AACR 2016 highlights

21 Apr 2016
AACR 2016 highlights

by ecancer reporter Will Davies

​Immunotherapy has opened a new chapter in cancer treatment, exposing otherwise evasive tumours to patient immunity with reduced risk to surrounding tissues or overall patient health, and the chance to develop innate anti-tumour ability.

One such development is nivolumab, which has received FDA breakthrough status and approval to treat melanomakidney cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer

At this years conference, the data reported from CheckMate-141 phase III extends that treatment potential to patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

“This study is the first randomized clinical trial to clearly demonstrate improved overall survival for patients with platinum-refractory recurrent or metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma,” reports Maura L Gillison, MD, professor tin the Department of Internal Medicine at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centre - Arthur G.James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. 

“We hope that the results will establish nivolumab as a new standard of care option for this patient population and thereby fulfill a huge unmet need.”

In a similar vein, Paul Nghiem, University of Washington,  Seattle, USA, presented results on the effective treatment of Merkel cell carcinoma with a novel immunotherapeutic course of pembrolizumab. 

Pembrolizumab, an anti-PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, has previously been used against head and neck cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer, and melanoma, proving it a potent immune modulator.

However, Merkel Cell carcinoma is a much rarer disease with such a low incidence (around 2,000 per year in the United States) as to make vaccination an uneconomic management scheme for the virally caused cancer.

This successful trial makes management of the disease much more effective, with an equal response rate for an increased duration and lowered associated toxicity when compared to chemotherapy.

“Currently there are no FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of MCC. We are expanding this trial to recruit additional patients and we hope that these data will contribute to meaningful new therapeutic options becoming available for these patients,” Nghiem said.

Other presentations delivered across the conference highlighted the preventive power of healthy lifestyle choices. 

After years of implied association, Dr Christin Burd of Ohio State University presented a clear link between the use of UV-blocking sunscreen and delayed onset of melanoma.

Though the damaging potential of UVA and UVB radiation has long been known, attitudes in the cosmetic industry which regulates sun-screen lotion development are at odds with the animal testing required to prove a direct delay of melanoma onset in UV sensitive knockout mice.

Dr Burd spoke with ecancer at the conference, video of which is available here.

Another healthy life choice, walking more than 6 hours per week, is borne out through the research of Dr Ying Wang of the American Cancer Society, Atlanta, USA.

Though only a literal simple step, this modest exercise is reported as being a significant survival indicator in diagnoses of prostate cancer.

Exercise has been linked to improving survival adjacent to treatment and limiting growth of tumours, and this research establishes its value pre-diagnosis as a prognostic indicator for patient survival.

These highlights represent only a small part of the conferences wide and varied talks, educational sessions and forums. 

Video interviews with some key speakers will be coming to ecancer soon.