COMMENTARY

ASCO 2021: Breast Cancer Sessions Not to Miss

Kathy D. Miller, MD

Disclosures

June 02, 2021

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Hello. It's Dr Kathy Miller from Indiana University.

I have to admit that time has snuck up on me this year. It is already time for ASCO.

I found it hard to keep track of time this year with the pandemic. Many of the things that help mark the passage of time haven't happened, have happened at different times of the year than is typical, or have happened in different ways that just haven't had the same impact in my brain.

Just recently, I was taking a look through the breast cancer program at ASCO and there is a special clinical science symposium that I want to make sure you know about and tune into. It's the sort of session that might not otherwise reach you.

This has been a year of incredible turmoil and critical thinking about issues of race, ethnicity, justice, and how we can make sure that the medical care we're providing is inclusive and equitable. How we can make sure we are giving the best outcome to all of our patients.

This special clinical science symposium this year includes several presentations that will delve into how genetically determined ancestry and socially determined race might impact the outcome of our patients. This is a tangled web that is difficult to unpack and separate, but there are clear distinctions here: The genes we inherit do affect how we metabolize drugs, what side effects we might have from drugs, and what drugs might be the best choices for us.

Our socially determined race affects how the world interacts with us. Those biases, be they conscious or unconscious, can affect where we live, where we go to school, how people treat us, what opportunities we have, and how the medical system treats us. They're related, but they're not the same. Tune into that clinical science symposium to begin thinking about those differences and how we can make sure we give our patients the best care.

There are other high-profile presentations that you're going to want to see as well, looking at how we can optimize therapy in patients with HER2-positive disease and beginning to think about who might not need chemotherapy to have an excellent outcome in early-stage disease.

Also, we will be thinking about those patients with triple-negative disease who have residual disease after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. We were all caught off guard with the results of the CREATE-X trial, quite frankly, several years ago.

This year we will hear the results of a post-neoadjuvant trial coordinated by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group comparing platinum therapy with capecitabine. Tune in to think more about whether capecitabine really should be the standard of care in this population.

As always, I'm interested in your thoughts before or after ASCO. What stood out for you this year in breast cancer? Drop us a comment and let us know about these sessions and what else you found worthwhile.

Kathy D. Miller, MD, is associate director of clinical research and co-director of the breast cancer program at the Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center at Indiana University. Her career has combined both laboratory and clinical research in breast cancer.

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