CHICAGO -- So here we go again -- it's late May and already email inboxes are full of announcements about the new clinical data that will be presented at the     forthcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2016 Annual Meeting, held again in Chicago, June 3-7.

This year's theme is 'collective wisdom: the future of patient-centered care and research,' which ASCO says emphasizes the need to combine knowledge from     various disciplines, cancer types, treatment approaches, and big data technologies in order to make progress.

More than 5000 abstracts will be featured, most of which have already been posted online,     although late-breaking abstracts designated for on-site release will remain confidential until ASCO publicly releases them during the meeting.

Commenting generally about the late-breaking abstracts, Richard Schilsky, MD, ASCO chief medical officer, told Medscape Medical News: "Quite a few     abstracts evaluate the use of precision medicine approaches. There are also a number of studies on immunotherapy approaches for patients with advanced     cancer. And there will be what I think are important developments described in some previous fairly refractory types of cancer."

In addition, Dr Schilsky said, "there will also be a number of studies that examine the importance of patient engagement in the management of their own     cancers -- and some also that address important disparities of care."

Continued Excitement About Immunotherapy

"There continues to be enormous excitement in the field of immunotherapy," Dr Schilsky told Medscape Medical News, "largely because the     immunotherapy strategies seem to be working in many kinds of cancer."

Immunotherapy "may not work equally well in every cancer type -- we are beginning to learn about biomarkers -- but it works against a very broad spectrum of     cancers," Dr Schilsky said.

"Perhaps more importantly, there is a very substantial fraction of patients -- we are trying to home in on the number -- but there is a substantial number of     patients who experience long-term disease control and long-term survival unlike anything we have seen with conventional chemo or targeted therapy," he     said.

This long-term survival has been clearly demonstrated in melanoma. Before the advent of immunotherapy, patients with advanced/metastatic melanoma often had     only months to live, with median survival times of about a year. Now long-term data from the earliest immunotherapy clinical trials are showing that some     of these patients are living for years, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News.

The data on ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company) show that about 20% to 22% of patients have long-term responses, with some patients living for up to 10 years. Data on    nivolumab (Opdivo, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company) show that about a third of patients     (34%) are still alive at 5 years. And the data on pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck & Co, Inc) show that 44% of patients are still alive after 3 years. These long-term survival data on pembrolizumab (abstract 9503) will be presented on June 6.

Cancer immunotherapy     was hailed by ASCO as the 'top clinical advance' of the year in its latest annual report on progress against cancer, published in February 2016. "No recent     advance has been more transformative than the rise of immunotherapy, particularly over the past year," commented ASCO president Julie M Vose, MD, MBA.

But what has been seen to date may just be the tip of the iceberg, as research continues, not only with immunotherapy drugs, but also other ways of     manipulating the immune system, most notably with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells, which have shown long-lasting responses in patients with various     hematological cancers. Some of the latest data on this approach (abstract LBA3010)     will be presented on June 6.

"The potential benefits of immunotherapy as we continue to understand how to deploy it are enormous -- and really promising," Dr Schilsky told    Medscape Medical News.

Visit Chicago and Visit Medscape

More than 30,000 oncology professionals from around the world are due to descend on the Windy City. Sheetal Kircher, MD, from Chicago's     Northwestern Memorial Hospital, has compiled awesome tips for navigating ASCO and Chicago, and     there are also a few tips on making the most of your time from Kathy Miller, MD, from the Indiana     University Simon Cancer Center, Indianapolis, who is a regular Medscape Oncology videoblogger.

At the meeting, please come by and visit Medscape at booth #6053. We will be hosting a Medscape People's Plenary, 2:30-4:30 pm on June 4 and June 5, so come along and tell us about your new study or thoughts about new data you have heard at the meeting in a 2-minute video.

Medscape will be posting news as it comes off embargo during the meeting. Make sure to check back throughout the day to read the news as it is posted,     follow the ASCO Live Blog, and follow us on Twitter @MedscapeOnc.


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