Kathy D. Miller, MD


May 24, 2011

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Hi, this is Dr. Kathy Miller back with another Medscape video oncology blog. Today we are looking forward to the ASCO® [American Society of Clinical Oncology] annual meeting. It's coming quickly and I want to give you some highlights that you don't want to miss.

Everyone wonders what's going to be in the plenary session, and this year, you will be surprised. You won't find anything about breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, or prostate cancer at the plenary session. That wasn't by design; those are clearly common and important cancers faced by the patients we serve.

The goal of the Scientific Program Committee in selecting sessions for the plenary was to find the best work -- the work that had the biggest clinical impact. This year, in the plenary session, you will hear results of 5 studies, all of which have significant overall survival advantages to report. These are studies that should immediately change practice. In some cases, it is likely that they will lead to the approval of new drugs, particularly for the treatment of melanoma.

In some cases, that survival advantage comes by using our existing therapies, either in a smarter way with different doses and schedules, or for a longer duration of therapy. Five studies, 5 profound improvements in overall survival, and lessons that can expand well beyond the somewhat less common tumor types in which those studies are based.

I also want to point you to what I hope will be fascinating and interesting: the combined AACR [American Association of Cancer Research] and ASCO® Presidential Symposium. We will be joined by the current president of the AACR, Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Prize winner for her work on the function of telomeres and the role of telomerase. The Presidential Symposium will be devoted to the biology of telomeres, the biology of telomerase, and the therapeutic potential of inhibiting telomerase.

Telomerase is crucial for allowing cells to avoid normal aging and normal mortality, and it's a crucial feature of cancer cells. We are just now starting to see some of the first clinical results of therapies that interrupt that crucial pathway. Anytime I get a chance to hear a Nobel Prize winner, I'm always excited. I always learn something, and I think that symposium will, for many of our members, be the first chance to really think about this aspect of biology. I suspect it's one of which we will take therapeutic advantage in the future.

There are other things I'm looking forward to, but perhaps more than anything else, I'm looking forward to being surprised. I enjoy straying in for a few minutes into a random room to see what session is going on, to hear science about areas in which I don't personally work, or about patients whom I don't personally treat. It's always a chance to find unexpected nuggets and get inspired by the work of our colleagues. It's also a chance to meet new friends and to reconnect with old friends. And for that, simply randomly walking into a room can't be beat.

So I hope you plan on joining us in Chicago; I hope you find it worthwhile. Please be sure to check out the plenary and that AACR/ASCO® Presidential Symposium, and I hope to see many of you there.