Roxanne Nelson

September 18, 2014

"Precision Medicine in Cancer Care" is the theme of the upcoming of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 39th Congress, which starts next week in Madrid, Spain.

This idea of "precision medicine" has rapidly shifted from "in some distant future" to "just around the corner," according to Rolf A. Stahel, MD, from University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, current president of ESMO. Among topics covered at the meeting will be the practical challenges faced by researchers and clinicians when integrating precision medicine into oncologic management, including the different range of side effects associated with these new therapies.

The meeting will also feature important new clinical data. "We have presentations that will change the standard of care," said Johann de Bono, MD, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, United Kingdom, and ESMO 2014 Scientific Committee chair. "These are from studies in melanoma and cancers of the prostate and lung, and I think that they will have a strong impact in the field."

Because the studies are under embargo, Dr. de Bono was unable to divulge any details, but he told Medscape Medical News that there was a focus at this meeting on immunotherapies and other targeted treatments. "The major track of the meeting is, in fact, immunotherapy, and specifically, trying to deliver it more precisely."

The results of these studies will have an impact on attendees and their clinical practice, according to Dr. de Bono. "For physicians that don't attend, they will have to ensure that they get access to the data," he said. "There is multiple research in different tumor types, and there are outstanding presentations coming out of major cancer institutes."

Poised to Break the Record

ESMO is held every other year, and it alternates with the joint European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress. This year's meeting will continue the "powerful momentum" that was established at the 2012 conference in Vienna, "which broke so many records for European oncology conferences: 16,394 delegates, 140 scientific and educational sessions, and a remarkable 30% rise in the number of abstract submissions ― 1238, of which 31 were late-breaking," said Dr. Stahel in a statement.

"ESMO 2012 set the standard for what a congress should be: deep, comprehensive, and up-to-the-minute," he added. "ESMO 2014 will raise that standard to a new level."

Although the actual numbers are still in flux, ESMO 2014 appears poised to continue the record-breaking trend. More than 18,000 attendees are expected to attend. That is equivalent to an 11% increase over the number of attendees in 2012. Similarly, the number of abstracts being presented has continued to expand. There will be 1551 abstracts presented, the equivalent of a 25% increase from the last meeting.

Aside from immunotherapy, a wide range of other topics will be covered, including cancer screening, pharmacogenetics, drug interactions, cost of innovative drugs, and ehealth. There will once again be a patient advocacy track, which will have several sessions on topics that include palliative care and patient involvement in cancer clinical research. Sessions that debate controversial issues, such as proton beam therapy and trial endpoints other than overall survival, will also be on the program.

Attendees will have access to sessions featuring the latest results in basic, translational, and clinical research, explained Dr. de Bono. The personalized paradigm for care demands more than ever a multidisciplinary approach, and there will be practical seminars and wide-ranging debates about how specialities can work together to achieve ever greater precision in cancer care.

It doesn’t matter if one is a medical and surgical oncologist, a radiotherapist, an immunologist, or a pathologist, notes Dr. de Bono. "Practicing precision medicine means we are all working towards a common goal ― improved patient outcomes. This is the ultimate goal of ESMO 2014."

Clinical Results and Expert Discussions

Clinical results from and/or expert discussions on the following will be presented:

  • A randomized phase III trial assessing the efficacy of the recMAGE-A3 + AS15 cancer immunotherapeutic as adjuvant therapy in patients with resected MAGE-A3-positive non–small-cell lung cancer (abstract 11730)

  • Final overall survival analysis in the CLEOPATRA trial in HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (abstract 3500)

  • A randomized, double-blind phase II trial of carboplatin-paclitaxel plus cediranib in metastatic/recurrent cervical cancer (abstract LBA25)

  • A case-control analysis of mental development and cardiac functioning of 38 children prenatally exposed to chemotherapy (abstract 267PD)

  • A special symposium on precision medicine ― "panacea or false dawn?"

  • Phase 3 results for rolapitant, a novel NK-1 receptor antagonist, in the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (abstract LBA47)

  • A symposium discussing precision medicine in prostate cancer, including immunotherapy and the future of care

  • Challenges in cancer screening and care: dealing with the issues of access and cost of therapy

  • A phase 3 randomized study of nivolumab (anti-PD 1) in advanced melanoma (abstract LBA3)

  • A phase 3 study of vemurafenib vs vemurafenib + cobimetinib in BRAFV600 mutation-positive patients with unresectable locally advanced or metastatic melanoma (abstract LBA 5)

  • A special session on the availability of antineoplastic medicines across Europe

Some abstracts will be available prior to the meeting, whereas others will not be available until the meeting gets under way. Abstracts accepted for presentation as posters and at poster discussions are already available online (released on September 17); those being presented as proferred papers will not be available until September 24. Late-breaking and deferred publication abstracts will be made public at the beginning of the official Congress session during which they are presented.

The full schedule for the upcoming meeting can be found on the ESMO Web site.

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