ASCO 2014 Lung Cancer Roundup

Every year, thousands of people gather in Chicago, Illinois, for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. The largest meeting of its kind, ASCO brings together doctors, researchers, nurses, patient advocates, pharmaceutical company representatives, and more to discuss the latest in cancer research. Here are some of the most exciting new developments in lung cancer research presented last week at ASCO 2014: Continue reading…

Biomarkers Accurately Distinguish Mesothelioma from Non-Cancerous Tissue

“Scientists have identified four biomarkers that may help resolve the difficult differential diagnosis between malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and non-cancerous pleural tissue with reactive mesothelial proliferations (RMPs). This is a frequent differential diagnostic problem in pleural biopsy samples taken from patients with clinical suspicion of MPM. The ability to make more accurate diagnoses earlier may facilitate improved patient outcomes. This new study appears in the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.”

Editor’s note: Diagnosis of cancer is not always straightforward. New techniques allow doctors to use the molecular/genetic characteristics of a tumor to more quickly and accurately diagnose cancer. In the research described here, scientists identified new molecular characteristics (“biomarkers”) that could be used to help identify mesothelioma tumors.

Aduro Announces ASCO Presentation of Promising Results from Phase 1b Clinical trial of its Novel Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Mesothelioma

“Aduro BioTech, Inc., a clinical stage biotechnology company, today announced the presentation of safety and efficacy data from a Phase 1b clinical trial of its novel immunotherapy CRS-207 in combination with standard chemotherapy in patients with unresectable malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). Of the 16 evaluable patients, 69% (11/16) had confirmed durable partial responses (PR) with 25% (4/16) experiencing stable disease (SD) after CRS-207 and chemotherapy. The results were presented by Raffit Hassan, M.D., co-chief of the Thoracic and GI Oncology Branch at the National Cancer Institute, in a poster presentation at the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting (ASCO) held in Chicago.”

Editor’s note: Scientists have developed a new drug called CRS-207 for treating mesothelioma. CRS-207 is an immunotherapy, meaning that it boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. A clinical trial testing CRS-207 in volunteer patients found promising results for the drug.

Tracer Could Indicate Radiation Benefit to Patient

“A world-first radiotherapy treatment trial by University of WA researchers could have a major impact on the quality of life for mesothelioma patients.

“Funded by an almost $100,000 Cancer Council WA grant, the research team is exploring why some patients respond to radiotherapy treatment while others don’t, as well as developing tests to predict whether patients will respond to avoid people being treated unnecessarily.”

Review Shows Spine Procedure May Help Mesothelioma Pain, According to Surviving Mesothelioma

“In a study published in BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care and recently posted on the Surviving Mesothelioma website, British researchers say a spinal procedure called cordotomy may relieve the pain of late-stage pleural mesothelioma. Click here to read the study details.

“Scientists at the North Wales Centre for Primary Care Research at Bangor University in the UK conducted a review of the medical literature to find studies on the safety and effectiveness of cordotomy for mesothelioma pain. They found 9 relevant studies through March of 2012 involving a total of 160 pleural mesothelioma patients.”

Analysis Finds No Survival Advantage from Mesothelioma Surgery, According to Surviving Mesothelioma

“A new article in the Journal of Thoracic Surgery says a certain subset of mesothelioma patients is unlikely to see much of a survival benefit from surgery. As Surviving Mesothelioma reports, researchers from six different Italian institutions analyzed survival data on 1,365 consecutive mesothelioma patients treated between 1982 and 2012.”

Radiation Before Surgery May Increase Survival for Mesothelioma Patients

A study in 25 patients with mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, suggests that radiation treatment before surgery can significantly increase survival. Patients were treated using a new approach dubbed SMART (Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy). They received an accelerated, 5-day course of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which conforms the radiation dose around the tumors while sparing nearby healthy tissues. They then underwent surgery to remove the affected lung. Seventy-two percent of patients survived 3 years or more after treatment; 3-year survival rates without SMART rank at 32%. People with known exposure to asbestos who experience shortness of breath, weight loss, and fatigue for more than 3 weeks should be evaluated by a doctor to ensure speedy access to treatment.

New Cancer Drug ADI-PEG 20 May 'Starve Out' Mesothelioma

Early promising results are emerging for ADI-PEG 20, a new cancer drug that breaks down arginine. Arginine is an amino acid—a building block for proteins—that is necessary for cell function. Normal cells can produce their own arginine, but many tumor cells cannot. By depriving the body of arginine, ADI-PEG selectively disrupts cancer cells. In a phase II clinical trial, ADI-PEG prolonged the time without cancer progression in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer. Almost half of the patients had a partial response to the drug, defined as their tumors shrinking at least 30%.

Previously Neglected Lymph Nodes are Significant in Mesothelioma

To assess cancer stage, that is, how far advanced a cancer is, doctors routinely examine lymph nodes. However, a subset of lymph nodes located between the ribs near the spine, the so-called posterior intercostal lymph nodes, are not usually assessed in cancer staging. In a retrospective study of patients who had undergone surgery for mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure), researchers found that the cancer had spread to the posterior intercostal lymph nodes in over half of these patients. Patients who had no evidence of cancer in the posterior intercostal lymph nodes lived nearly 2.5 years longer, on average, than those who had. The posterior intercostal lymph nodes appear to be highly significant and should be biopsied routinely in mesothelioma patients.