Biomarkers are a key to recession.

When doctors use the molecular biomarkers of a tumor to determine appropriate treatments, it increases the chances that their patients’ tumors will shrink. Several studies confirm that patients who are treated with these types of targeted therapies are less likely to have their diseases worsen. Researchers looked at 58 studies that used biomarkers or tumor markers to select treatment and 293 that did not.

They found that about 31 percent of patients who received these targeted treatments also experienced tumor shrinkage, whereas only five percent of patients who received standard care—not targeted therapy—experienced tumor shrinkage.

This is groundbreaking information that could help to increase the numbers of people who have access to targeted therapies.

Palliative Care Can Help Caregivers Too

The caregivers for cancer patients carry heavy burdens, and many of them develop symptoms of depression or anxiety as a result. In fact, it has been shown that 41 percent of caregivers who are women do not want to get help for these symptoms because they are embarrassed and ashamed.

But researchers recently found that beginning pre-emptive palliative care for family caregivers can help families who are working through cancer. They used questionnaires to monitor the mental health and happiness of the cancer patients’ families, and they found that those caregivers who received early palliative care experienced fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety. Additionally, the caregivers’ levels of vitality and social functioning improved around twelve weeks of treatment.

Stay tuned for more.
ASCO is the conference where some of the most innovative and promising developments in cancer treatments are announced. As a cancer patient, the more information you have about your options, the more empowered you will be to work with your doctor in creating an appropriate treatment plan. You can use what you learn from ASCO to make a difference in your care. Stay tuned to the Cure Forward blog for updates and explanations of this year’s conference.

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