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National Cancer Institute Director Neil Sharpless says mortality from delays in cancer screenings due to COVID19 pandemic could result in tens of thousands of extra deaths in next decade

Reporter: Stephen J Williams, PhD

Source: https://cancerletter.com/articles/20200619_1/

NCI Director’s Report

Sharpless: COVID-19 expected to increase mortality by at least 10,000 deaths from breast and colorectal cancers over 10 years

By Matthew Bin Han Ong

This story is part of The Cancer Letter’s ongoing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on oncology. A full list of our coverage, as well as the latest meeting cancellations, is available here.

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely cause at least 10,000 excess deaths from breast cancer and colorectal cancer over the next 10 years in the United States.

Scenarios run by NCI and affiliated modeling groups predict that delays in screening for and diagnosis of breast and colorectal cancers will lead to a 1% increase in deaths through 2030. This translates into 10,000 additional deaths, on top of the expected one million deaths resulting from these two cancers.

“For both these cancer types, we believe the pandemic will influence cancer deaths for at least a decade,” NCI Director Ned Sharpless said in a virtual joint meeting of the Board of Scientific Advisors and the National Cancer Advisory Board June 15. “I find this worrisome as cancer mortality is common. Even a 1% increase every decade is a lot of cancer suffering.

“And this analysis, frankly, is pretty conservative. We do not consider cancers other than those of breast and colon, but there is every reason to believe the pandemic will affect other types of cancer, too. We did not account for the additional non-lethal morbidity from upstaging, but this could also be significant and burdensome.”

An editorial by Sharpless on this subject appears in the journal Science.

The early analyses, conducted by the institute’s Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network, focused on breast and colorectal cancers, because these are common, with relatively high screening rates.

CISNET modelers created four scenarios to assess long-term increases in cancer mortality rates for these two diseases:

  1. The pandemic has no effect on cancer mortality

 

  1. Delayed screening—with 75% reduction in mammography and, colorectal screening and adenoma surveillance for six months

 

  1. Delayed diagnosis—with one-third of people delaying follow-up after a positive screening or diagnostic mammogram, positive FIT or clinical symptoms for six months during a six-month period

 

  1. Combination of scenarios two and three

 

Treatment scenarios after diagnosis were not included in the model. These would be: delays in treatment, cancellation of treatment, or modified treatment.

“What we did is show the impact of the number of excess deaths per year for 10 years for each year starting in 2020 for scenario four versus scenario one,” Eric “Rocky” Feuer, chief of the NCI’s Statistical Research and Applications Branch in the Surveillance Research Program, said to The Cancer Letter.

Feuer is the overall project scientist for CISNET, a collaborative group of investigators who use simulation modeling to guide public health research and priorities.

“The results for breast cancer were somewhat larger than for colorectal,” Feuer said. “And that’s because breast cancer has a longer preclinical natural history relative to colorectal cancer.”

Modelers in oncology are creating a global modeling consortium, COVID-19 and Cancer Taskforce, to “support decision-making in cancer control both during and after the crisis.” The consortium is supported by the Union for International Cancer Control, The International Agency for Research on Cancer, The International Cancer Screening Network, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, and Cancer Council NSW, Australia.

A spike in cancer mortality rates threatens to reverse or slow down—at least in the medium term—the steady trend of reduction of cancer deaths. On Jan. 8, the American Cancer Society published its annual estimates of new cancer cases and deaths, declaring that the latest data—from 2016 to 2017—show the “largest ever single-year drop in overall cancer mortality of 2.2%.” Experts say that innovation in lung cancer treatment and the success of smoking cessation programs are driving the sharp decrease (The Cancer LetterFeb. 7, 2020).

The pandemic is expected to have broader impact, including increases in mortality rates for other cancer types. Also, variations in severity of COVID-19 in different regions in the U.S. will influence mortality metrics.

“There’s some other cancers that might have delays in screening—for example cervical, prostate, and lung cancer, although lung cancer screening rates are still quite low and prostate cancer screening should only be conducted on those who determine that the benefits outweigh the harms,” Feuer said. “So, those are the major screening cancers, but impacts of delays in treatment, canceling treatment or alternative treatments—could impact a larger range of cancer sites.

“This model assumes a moderate disruption which resolves after six months, and doesn’t consider non-lethal morbidities associated with the delay. One thing I think probably is occurring is regional variation in these impacts,” Feuer said. “If you’re living in New York City where things were ground zero for some of the worst impact early on, probably delays were larger than other areas of the country. But now, as we’re seeing upticks in other areas of the country, there may be in impact in these areas as well”

How can health care providers mitigate some of these harms? For example, for people who delayed screening and diagnosis, are providers able to perform triage, so that those at highest risk are prioritized?

“From a strictly cancer control point of view, let’s get those people who delayed screening, or followup to a positive test, or treatment back on schedule as soon as possible,” Feuer said. “But it’s not a simple calculus, because in every situation, we have to weigh the harms and benefits. As we come out of the pandemic, it tips more and more to, ‘Let’s get back to business with respect to cancer control.’

“Telemedicine doesn’t completely substitute for seeing patients in person, but at least people could get the advice they need, and then are triaged through their health care providers to indicate if they really should prioritize coming in. That helps the individual and the health care provider  weigh the harms and benefits, and try to strategize about what’s best for any individual.”

If the pandemic continues to disrupt routine care, cancer-related mortality rates would rise beyond the predictions in this model.

“I think this analysis begins to help us understand the costs with regard to cancer outcomes of the pandemic,” Sharpless said. “Let’s all agree we will do everything in our power to minimize these adverse effects, to protect our patients from cancer suffering.”

 

For more Articles on COVID-19 please see our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

 

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Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage AACR 2020 #AACR20: Tuesday June 23, 2020 Noon-2:45 Educational Sessions


Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage AACR 2020: Tuesday June 23, 2020 Noon-2:45 Educational Sessions

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Follow Live in Real Time using

#AACR20

@pharma_BI

@AACR

Register for FREE at https://www.aacr.org/

 

Presidential Address

Elaine R Mardis, William N Hait

DETAILS

Welcome and introduction

William N Hait

 

Improving diagnostic yield in pediatric cancer precision medicine

Elaine R Mardis
  • Advent of genomics have revolutionized how we diagnose and treat lung cancer
  • We are currently needing to understand the driver mutations and variants where we can personalize therapy
  • PD-L1 and other checkpoint therapy have not really been used in pediatric cancers even though CAR-T have been successful
  • The incidence rates and mortality rates of pediatric cancers are rising
  • Large scale study of over 700 pediatric cancers show cancers driven by epigenetic drivers or fusion proteins. Need for transcriptomics.  Also study demonstrated that we have underestimated germ line mutations and hereditary factors.
  • They put together a database to nominate patients on their IGM Cancer protocol. Involves genetic counseling and obtaining germ line samples to determine hereditary factors.  RNA and protein are evaluated as well as exome sequencing. RNASeq and Archer Dx test to identify driver fusions
  • PECAN curated database from St. Jude used to determine driver mutations. They use multiple databases and overlap within these databases and knowledge base to determine or weed out false positives
  • They have used these studies to understand the immune infiltrate into recurrent cancers (CytoCure)
  • They found 40 germline cancer predisposition genes, 47 driver somatic fusion proteins, 81 potential actionable targets, 106 CNV, 196 meaningful somatic driver mutations

 

 

Tuesday, June 23

12:00 PM – 12:30 PM EDT

Awards and Lectures

NCI Director’s Address

Norman E Sharpless, Elaine R Mardis

DETAILS

Introduction: Elaine Mardis

 

NCI Director Address: Norman E Sharpless
  • They are functioning well at NCI with respect to grant reviews, research, and general functions in spite of the COVID pandemic and the massive demonstrations on also focusing on the disparities which occur in cancer research field and cancer care
  • There are ongoing efforts at NCI to make a positive difference in racial injustice, diversity in the cancer workforce, and for patients as well
  • Need a diverse workforce across the cancer research and care spectrum
  • Data show that areas where the clinicians are successful in putting African Americans on clinical trials are areas (geographic and site specific) where health disparities are narrowing
  • Grants through NCI new SeroNet for COVID-19 serologic testing funded by two RFAs through NIAD (RFA-CA-30-038 and RFA-CA-20-039) and will close on July 22, 2020

 

Tuesday, June 23

12:45 PM – 1:46 PM EDT

Virtual Educational Session

Immunology, Tumor Biology, Experimental and Molecular Therapeutics, Molecular and Cellular Biology/Genetics

Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy for Nonimmunologists: Innovation and Discovery in Immune-Oncology

This educational session will update cancer researchers and clinicians about the latest developments in the detailed understanding of the types and roles of immune cells in tumors. It will summarize current knowledge about the types of T cells, natural killer cells, B cells, and myeloid cells in tumors and discuss current knowledge about the roles these cells play in the antitumor immune response. The session will feature some of the most promising up-and-coming cancer immunologists who will inform about their latest strategies to harness the immune system to promote more effective therapies.

Judith A Varner, Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta

 

Introduction

Judith A Varner
New techniques reveal critical roles of myeloid cells in tumor development and progression
  • Different type of cells are becoming targets for immune checkpoint like myeloid cells
  • In T cell excluded or desert tumors T cells are held at periphery so myeloid cells can infiltrate though so macrophages might be effective in these immune t cell naïve tumors, macrophages are most abundant types of immune cells in tumors
  • CXCLs are potential targets
  • PI3K delta inhibitors,
  • Reduce the infiltrate of myeloid tumor suppressor cells like macrophages
  • When should we give myeloid or T cell therapy is the issue
Judith A Varner
Novel strategies to harness T-cell biology for cancer therapy
Positive and negative roles of B cells in cancer
Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta
New approaches in cancer immunotherapy: Programming bacteria to induce systemic antitumor immunity

 

 

Tuesday, June 23

12:45 PM – 1:46 PM EDT

Virtual Educational Session

Cancer Chemistry

Chemistry to the Clinic: Part 2: Irreversible Inhibitors as Potential Anticancer Agents

There are numerous examples of highly successful covalent drugs such as aspirin and penicillin that have been in use for a long period of time. Despite historical success, there was a period of reluctance among many to purse covalent drugs based on concerns about toxicity. With advances in understanding features of a well-designed covalent drug, new techniques to discover and characterize covalent inhibitors, and clinical success of new covalent cancer drugs in recent years, there is renewed interest in covalent compounds. This session will provide a broad look at covalent probe compounds and drug development, including a historical perspective, examination of warheads and electrophilic amino acids, the role of chemoproteomics, and case studies.

Benjamin F Cravatt, Richard A. Ward, Sara J Buhrlage

 

Discovering and optimizing covalent small-molecule ligands by chemical proteomics

Benjamin F Cravatt
  • Multiple approaches are being investigated to find new covalent inhibitors such as: 1) cysteine reactivity mapping, 2) mapping cysteine ligandability, 3) and functional screening in phenotypic assays for electrophilic compounds
  • Using fluorescent activity probes in proteomic screens; have broad useability in the proteome but can be specific
  • They screened quiescent versus stimulated T cells to determine reactive cysteines in a phenotypic screen and analyzed by MS proteomics (cysteine reactivity profiling); can quantitate 15000 to 20,000 reactive cysteines
  • Isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 and adapter protein LCP-1 are two examples of changes in reactive cysteines they have seen using this method
  • They use scout molecules to target ligands or proteins with reactive cysteines
  • For phenotypic screens they first use a cytotoxic assay to screen out toxic compounds which just kill cells without causing T cell activation (like IL10 secretion)
  • INTERESTINGLY coupling these MS reactive cysteine screens with phenotypic screens you can find NONCANONICAL mechanisms of many of these target proteins (many of the compounds found targets which were not predicted or known)

Electrophilic warheads and nucleophilic amino acids: A chemical and computational perspective on covalent modifier

The covalent targeting of cysteine residues in drug discovery and its application to the discovery of Osimertinib

Richard A. Ward
  • Cysteine activation: thiolate form of cysteine is a strong nucleophile
  • Thiolate form preferred in polar environment
  • Activation can be assisted by neighboring residues; pKA will have an effect on deprotonation
  • pKas of cysteine vary in EGFR
  • cysteine that are too reactive give toxicity while not reactive enough are ineffective

 

Accelerating drug discovery with lysine-targeted covalent probes

 

Tuesday, June 23

12:45 PM – 2:15 PM EDT

Virtual Educational Session

Molecular and Cellular Biology/Genetics

Virtual Educational Session

Tumor Biology, Immunology

Metabolism and Tumor Microenvironment

This Educational Session aims to guide discussion on the heterogeneous cells and metabolism in the tumor microenvironment. It is now clear that the diversity of cells in tumors each require distinct metabolic programs to survive and proliferate. Tumors, however, are genetically programmed for high rates of metabolism and can present a metabolically hostile environment in which nutrient competition and hypoxia can limit antitumor immunity.

Jeffrey C Rathmell, Lydia Lynch, Mara H Sherman, Greg M Delgoffe

 

T-cell metabolism and metabolic reprogramming antitumor immunity

Jeffrey C Rathmell

Introduction

Jeffrey C Rathmell

Metabolic functions of cancer-associated fibroblasts

Mara H Sherman

Tumor microenvironment metabolism and its effects on antitumor immunity and immunotherapeutic response

Greg M Delgoffe
  • Multiple metabolites, reactive oxygen species within the tumor microenvironment; is there heterogeneity within the TME metabolome which can predict their ability to be immunosensitive
  • Took melanoma cells and looked at metabolism using Seahorse (glycolysis): and there was vast heterogeneity in melanoma tumor cells; some just do oxphos and no glycolytic metabolism (inverse Warburg)
  • As they profiled whole tumors they could separate out the metabolism of each cell type within the tumor and could look at T cells versus stromal CAFs or tumor cells and characterized cells as indolent or metabolic
  • T cells from hyerglycolytic tumors were fine but from high glycolysis the T cells were more indolent
  • When knock down glucose transporter the cells become more glycolytic
  • If patient had high oxidative metabolism had low PDL1 sensitivity
  • Showed this result in head and neck cancer as well
  • Metformin a complex 1 inhibitor which is not as toxic as most mito oxphos inhibitors the T cells have less hypoxia and can remodel the TME and stimulate the immune response
  • Metformin now in clinical trials
  • T cells though seem metabolically restricted; T cells that infiltrate tumors are low mitochondrial phosph cells
  • T cells from tumors have defective mitochondria or little respiratory capacity
  • They have some preliminary findings that metabolic inhibitors may help with CAR-T therapy

Obesity, lipids and suppression of anti-tumor immunity

Lydia Lynch
  • Hypothesis: obesity causes issues with anti tumor immunity
  • Less NK cells in obese people; also produce less IFN gamma
  • RNASeq on NOD mice; granzymes and perforins at top of list of obese downregulated
  • Upregulated genes that were upregulated involved in lipid metabolism
  • All were PPAR target genes
  • NK cells from obese patients takes up palmitate and this reduces their glycolysis but OXPHOS also reduced; they think increased FFA basically overloads mitochondria
  • PPAR alpha gamma activation mimics obesity

 

 

Tuesday, June 23

12:45 PM – 2:45 PM EDT

Virtual Educational Session

Clinical Research Excluding Trials

The Evolving Role of the Pathologist in Cancer Research

Long recognized for their role in cancer diagnosis and prognostication, pathologists are beginning to leverage a variety of digital imaging technologies and computational tools to improve both clinical practice and cancer research. Remarkably, the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms for analyzing pathology specimens is poised to not only augment the resolution and accuracy of clinical diagnosis, but also fundamentally transform the role of the pathologist in cancer science and precision oncology. This session will discuss what pathologists are currently able to achieve with these new technologies, present their challenges and barriers, and overview their future possibilities in cancer diagnosis and research. The session will also include discussions of what is practical and doable in the clinic for diagnostic and clinical oncology in comparison to technologies and approaches primarily utilized to accelerate cancer research.

 

Jorge S Reis-Filho, Thomas J Fuchs, David L Rimm, Jayanta Debnath

DETAILS

Tuesday, June 23

12:45 PM – 2:45 PM EDT

 

High-dimensional imaging technologies in cancer research

David L Rimm

  • Using old methods and new methods; so cell counting you use to find the cells then phenotype; with quantification like with Aqua use densitometry of positive signal to determine a threshold to determine presence of a cell for counting
  • Hiplex versus multiplex imaging where you have ten channels to measure by cycling of flour on antibody (can get up to 20plex)
  • Hiplex can be coupled with Mass spectrometry (Imaging Mass spectrometry, based on heavy metal tags on mAbs)
  • However it will still take a trained pathologist to define regions of interest or field of desired view

 

Introduction

Jayanta Debnath

Challenges and barriers of implementing AI tools for cancer diagnostics

Jorge S Reis-Filho

Implementing robust digital pathology workflows into clinical practice and cancer research

Jayanta Debnath

Invited Speaker

Thomas J Fuchs
  • Founder of spinout of Memorial Sloan Kettering
  • Separates AI from computational algothimic
  • Dealing with not just machines but integrating human intelligence
  • Making decision for the patients must involve human decision making as well
  • How do we get experts to do these decisions faster
  • AI in pathology: what is difficult? =è sandbox scenarios where machines are great,; curated datasets; human decision support systems or maps; or try to predict nature
  • 1) learn rules made by humans; human to human scenario 2)constrained nature 3)unconstrained nature like images and or behavior 4) predict nature response to nature response to itself
  • In sandbox scenario the rules are set in stone and machines are great like chess playing
  • In second scenario can train computer to predict what a human would predict
  • So third scenario is like driving cars
  • System on constrained nature or constrained dataset will take a long time for commuter to get to decision
  • Fourth category is long term data collection project
  • He is finding it is still finding it is still is difficult to predict nature so going from clinical finding to prognosis still does not have good predictability with AI alone; need for human involvement
  • End to end partnering (EPL) is a new way where humans can get more involved with the algorithm and assist with the problem of constrained data
  • An example of a workflow for pathology would be as follows from Campanella et al 2019 Nature Medicine: obtain digital images (they digitized a million slides), train a massive data set with highthroughput computing (needed a lot of time and big software developing effort), and then train it using input be the best expert pathologists (nature to human and unconstrained because no data curation done)
  • Led to first clinically grade machine learning system (Camelyon16 was the challenge for detecting metastatic cells in lymph tissue; tested on 12,000 patients from 45 countries)
  • The first big hurdle was moving from manually annotated slides (which was a big bottleneck) to automatically extracted data from path reports).
  • Now problem is in prediction: How can we bridge the gap from predicting humans to predicting nature?
  • With an AI system pathologist drastically improved the ability to detect very small lesions

 

Virtual Educational Session

Epidemiology

Cancer Increases in Younger Populations: Where Are They Coming from?

Incidence rates of several cancers (e.g., colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancers) are rising in younger populations, which contrasts with either declining or more slowly rising incidence in older populations. Early-onset cancers are also more aggressive and have different tumor characteristics than those in older populations. Evidence on risk factors and contributors to early-onset cancers is emerging. In this Educational Session, the trends and burden, potential causes, risk factors, and tumor characteristics of early-onset cancers will be covered. Presenters will focus on colorectal and breast cancer, which are among the most common causes of cancer deaths in younger people. Potential mechanisms of early-onset cancers and racial/ethnic differences will also be discussed.

Stacey A. Fedewa, Xavier Llor, Pepper Jo Schedin, Yin Cao

Cancers that are and are not increasing in younger populations

Stacey A. Fedewa

 

  • Early onset cancers, pediatric cancers and colon cancers are increasing in younger adults
  • Younger people are more likely to be uninsured and these are there most productive years so it is a horrible life event for a young adult to be diagnosed with cancer. They will have more financial hardship and most (70%) of the young adults with cancer have had financial difficulties.  It is very hard for women as they are on their childbearing years so additional stress
  • Types of early onset cancer varies by age as well as geographic locations. For example in 20s thyroid cancer is more common but in 30s it is breast cancer.  Colorectal and testicular most common in US.
  • SCC is decreasing by adenocarcinoma of the cervix is increasing in women’s 40s, potentially due to changing sexual behaviors
  • Breast cancer is increasing in younger women: maybe etiologic distinct like triple negative and larger racial disparities in younger African American women
  • Increased obesity among younger people is becoming a factor in this increasing incidence of early onset cancers

 

 

Other Articles on this Open Access  Online Journal on Cancer Conferences and Conference Coverage in Real Time Include

Press Coverage

Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 28, 2020 Symposium: New Drugs on the Horizon Part 3 12:30-1:25 PM

Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 28, 2020 Session on NCI Activities: COVID-19 and Cancer Research 5:20 PM

Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 28, 2020 Session on Evaluating Cancer Genomics from Normal Tissues Through Metastatic Disease 3:50 PM

Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 28, 2020 Session on Novel Targets and Therapies 2:35 PM

 

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Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 27, 2020 Minisymposium on Signaling in Cancer 11:45am-1:30 pm

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD.

SESSION VMS.MCB01.01 – Emerging Signaling Vulnerabilities in Cancer
April 27, 2020, 11:45 AM – 1:30 PM
Virtual Meeting: All Session Times Are U.S. EDT
DESCRIPTION

All session times are U.S. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Access to AACR Virtual Annual Meeting I sessions are free with registration. Register now at http://www.aacr.org/virtualam2020

Session Type

Virtual Minisymposium

Track(s)

Molecular and Cellular Biology/Genetics

16 Presentations
11:45 AM – 1:30 PM
– Chairperson

J. Silvio Gutkind. UCSD Moores Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA

11:45 AM – 1:30 PM
– Chairperson

  • in 80’s and 90’s signaling focused on defects and also oncogene addiction.  Now the field is switching to finding vulnerabilities in signaling cascades in cancer

Adrienne D. Cox. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

11:45 AM – 11:55 AM
– Introduction

J. Silvio Gutkind. UCSD Moores Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA

11:55 AM – 12:05 PM
1085 – Interrogating the RAS interactome identifies EFR3A as a novel enhancer of RAS oncogenesis

Hema Adhikari, Walaa Kattan, John F. Hancock, Christopher M. Counter. Duke University, Durham, NC, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX

Abstract: Activating mutations in one of the three RAS genes (HRAS, NRAS, and KRAS) are detected in as much as a third of all human cancers. As oncogenic RAS mediates it tumorigenic signaling through protein-protein interactions primarily at the plasma membrane, we sought to document the protein networks engaged by each RAS isoform to identify new vulnerabilities for future therapeutic development. To this end, we determined interactomes of oncogenic HRAS, NRAS, and KRAS by BirA-mediated proximity labeling. This analysis identified roughly ** proteins shared among multiple interactomes, as well as a smaller subset unique to a single RAS oncoprotein. To identify those interactome components promoting RAS oncogenesis, we created and screened sgRNA library targeting the interactomes for genes modifying oncogenic HRAS-, NRAS-, or KRAS-mediated transformation. This analysis identified the protein EFR3A as not only a common component of all three RAS interactomes, but when inactivated, uniformly reduced the growth of cells transformed by any of the three RAS isoforms. EFR3A recruits a complex containing the druggable phosphatidylinositol (Ptdlns) 4 kinase alpha (PI4KA) to the plasma membrane to generate the Ptdlns species PI4P. We show that EFR3A sgRNA reduced multiple RAS effector signaling pathways, suggesting that EFR3A acts at the level of the oncoprotein itself. As lipids play a critical role in the membrane localization of RAS, we tested and found that EFR3A sgRNA reduced not only the occupancy of RAS at the plasma membrane, but also the nanoclustering necessary for signaling. Furthermore, the loss of oncogenic RAS signaling induced by EFR3A sgRNA was rescued by targeting PI4K to the plasma membrane. Taken together, these data support a model whereby EFR3A recruits PI4K to oncogenic RAS to promote plasma membrane localization and nonclustering, and in turn, signaling and transformation. To investigate the therapeutic potential of this new RAS enhancer, we show that EFR3A sgRNA reduced oncogenic KRAS signaling and transformed growth in a panel of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) cell lines. Encouraged by these results we are exploring whether genetically inactivating the kinase activity of PI4KA inhibits oncogenic signaling and transformation in PDAC cell lines. If true, pharmacologically targeting PI4K may hold promise as a way to enhance the anti-neoplastic activity of drugs targeting oncogenic RAS or its effectors.

@DukeU

@DukeMedSchool

@MDAndersonNews

  • different isoforms of ras mutations exist differentially in various tumor types e.g. nras vs kras
  • the C terminal end serve as hotspots of mutations and probably isoform specific functions
  • they determined the interactomes of nras and kras and determined how many candidates are ras specific
  • they overlayed results from proteomic and CRSPR screen; EFR3a was a potential target that stuck out
  • using TCGA patients with higher EFR3a had poorer prognosis
  • EFR3a promotes Ras signaling; and required for RAS driven tumor growth (in RAS addicted tumors?)
  • EGFR3a promotes clustering of oncogenic RAS at plasma membrane

 

12:05 PM – 12:10 PM
– Discussion

12:10 PM – 12:20 PM
1086 – Downstream kinase signaling is dictated by specific KRAS mutations; Konstantin Budagyan, Jonathan Chernoff. Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA @FoxChaseCancer

Abstract: Oncogenic KRAS mutations are common in colorectal cancer (CRC), found in ~50% of tumors, and are associated with poor prognosis and resistance to therapy. There is substantial diversity of KRAS alleles observed in CRC. Importantly, emerging clinical and experimental analysis of relatively common KRAS mutations at amino acids G12, G13, A146, and Q61 suggest that each mutation differently influences the clinical properties of a disease and response to therapy. For example, KRAS G12 mutations confer resistance to EGFR-targeted therapy, while G13D mutations do not. Although there is clinical evidence to suggest biological differences between mutant KRAS alleles, it is not yet known what drives these differences and whether they can be exploited for allele-specific therapy. We hypothesized that different KRAS mutants elicit variable alterations in downstream signaling pathways. To investigate this hypothesis, we created a novel system by which we can model KRAS mutants in isogenic mouse colon epithelial cell lines. To generate the cell lines, we developed an assay using fluorescent co-selection for CRISPR-driven genome editing. This assay involves simultaneous introduction of single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) to two different endogenous loci resulting in double-editing events. We first introduced Cas9 and blue fluorescent protein (BFP) into mouse colon epithelial cell line containing heterozygous KRAS G12D mutation. We then used sgRNAs targeting BFP and the mutant G12D KRAS allele along with homology-directed repair (HDR) templates for a GFP gene and a KRAS mutant allele of our choice. Cells that successfully undergo HDR are GFP-positive and contain the desired KRAS mutation. Therefore, selection for GFP-positive cells allows us to identify those with phenotypically silent KRAS edits. Ultimately, this method allows us to toggle between different mutant alleles while preserving the wild-type allele, all in an isogenic background. Using this method, we have generated cell lines with endogenous heterozygous KRAS mutations commonly seen in CRC (G12D, G12V, G12C, G12R, G13D). In order to elucidate cellular signaling pathway differences between the KRAS mutants, we screened the mutated cell lines using a small-molecule library of ~160 protein kinase inhibitors. We found that there are mutation-specific differences in drug sensitivity profiles. These observations suggest that KRAS mutants drive specific cellular signaling pathways, and that further exploration of these pathways may prove to be valuable for identification of novel therapeutic opportunities in CRC.

  • Flourescent coselection of KRAS edits by CRSPR screen in a colorectal cancer line; a cell that is competent to undergo HR can undergo combination multiple KRAS
  • target only mutant allele while leaving wild type intact;
  • it was KRAS editing event in APC  +/- mouse cell line
  • this enabled a screen for kinase inhibitors that decreased tumor growth in isogenic cell lines; PKC alpha and beta 1 inhibitors, also CDK4 inhibitors inhibited cell growth
  • questions about heterogeneity in KRAS clones; they looked at off target guides and looked at effects in screens; then they used top two clones that did not have off target;  questions about 3D culture- they have not done that; Question ? dependency on AKT activity? perhaps the G12E has different downstream effectors

 

12:20 PM – 12:25 PM
– Discussion

12:25 PM – 12:35 PM
1087 – NF1 regulates the RAS-related GTPases, RRAS and RRAS2, independent of RAS activity; Jillian M. Silva, Lizzeth Canche, Frank McCormick. University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA @UCSFMedicine

Abstract: Neurofibromin, which is encoded by the neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) gene, is a tumor suppressor that acts as a RAS-GTPase activating protein (RAS-GAP) to stimulate the intrinsic GTPase activity of RAS as well as the closely related RAS subfamily members, RRAS, RRAS2, and MRAS. This results in the conversion of the active GTP-bound form of RAS into the inactive GDP-bound state leading to the downregulation of several RAS downstream effector pathways, most notably MAPK signaling. While the region of NF1 that regulates RAS activity represents only a small fraction of the entire protein, a large extent of the NF1 structural domains and their corresponding mechanistic functions remain uncharacterized despite the fact there is a high frequency of NF1 mutations in several different types of cancer. Thus, we wanted to elucidate the underlying biochemical and signaling functions of NF1 that are unrelated to the regulation of RAS and how loss of these functions contributes to the pathogenesis of cancer. To accomplish this objective, we used CRISPR-Cas9 methods to knockout NF1 in an isogenic “RASless” MEF model system, which is devoid of the major oncogenic RAS isoforms (HRAS, KRAS, and NRAS) and reconstituted with the KRAS4b wild-type or mutant KRASG12C or KRASG12D isoform. Loss of NF1 led to elevated RAS-GTP levels, however, this increase was not as profound as the levels in KRAS-mutated cells or provided a proliferative advantage. Although ablation of NF1 resulted in sustained activation of MAPK signaling, it also unexpectedly, resulted in a robust increase in AKT phosphorylation compared to KRAS-mutated cells. Surprisingly, loss of NF1 in KRAS4b wild-type and KRAS-mutated cells potently suppressed the RAS-related GTPases, RRAS and RRAS2, with modest effects on MRAS, at both the transcript and protein levels. A Clariom™D transcriptome microarray analysis revealed a significant downregulation in the NF-κB target genes, insulin-like growth factor binding protein 2 (IGFBP2), argininosuccinate synthetase 1 (ASS1), and DUSP1, in both the NF1 knockout KRAS4b wild-type and KRAS-mutated cells. Moreover, NF1Null melanoma cells also displayed a potent suppression of RRAS and RRAS2 as well as these NF-κB transcription factors. Since RRAS and RRAS2 both contain the same NF-κB transcription factor binding sites, we hypothesize that IGFBP2, ASS1, and/or DUSP1 may contribute to the NF1-mediated regulation of these RAS-related GTPases. More importantly, this study provides the first evidence of at least one novel RAS-independent function of NF1 to regulate the RAS-related subfamily members, RRAS and RRAS2, in a manner exclusive of its RAS-GTPase activity and this may provide insight into new potential biomarkers and molecular targets for treating patients with mutations in NF1.
  • NF1 and SPRED work together to signal from RTK cKIT through RAS
  • NF1 knockout cells had higher KRAS and had increased cell proliferation
  • NF1 -/-  or SPRED loss had increased ERK phosphorylation and some increase in AKT activity compared to parental cells
  • they used isogenic cell lines devoid of all RAS isoforms and then reconstituted with specific RAS WT or mutants
  • NF1 and SPRED KO both reduce RRAS expression; in an AKT independent mannner
  • NF1 SPRED KO cells have almost no IGFBP2 protein expression and SNAIL so maybe affecting EMT?
  • this effect is independent of its RAS GTPAse activity (noncanonical)

12:35 PM – 12:40 PM
– Discussion

12:40 PM – 12:50 PM
1088 – Elucidating the regulation of delayed-early gene targets of sustained MAPK signaling; Kali J. Dale, Martin McMahon. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City, UT

Abstract: RAS and its downstream effector, BRAF, are commonly mutated proto-oncogenes in many types of human cancer. Mutationally activated RAS or BRAF signal through the MEK→ERK MAP kinase (MAPK) pathway to regulate key cancer cell hallmarks such as cell division cycle progression, reduced programmed cell death, and enhanced cell motility. Amongst the list of RAS/RAF-regulated genes are those encoding integrins, alpha-beta heterodimeric transmembrane proteins that regulate cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix. Altered integrin expression has been linked to the acquisition of more aggressive behavior by melanoma, lung, and breast cancer cells leading to diminished survival of cancer patients. We have previously documented the ability of the RAS-activated MAPK pathway to induce the expression of ITGB3 encoding integrin β3 in several different cell types. RAS/RAF-mediated induction of ITGB3 mRNA requires sustained, high-level activation of RAF→MEK→ERK signaling mediated by oncogene activation and is classified as “delayed-early”, in that it is sensitive to the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide. However, to date, the regulatory mechanisms that allow for induced ITGB3 downstream of sustained, high-level activation of MAPK signaling remains obscure. We have identified over 300 DEGs, including those expressing additional cell surface proteins, that display similar regulatory characteristics as ITGB3. We use integrin β3 as a model to test our hypothesis that there is a different mechanism of regulation for delayed-early genes (DEG) compared to the canonical regulation of Immediate-Early genes. There are three regions in the chromatin upstream of the ITGB3 that become more accessible during RAF activation. We are relating the chromatin changes seen during RAF activation to active enhancer histone marks. To elucidate the essential genes of this regulation process, we are employing the use of a genome-wide CRISPR knockout screen. The work presented from this abstract will help elucidate the regulatory properties of oncogenic progression in BRAF mutated cancers that could lead to the identification of biomarkers.

12:50 PM – 12:55 PM
– Discussion

12:55 PM – 1:05 PM
1090 – Regulation of PTEN translation by PI3K signaling maintains pathway homeostasis

Radha Mukherjee, Kiran Gireesan Vanaja, Jacob A. Boyer, Juan Qiu, Xiaoping Chen, Elisa De Stanchina, Sarat Chandarlapaty, Andre Levchenko, Neal Rosen. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, Yale University, West Haven, CT, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY @sloan_kettering

Abstract: The PI3K pathway is a key regulator of metabolism, cell proliferation and migration and some of its components (e.g. PIK3CA and PTEN) are frequently altered in cancer by genetic events that deregulate its output. However, PI3K signaling is not usually the primary driver of these tumors and inhibitors of components of the pathway have only modest antitumor effects. We now show that both physiologic and oncogenic activation of the PI3K signaling by growth factors and an activating hotspot PIK3CA mutation respectively, cause an increase in the expression of the lipid phosphatase PTEN, thus limiting the duration of the signal and the output of the pathway in tumors. Pharmacologic and physiologic inhibition of the pathway by HER2/PI3K/AKT/mTOR inhibitors and nutrient starvation respectively reduce PTEN, thus buffering the effects of inhibition and contributing to the rebound in pathway activity that occurs in tumors. This regulation is found to be a feature of multiple types of cancer, non-cancer cell line and PDX models thereby highlighting its role as a key conserved feedback loop within the PI3K signaling network, both in vitro and in vivo. Regulation of expression is due to mTOR/4EBP1 dependent control of PTEN translation and is lost when 4EBP1 is knocked out. Translational regulation of PTEN is therefore a major homeostatic regulator of physiologic PI3K signaling and plays a role in reducing the output of oncogenic mutants that deregulate the pathway and the antitumor activity of PI3K pathway inhibitors.

  • mTOR can be a potent regulator of PTEN and therefore a major issue when developing PI3K inhibitors

1:05 PM – 1:10 PM
– Discussion

1:10 PM – 1:20 PM
1091 – BI-3406 and BI 1701963: Potent and selective SOS1::KRAS inhibitors induce regressions in combination with MEK inhibitors or irinotecan

Daniel Gerlach, Michael Gmachl, Juergen Ramharter, Jessica Teh, Szu-Chin Fu, Francesca Trapani, Dirk Kessler, Klaus Rumpel, Dana-Adriana Botesteanu, Peter Ettmayer, Heribert Arnhof, Thomas Gerstberger, Christiane Kofink, Tobias Wunberg, Christopher P. Vellano, Timothy P. Heffernan, Joseph R. Marszalek, Mark Pearson, Darryl B. McConnell, Norbert Kraut, Marco H. Hofmann. Boehringer Ingelheim RCV GmbH & Co KG, Vienna, Austria, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, Boehringer Ingelheim RCV GmbH & Co KG, Vienna, Austria

  • there is rational for developing an SOS1 inhibitor (GEF); BI3406 shows better PK and PD as a candidate
  • most sensitive cell lines to inhibitor carry KRAS mutation; NRAS or BRAF mutations are not sensititve
  • KRAS mutation defines sensitivity so they created KRAS mut isogenic cell lines
  • found best to co inhibit SOS and MEK as observed plasticity with only SOS
  • dual combination in lung NSCLC pancreatic showed enhanced efficacy compared to monotherapy
  • SOS1 inhibition plus irinotecan enhances DNA double strand breaks; no increased DNA damage in normal stroma but preferentially in tumor cells
  • these SOS1 had broad activity against KRAS mutant models;
  • phase 1 started in 2019;

@Boehringer

1:20 PM – 1:25 PM
– Discussion

1:25 PM – 1:30 PM
– Closing Remarks

Adrienne D. Cox. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

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Live Notes, Real Time Conference Coverage 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting April 27, 2020 Opening Remarks and Clinical Session 9 am

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD.

9:00 AM Opening Session

9:00 AM – 9:05 AM
– Opening Video

9:05 AM – 9:15 AM
– AACR President: Opening Remarks Elaine R. Mardis. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH

 

Dr. Mardis is the Robert E. and Louise F. Dunn Distinguished Professor of Medicine @GenomeInstitute at Washington University of St. Louis School of Medicine.

Opening remarks:  Dr. Mardis gave her welcome from her office.  She expressed many thanks to healthcare workers and the hard work of scientists and researchers.  She also expressed some regret for the many scientists who had wonderful research to present and how hard it was to make the decision to go virtual however she feels there now more than ever still needs a venue to discuss scientific and clinical findings.  Some of the initiatives that she has had the opportunity to engage in the areas of groundbreaking discoveries and clinical trials.  606,000 lives will be lost in US this year from cancer.  AACR is being vigilant as also an advocacy platform and public policy platform in Congress and Washington.  The AACR has been at the front of public policy on electronic cigarettes.  Blood Cancer Discovery is their newest journal.  They are going to host joint conferences with engineers, mathematicians and physicists to discuss how they can help to transform oncology.  Cancer Health Disparity Annual Conference is one of the fastest growing conferences.  They will release a report later this year about the scope of the problem and policy steps needed to alleviate these disparities.  Lack of racial and ethnic minorities in cancer research had been identified an issue and the AACR is actively working to reduce the disparities within the ranks of cancer researchers.   Special thanks to Dr. Margaret Foti for making the AACR the amazing organization it is.

 

9:15 AM – 9:30 AM- AACR Annual Meeting Program Chair: Review of Program for AACR Virtual Annual Meeting Antoni Ribas. UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

Antoni Ribas, MD PhD is Professor, Medicine, Surgery, Molecular and Medical Pharmacology; Director, Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Center at UCLA; Director, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Tumor Immunology Program aribas@mednet.ucla.edu

The AACR felt it was important to keep the discourse in the cancer research field as the Annual AACR meeting is the major way scientists and clinicians discuss the latest and most pertinent results.  A three day virtual meeting June 22-24 will focus more on the translational and basic research while this meeting is more focused on clinical trials.  There will be educational programs during the June virtual meeting.  The COVID in Cancer part of this virtual meeting was put in specially for this meeting and there will be a special meeting on this in July.  They have created an AACR COVID task force.  The AACR has just asked Congress and NIH to extend the grants due to the COVID induced shutdown of many labs.

9:30  Open Clinical Plenary Session (there are 17 sessions today but will only cover a few of these)

9:30 AM – 9:31 AM
– Chairperson Nilofer S. Azad. Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comp. Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD @noza512

9:30 AM – 9:31 AM
– Chairperson Manuel Hidalgo. Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, NY

9:30 AM – 9:35 AM
– Introduction Nilofer S. Azad. Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comp. Cancer Center, Baltimore, MD

9:35 AM – 9:45 AM
CT011 – Evaluation of durvalumab in combination with olaparib and paclitaxel in high-risk HER2 negative stage II/III breast cancer: Results from the I-SPY 2 TRIAL Lajos Pusztai, et al

see https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/9045/presentation/10593

AbstractBackground: I-SPY2 is a multicenter, phase 2 trial using response-adaptive randomization within molecular subtypes defined by receptor status and MammaPrint risk to evaluate novel agents as neoadjuvant therapy for breast cancer. The primary endpoint is pathologic complete response (pCR, ypT0/is ypN0)). DNA repair deficiency in cancer cells can lead to immunogenic neoantigens, activation of the STING pathway, and PARP inhibition can also upregulate PD-L1 expression. Based on these rationales we tested the combination of durvalumab (anti-PDL1), olaparib (PARP inhibitor) and paclitaxel in I-SPY2.
Methods: Women with tumors ≥ 2.5 cm were eligible for screening. Only HER2 negative (HER2-) patients were eligible for this treatment, hormone receptor positive (HR+) patients had to have MammaPrint high molecular profile. Treatment included durvalumab 1500 mg every 4 weeks x 3, olaparib 100 mg twice daily through weeks 1-11 concurrent with paclitaxel 80 mg/m2 weekly x 12 (DOP) followed by doxorubicin/cyclophosphamide (AC) x 4. The control arm was weekly paclitaxel x 12 followed by AC x 4. All patients undergo serial MRI imaging and imaging response at 3 & 12 weeks combined with accumulating pCR data are used to estimate, and continuously update, predicted pCR rate for the trial arm. Regimens “graduation with success” when the Bayesian predictive probability of success in a 300-patient phase 3 neoadjuvant trial in the appropriate biomarker groups reaches > 85%.
Results: A total of 73 patients received DOP treatment including 21 HR- tumors (i.e. triple-negative breast cancer, TNBC) and 52 HR+ tumors between May 2018 – June 2019. The control group included 299 patients with HER2- tumors. The DOP arm graduated in June 2019, 13 months after enrollment had started, for all HER2- negative and the HR+/HER2- cohorts with > 0.85% predictive probabilities of success. 72 patient completed surgery and evaluable for pCR, the final predicted probabilities of success in a future phase III trial to demonstrate higher pCR rate with DOP compared to control are 81% for all HER2- cancers (estimated pCR rate 37%), 80% for TNBC (estimated pCR rate 47%) and 74.5% for HR+/HER2- patients (estimated pCR rate 28%). Association between pCR and germline BRCA status and immune gene expression including PDL1 will be presented at the meeting. No unexpected toxicities were seen, but 10 patients (14%) had possibly immune or olaparib related grade 2/3 AEs (3 pneumonitis, 2 adrenal insufficiency, 1 colitis, 1 pancreatitis, 2 elevated LFT, 1 skin toxicity, 2 hypothyroidism, 1 hyperthyroidism, 1 esophagitis).
Conclusion: I-SPY2 demonstrated a significant improvement in pCR with durvalumab and olaparib included with paclitaxel compared to chemotherapy alone in women with stage II/III high-risk, HER2-negative breast cancer, improvement was seen in both the HR+ and TNBC subsets.

  • This combination of durvalumab and olaparib is safe in triple negative breast cancer
  • expected synergy between PARP inhibitors and PDL1 inhibitors as olaparib inhibits DNA repair and would increase the mutational burden, which is in lung cancer shown to be a biomarker for efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors such as Opdivio
  • three subsets of breast cancers were studied: her2 negative, triple negative and ER+ tumors
  • MRI imaging tumor size was used as response
  • olaparib arm had elevation of liver enzymes and there was a pancreatitis
  • however paclitaxel was used within the combination as well as a chemo arm but the immuno arm alone may not be better than chemo alone but experimental arm with all combo definitely better than chemo alone
  • they did not look at BRCA1/2 status, followup talk showed that this is a select group that may see enhanced benefit; PARP inhibitors were seen to be effective only in BRCA1/2 mutant ovarian cancer previously

 

10:10 AM – 10:20 AM
CT012 – Evaluation of atezolizumab (A), cobimetinib (C), and vemurafenib (V) in previously untreated patients with BRAFV600 mutation-positive advanced melanoma: Primary results from the phase 3 IMspire150 trial Grant A. McArthur,

for abstract please see https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/9045/presentation/10594

AbstractBackground: Approved systemic treatments for advanced melanoma include immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy (CIT) and targeted therapy with BRAF plus MEK inhibitors for BRAFV600E/K mutant melanoma. Response rates with CITs are typically lower than those observed with targeted therapy, but CIT responses are more durable. Preclinical and clinical data suggest a potential for synergy between CIT and BRAF plus MEK inhibitors. We therefore evaluated whether combining CIT with targeted therapy could improve efficacy vs targeted therapy alone. Methods: Treatment-naive patients with unresectable stage IIIc/IV melanoma (AJCC 7th ed), measurable disease by RECIST 1.1, and BRAFV600 mutations in their tumors were randomized to the anti­-programmed death-ligand 1 antibody A + C + V or placebo (Pbo) + C + V. A or Pbo were given on days 1 and 15 of each 28-day cycle. Treatment was continued until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity. The primary outcome was investigator-assessed progression-free survival (PFS). Results: 514 patients were enrolled (A + C + V = 256; Pbo + C + V = 258) and followed for a median of 18.9 months. Investigator-assessed PFS was significantly prolonged with A + C + V vs Pbo + C + V (15.1 vs 10.6 months, respectively; hazard ratio: 0.78; 95% confidence interval: 0.63-0.97; P=0.025), an effect seen in all prognostic subgroups. While objective response rates were similar in the A + C + V and Pbo + C + V groups, median duration of response was prolonged with A + C + V (21.0 months) vs Pbo + C + V (12.6 months). Overall survival data were not mature at the time of analysis. Common treatment-related adverse events (AEs; >30%) in the A + C + V and Pbo + C + V groups were blood creatinine phosphokinase (CPK) increase (51.3% vs 44.8%), diarrhea (42.2% vs 46.6%), rash (40.9% in both arms), arthralgia (39.1% vs 28.1%), pyrexia (38.7% vs 26.0%), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) increase (33.9% vs 22.8%), and lipase increase (32.2% vs 27.4%). Common treatment-related grade 3/4 AEs (>10%) that occurred in the A + C + V and Pbo + C + V groups were lipase increase (20.4% vs 20.6%), blood CPK increase (20.0% vs 14.9%), ALT increase (13.0% vs 8.9%), and maculopapular rash (12.6% vs 9.6%). The incidence of treatment-related serious AEs was similar between the A + C + V (33.5%) and Pbo + C + V (28.8%) groups. 12.6% of patients in the A + C + V group and 15.7% in the Pbo + C + V group stopped all treatment because of AEs. The safety profile of the A + C + V regimen was generally consistent with the known profiles of the individual components. Conclusion: Combination therapy with A + C + V was tolerable and manageable, produced durable responses, and significantly increased PFS vs Pbo + C + V. Thus, A + C + V represents a viable treatment option for BRAFV600 mutation-positive advanced melanoma. ClinicalTrials.gov ID: NCT02908672

 

 

10:25 AM – 10:35 AM
CT013 – SWOG S1320: Improved progression-free survival with continuous compared to intermittent dosing with dabrafenib and trametinib in patients with BRAF mutated melanoma Alain Algazi,

for abstract and more author information please see https://www.abstractsonline.com/pp8/#!/9045/presentation/10595

AbstractBackground: BRAF and MEK inhibitors yield objective responses in the majority of BRAFV600E/K mutant melanoma patients, but acquired resistance limits response durations. Preclinical data suggests that intermittent dosing of these agents may delay acquired resistance by deselecting tumor cells that grow optimally in the presence of these agents. S1320 is a randomized phase 2 clinical trial designed to determine whether intermittent versus continuous dosing of dabrafenib and trametinib improves progression-free survival (PFS) in patients with advanced BRAFV600E/K melanoma.
Methods: All patients received continuous dabrafenib and trametinib for 8-weeks after which non-progressing patients were randomized to receive either continuous treatment or intermittent dosing of both drugs on a 3-week-off, 5-week-on schedule. Unscheduled treatment interruptions of both drugs for > 14 days were not permitted. Responses were assessed using RECIST v1.1 at 8-week intervals scheduled to coincide with on-treatment periods for patients on the intermittent dosing arm. Adverse events were assessed using CTCAE v4 monthly. The design assumed exponential PFS with a median of 9.4 months using continuous dosing, 206 eligible patients and 156 PFS events. It had 90% power with a two-sided α = 0.2 to detect a change to a median with an a priori hypothesis that intermittent dosing would improve the median PFS to 14.1 months using a Cox model stratified by the randomization stratification factors.
Results: 242 patients were treated and 206 patients without disease progression after 8 weeks were randomized, 105 to continuous and 101 to intermittent treatment. 70% of patients had not previously received immune checkpoint inhibitors. There were no significant differences between groups in terms of baseline patient characteristics. The median PFS was statistically significantly longer, 9.0 months from randomization, with continuous dosing vs. 5.5 months from randomization with intermittent dosing (p = 0.064). There was no difference in overall survival between groups (median OS = 29.2 months in both arms p = 0.93) at a median follow up of 2 years. 77% of patient treated continuously discontinued treatment due to disease progression vs. 84% treated intermittently (p = 0.34).
Conclusions: Continuous dosing with the BRAF and MEK inhibitors dabrafenib and trametinib yields superior PFS compared with intermittent dosing.

  • combo of MEK and BRAF inhibitors can attract immune cells like TREGs so PDL1 inhibitor might help improve outcome
  • PFS was outcome endpoint
  • LDH was elevated in three patients (why are they seeing liver tox?  curious like previous study); are seeing these tox with the PDL1 inhibitors
  • there was marked survival over placebo group and PFS was statistically  with continuous dosing however intermittent dosing shows no improvement

Dr. Wafik el Diery gave a nice insight as follows

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Live Conference Coverage of AACR 2020 Annual Virtual Meeting; April 27-28, 2020

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will hold its Annual Meeting as a Virtual Online Format.  Registration is free and open to all, including non members.  Please go to

https://www.aacr.org/meeting/aacr-annual-meeting-2020/aacr-virtual-annual-meeting-i/?utm_source=Salesforce%20Marketing%20Cloud&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=&sfmc_s=0031I00000WsBJxQAN

to register for this two day meeting.  Another two day session will be held in June 2020 and will focus more on basic cancer research.

Please follow @pharma_BI who will be live Tweeting Real Time Notes from this meeting using the hashtag

#AACR20

And @StephenJWillia2

The following is a brief summary of the schedule.  Please register and go to AACR for detailed information on individual sessions.

 

AACR VIRTUAL ANNUAL MEETING I: SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE

AACR Virtual Annual Meeting I is available free Register Now

VIRTUAL MEETING I: BROWSER REQUIREMENTS AND ACCESSVIRTUAL MEETING I: FAQVIRTUAL MEETING I: MEETING PLANNER (ABSTRACT TITLES)

Presentation titles are available through the online meeting planner. The program also includes six virtual poster sessions consisting of brief slide videos. Poster sessions will not be presented live but will be available for viewing on demand. Poster session topics are as follows:

  • Phase I Clinical Trials
  • Phase II Clinical Trials
  • Phase III Clinical Trials
  • Phase I Trials in Progress
  • Phase II Trials in Progress
  • Phase III Trials in Progress

Schedule updated April 24, 2020

MONDAY, APRIL 27

Channel 1 Channel 2 Channel 3
9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m.
Opening Session
_______________________
9:30 a.m.-11:40 a.m.
Opening Clinical Plenary
_______________________
11:40 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Clinical Plenary: Immunotherapy Clinical Trials 1
_______________________
___ 11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Minisymposium: Emerging Signaling Vulnerabilities in Cancer
_______________________
___ 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.
Minisymposium: Advances in Cancer Drug Design and Discovery
__________________________
2:00 p.m.-4:50 p.m.
Clinical Plenary: Lung Cancer Targeted Therapy
_______________________
___ 1:55 p.m.-4:15 p.m.
Clinical Plenary: Breast Cancer Therapy
_______________________
___ 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Minisymposium: Drugging Undrugged Cancer Targets
__________________________
4:50 p.m.-6:05 p.m.
Symposium: New Drugs on the Horizon 1_______________________
___ 4:50 p.m.-5:50 p.m.
Minisymposium: Therapeutic Modification of the Tumor Microenvironment or Microbiome
_______________________
___ 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Minisymposium: Advancing Cancer Research Through An International Cancer Registry: AACR Project GENIE Use Cases__________________________

All session times are EDT.

TUESDAY, APRIL 28

Channel 1 Channel 2 Channel 3
9:00 a.m.-101:00 a.m.
Clinical Plenary: COVID-19 and Cancer
__________________________
11:00 a.m.-1:35 p.m.
Clinical Plenary: Adoptive Cell Transfer Therapy__________________________
___ 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Symposium: New Drugs on the Horizon 2_________________________
___ 10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Minisymposium: Translational Prevention Studies
______________________
___ 12:30 p.m.-1:25 p.m.
Symposium: New Drugs on the Horizon 3
_________________________
___ 12:30 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
Minisymposium: Non-coding RNAs in Cancer
______________________
1:35 p.m.-3:35 p.m.
Clinical Plenary: Early Detection and ctDNA__________________________
___ 1:30 p.m.-3:50 p.m.
Clinical Plenary: Immunotherapy Clinical
Trials 2
_________________________
___ 2:15 p.m.-3:45 p.m.
Minisymposium: Novel Targets and Therapies______________________
3:35 p.m.-5:50 p.m.
Minisymposium: Predictive Biomarkers for Immunotherapeutics__________________________
___ 3:50 p.m.-5:35 p.m.
Minisymposium: Evaluating Cancer Genomics from Normal Tissues through Evolution to Metastatic Disease
_________________________
___ 4:00 p.m.-4:55 p.m.
Clinical Plenary: Targeted Therapy______________________
5:00 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
Symposium: NCI Activities– COVID-19 and Cancer Research
Dinah Singer, NCI
______________________
5:45 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Closing Session
______________________

All session times are EDT.

 

 

 

Day

 

Session Type

Topic Tracks

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Opinion Articles from the Lancet: COVID-19 and Cancer Care in China and Africa

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

Cancer Patients in SARS-CoV-2 infection: a nationwide analysis in China

Wenhua Liang, Weijie Guan, Ruchong Chen, Wei Wang, Jianfu Li, Ke Xu, Caichen Li, Qing Ai, Weixiang Lu, Hengrui Liang, Shiyue Li, Jianxing He

Lancet Oncol. 2020 Mar; 21(3): 335–337. Published online 2020 Feb 14. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(20)30096-6

PMCID: PMC7159000

 

The National Clinical Research Center for Respiratory Disease and the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China collaborated to establish a prospective cohort to monitor COVID-19 cases in China.  As on Jan31, 20202007 cases have been collected and analyzed with confirmed COVID-19 infection in these cohorts.

Results: 18 or 1% of COVID-19 cases had a history of cancer (the overall average cancer incidence in the overall China population is 0.29%) {2015 statistics}.  It appeared that cancer patients had an observable higher risk of COVID related complications upon hospitalization. However, this was a higher risk compared with the general population.  There was no comparison between cancer patients not diagnosed with COVID-19 and an assessment of their risk of infection.  Interestingly those who were also cancer survivors showed an increased incidence of COVID related severe complications compared to the no cancer group.

Although this study could have compared the risk within a cancer group, the authors still felt the results warranted precautions when dealing with cancer patients and issued recommendations including:

  1. Postponing of adjuvant chemotherapy or elective surgery for stable cancer should be considered
  2. Stronger personal protection for cancer patients
  3. More intensive surveillance or treatment should be considered when patients with cancer are infected, especially in older patients

Further studies will need to address the risk added by specific types of chemotherapy: cytolytic versus immunotherapy e.g.

 

Preparedness for COVID-19 in the oncology community in Africa

Lancet Oncology, Verna Vanderpuye, Moawia Mohammed,Ali Elhassan

Hannah Simonds: Published:April 03, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(20)30220-5

Africa has a heterogeneity of cultures, economies and disease patterns however fortunately it is one of the last countries to be hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which allows some time for preparation by the African nations.  The authors note that with Africa’s previous experiences with epidemics, namely ebola and cholera, Africa should be prepared for this pandemic.

However, as a result of poor economic discipline, weak health systems, and poor health-seeking behaviors across the continent, outcomes could be dismal. Poverty, low health literacy rates, and cultural practices that negatively affect cancer outcomes will result in poor assimilation of COVID-19 containment strategies in Africa.”

In general African oncologists are following COVID-19 guidelines from other high-income countries, but as this writer acknowledges in previous posts, there was a significant lag from first cases in the United States to the concrete formulation of guidelines for both oncologists and patients with regard to this pandemic.  African oncologist are delaying the start of adjuvant therapies and switching more to oral therapies and rethink palliative care.

However the authors still have many more questions than answers, however even among countries that have dealt with this pandemic before Africa (like Italy and US), oncologists across the globe still have not been able to answer questions like: what if my patient develops a fever, what do I do during a period of neutropenia, to their satisfaction or the satisfaction of the patient.  These are questions even oncologists who are dealing in COVID hotspots are still trying to answer including what constitutes a necessary surgical procedure? As I have highlighted in recent posts, oncologists in New York have all but shut down all surgical procedures and relying on liquid biopsies taken in the at-home setting. But does Africa have this capability of access to at home liquid biopsy procedures?

In addition, as I had just highlighted in a recent posting, there exists extreme cancer health disparities across the African continent, as well as the COVID responses. In West Africa, COVID-19 protocols are defined at individual institutions.  This is more like the American system where even NCI designated centers were left to fashion some of their own guidelines initially, although individual oncologists had banded together to do impromptu meetings to discuss best practices. However this is fine for big institutions, but as in the US, there is a large rural population on the African continent with geographical barriers to these big centers. Elective procedures have been cancelled and small number of patients are seen by day.  This remote strategy actually may be well suited for African versus more developed nations, as highlighted in a post I did about mobile health app use in oncology, as this telemedicine strategy is rather new among US oncologists (reference my posts with the Town Hall meetings).

The situation is more complicated in South Africa where they are dealing with an HIV epidemic, where about 8 million are infected with HIV. Oncology services here are still expecting to run at full capacity as the local hospitals deal with the first signs of the COVID outbreak. In Sudan, despite low COVID numbers, cancer centers have developed contingency plans. and are deferring new referrals except for emergency cases.  Training sessions for staff have been developed.

For more articles in this online open access journal on Cancer and COVID-19 please see our

Coronovirus Portal
Responses to the #COVID-19 outbreak from Oncologists, Cancer Societies and the NCI: Important information for cancer patients

 

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Personalized Medicine, Omics, and Health Disparities in Cancer:  Can Personalized Medicine Help Reduce the Disparity Problem?

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

In a Science Perspectives article by Timothy Rebbeck, health disparities, specifically cancer disparities existing in the sub-Saharan African (SSA) nations, highlighting the cancer incidence disparities which exist compared with cancer incidence in high income areas of the world [1].  The sub-Saharan African nations display a much higher incidence of prostate, breast, and cervix cancer and these cancers are predicted to double within the next twenty years, according to IARC[2].  Most importantly,

 the histopathologic and demographic features of these tumors differ from those in high-income countries

meaning that the differences seen in incidence may reflect a true health disparity as increases rates in these cancers are not seen in high income countries (HIC).

Most frequent male cancers in SSA include prostate, lung, liver, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a cancer frequently seen in HIV infected patients [3]).  In SSA women, breast and cervical cancer are the most common and these display higher rates than seen in high income countries.  In fact, liver cancer is seen in SSA females at twice the rate, and in SSA males almost three times the rate as in high income countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons for cancer disparity in SSA

Patients with cancer are often diagnosed at a late stage in SSA countries.  This contrasts with patients from high income countries, which have their cancers usually diagnosed at an earlier stage, and with many cancers, like breast[4], ovarian[5, 6], and colon, detecting the tumor in the early stages is critical for a favorable outcome and prognosis[7-10].  In addition, late diagnosis also limits many therapeutic options for the cancer patient and diseases at later stages are much harder to manage, especially with respect to unresponsiveness and/or resistance of many therapies.  In addition, treatments have to be performed in low-resource settings in SSA, and availability of clinical lab work and imaging technologies may be limited.

Molecular differences in SSA versus HIC cancers which may account for disparities

Emerging evidence suggests that there are distinct molecular signatures with SSA tumors with respect to histotype and pathology.  For example Dr. Rebbeck mentions that Nigerian breast cancers were defined by increased mutational signatures associated with deficiency of the homologous recombination DNA repair pathway, pervasive mutations in the tumor suppressor gene TP53, mutations in GATA binding protein 3 (GATA3), and greater mutational burden, compared with breast tumors from African Americans or Caucasians[11].  However more research will be required to understand the etiology and causal factors related to this molecular distinction in mutational spectra.

It is believed that there is a higher rate of hereditary cancers in SSA. And many SSA cancers exhibit the more aggressive phenotype than in other parts of the world.  For example breast tumors in SSA black cases are twice as likely than SSA Caucasian cases to be of the triple negative phenotype, which is generally more aggressive and tougher to detect and treat, as triple negative cancers are HER2 negative and therefore are not a candidate for Herceptin.  Also BRCA1/2 mutations are more frequent in black SSA cases than in Caucasian SSA cases [12, 13].

Initiatives to Combat Health Disparities in SSA

Multiple initiatives are being proposed or in action to bring personalized medicine to the sub-Saharan African nations.  These include:

H3Africa empowers African researchers to be competitive in genomic sciences, establishes and nurtures effective collaborations among African researchers on the African continent, and generates unique data that could be used to improve both African and global health.

There is currently a global effort to apply genomic science and associated technologies to further the understanding of health and disease in diverse populations. These efforts work to identify individuals and populations who are at risk for developing specific diseases, and to better understand underlying genetic and environmental contributions to that risk. Given the large amount of genetic diversity on the African continent, there exists an enormous opportunity to utilize such approaches to benefit African populations and to inform global health.

The Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) consortium facilitates fundamental research into diseases on the African continent while also developing infrastructure, resources, training, and ethical guidelines to support a sustainable African research enterprise – led by African scientists, for the African people. The initiative consists of 51 African projects that include population-based genomic studies of common, non-communicable disorders such as heart and renal disease, as well as communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. These studies are led by African scientists and use genetic, clinical, and epidemiologic methods to identify hereditary and environmental contributions to health and disease. To establish a foundation for African scientists to continue this essential work into the future work, the consortium also supports many crucial capacity building elements, such as: ethical, legal, and social implications research; training and capacity building for bioinformatics; capacity for biobanking; and coordination and networking.

The World Economic Forum’s Leapfrogging with Precision Medicine project 

This project is part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare Platform

The Challenge

Advancing precision medicine in a way that is equitable and beneficial to society means ensuring that healthcare systems can adopt the most scientifically and technologically appropriate approaches to a more targeted and personalized way of diagnosing and treating disease. In certain instances, countries or institutions may be able to bypass, or “leapfrog”, legacy systems or approaches that prevail in developed country contexts.

The World Economic Forum’s Leapfrogging with Precision Medicine project will develop a set of tools and case studies demonstrating how a precision medicine approach in countries with greenfield policy spaces can potentially transform their healthcare delivery and outcomes. Policies and governance mechanisms that enable leapfrogging will be iterated and scaled up to other projects.

Successes in personalized genomic research in SSA

As Dr. Rebbeck states:

 Because of the underlying genetic and genomic relationships between Africans and members of the African diaspora (primarily in North America and Europe), knowledge gained from research in SSA can be used to address health disparities that are prevalent in members of the African diaspora.

For example members of the West African heritage and genomic ancestry has been reported to confer the highest genomic risk for prostate cancer in any worldwide population [14].

 

PERSPECTIVEGLOBAL HEALTH

Cancer in sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Timothy R. Rebbeck

See all authors and affiliations

Science  03 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6473, pp. 27-28
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay474

Summary/Abstract

Cancer is an increasing global public health burden. This is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); high rates of cancer—particularly of the prostate, breast, and cervix—characterize cancer in most countries in SSA. The number of these cancers in SSA is predicted to more than double in the next 20 years (1). Both the explanations for these increasing rates and the solutions to address this cancer epidemic require SSA-specific data and approaches. The histopathologic and demographic features of these tumors differ from those in high-income countries (HICs). Basic knowledge of the epidemiology, clinical features, and molecular characteristics of cancers in SSA is needed to build prevention and treatment tools that will address the future cancer burden. The distinct distribution and determinants of cancer in SSA provide an opportunity to generate knowledge about cancer risk factors, genomics, and opportunities for prevention and treatment globally, not only in Africa.

 

References

  1. Rebbeck TR: Cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. Science 2020, 367(6473):27-28.
  2. Parkin DM, Ferlay J, Jemal A, Borok M, Manraj S, N’Da G, Ogunbiyi F, Liu B, Bray F: Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2018.
  3. Chinula L, Moses A, Gopal S: HIV-associated malignancies in sub-Saharan Africa: progress, challenges, and opportunities. Current opinion in HIV and AIDS 2017, 12(1):89-95.
  4. Colditz GA: Epidemiology of breast cancer. Findings from the nurses’ health study. Cancer 1993, 71(4 Suppl):1480-1489.
  5. Hamilton TC, Penault-Llorca F, Dauplat J: [Natural history of ovarian adenocarcinomas: from epidemiology to experimentation]. Contracept Fertil Sex 1998, 26(11):800-804.
  6. Garner EI: Advances in the early detection of ovarian carcinoma. J Reprod Med 2005, 50(6):447-453.
  7. Brockbank EC, Harry V, Kolomainen D, Mukhopadhyay D, Sohaib A, Bridges JE, Nobbenhuis MA, Shepherd JH, Ind TE, Barton DP: Laparoscopic staging for apparent early stage ovarian or fallopian tube cancer. First case series from a UK cancer centre and systematic literature review. European journal of surgical oncology : the journal of the European Society of Surgical Oncology and the British Association of Surgical Oncology 2013, 39(8):912-917.
  8. Kolligs FT: Diagnostics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer. Visceral medicine 2016, 32(3):158-164.
  9. Rocken C, Neumann U, Ebert MP: [New approaches to early detection, estimation of prognosis and therapy for malignant tumours of the gastrointestinal tract]. Zeitschrift fur Gastroenterologie 2008, 46(2):216-222.
  10. Srivastava S, Verma M, Henson DE: Biomarkers for early detection of colon cancer. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research 2001, 7(5):1118-1126.
  11. Pitt JJ, Riester M, Zheng Y, Yoshimatsu TF, Sanni A, Oluwasola O, Veloso A, Labrot E, Wang S, Odetunde A et al: Characterization of Nigerian breast cancer reveals prevalent homologous recombination deficiency and aggressive molecular features. Nature communications 2018, 9(1):4181.
  12. Zheng Y, Walsh T, Gulsuner S, Casadei S, Lee MK, Ogundiran TO, Ademola A, Falusi AG, Adebamowo CA, Oluwasola AO et al: Inherited Breast Cancer in Nigerian Women. Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2018, 36(28):2820-2825.
  13. Rebbeck TR, Friebel TM, Friedman E, Hamann U, Huo D, Kwong A, Olah E, Olopade OI, Solano AR, Teo SH et al: Mutational spectrum in a worldwide study of 29,700 families with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. Human mutation 2018, 39(5):593-620.
  14. Lachance J, Berens AJ, Hansen MEB, Teng AK, Tishkoff SA, Rebbeck TR: Genetic Hitchhiking and Population Bottlenecks Contribute to Prostate Cancer Disparities in Men of African Descent. Cancer research 2018, 78(9):2432-2443.

Other articles on Cancer Health Disparities and Genomics on this Online Open Access Journal Include:

Gender affects the prevalence of the cancer type
The Rutgers Global Health Institute, part of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey – A New Venture Designed to Improve Health and Wellness Globally
Breast Cancer Disparities to be Sponsored by NIH: NIH Launches Largest-ever Study of Breast Cancer Genetics in Black Women
War on Cancer Needs to Refocus to Stay Ahead of Disease Says Cancer Expert
Ethical Concerns in Personalized Medicine: BRCA1/2 Testing in Minors and Communication of Breast Cancer Risk
Ethics Behind Genetic Testing in Breast Cancer: A Webinar by Laura Carfang of survivingbreastcancer.org
Live Notes from @HarvardMed Bioethics: Authors Jerome Groopman, MD & Pamela Hartzband, MD, discuss Your Medical Mind
Testing for Multiple Genetic Mutations via NGS for Patients: Very Strong Family History of Breast & Ovarian Cancer, Diagnosed at Young Ages, & Negative on BRCA Test
Study Finds that Both Women and their Primary Care Physicians Confusion over Ovarian Cancer Symptoms May Lead to Misdiagnosis

 

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Live Notes from Town Hall for Patients with Leading Oncologists on Lung Cancer and COVID19 3_28_20

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

UPDATED 3/31/2020

Leading Thoracic Oncologists from the United States and Milan, Italy shared their opinions and views on treating lung cancer patients during this COVID-19 pandemic.  Included in the panel is a thoracic oncologist from Milan Italy who gave special insights into the difficulties and the procedures they are using to help control the spread of infection within this high at-risk patient population and changes to current treatment strategy in light of this current virus outbreak.  Please see live notes and can follow on Twitter at #LungCancerandCOVID19.  Included below is the recording of the Zoom session.

 

UPDATED 3/29/2020

Leading Lung Cancer Oncologists from around the world are meeting and discussing concerns for lung cancer patients and oncologist during the novel coronavirus (SARS-COV2; COVID19) pandemic.  The town hall “COVID-19 and the Impact on Thoracic Oncology” will be held on Zoom on Saturday March 28, 2020 at 10:00 – 11:30 AM EST. sponsored by Axiom Healthcare Strategies . You can register at

Please join this virtual Town Hall

Zoom link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/846752048

Zoom Webinar ID: 846-752-048

eSpeakers

Anne Chiang, MD, PhD, Associate Professor; Chief Network Officer and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Smilow Cancer Network

Roy S. Herbst, MD, PhD, Ensign Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology) and Professor of Pharmacology; Chief of Medical Oncology, Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital; Associate Cancer Center Director for Translational Research, Yale Cancer Center

 Kurt Schalper, MD, PhD Assistant Professor of Pathology; Director, Translational Immuno-oncology Laboratory

Martin J. Edelman, MD, Chair, Department of Hematology/Oncology, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Corey J. Langer, MD , Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Hossain Borghaei, DO, MS , Chief of Thoracic Medical Oncology and Director of Lung Cancer Risk Assessment, Fox Chase Cancer Center

Marina Garassino, MD, Fondazione IRCCS Instituto Nazionale del Tumori

Kristen Ashley Marrone, MD, Thoracic Medical Oncologist. Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Taofeek Owonikoko, MD, PhD, MSCR, Medical Oncologist, Emory University School of Medicine

Jeffrey D. BradleyMD, FACR, FASTRO , Emory University School of Medicine

Brendon Stiles, M.D, Weil Cornell

@pharma_BI will be Live Tweeting in Real Time this Town Hall

Please follow at the following # (hashtags)

#LungCancerandCOVID19

#Livingwithcancer

#LungCancer

#NoOneAlone

and

UPDATED 3/29/2020

Below is a collection of live Tweets from this meeting as well as some notes and comments from each of the speakers and panelists.  The recording of this Town Hall will be posted on this site when available.  The Town Hall was well attended with over 250 participants

Town Hall Notes

The following represent some notes taken at this Town Hall.

Dr. Owonkiko: 1-2% lethality in China; for patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer 1) limit contact between patient, physician and healthcare facility = telemedicine and oral chemo suggested 2) for immunotherapy if i.v. must monitor health carefully

Dr. Kurt Schalper: on COVID19 testing: Three types of tests each having pros and cons.

  •     viral culture: not always practical as you need lots of specimen
  • ELISA: looking for circulating antibodies but not always specific for type of coronavirus
  • RT-PCR: most sensitive but right now not much clarity on best primers to use; he noted that there is a 15% variance in test results using different primers to different targeted COVID19 genes

Dr. Marina Garassino: The Lombardi outbreak was 1st in Italy and took them by surprise.  She admits they were about one month behind in preparation where they did not have enough masks as late as January 31.  It was impractical to socially distance given Italian customs in greeting each other.  In addition, they had to determine which facilities would be COVID negative and COVID positive an this required access to testing.  Right now they are only testing symptomatic patients and healthcare workers have to test negative multiple times.  As concerning therapy with lung cancer patients, they have been delaying as much as possible the initiation of therapy.  Patients that are on immunotherapy and immunosuppresive drugs are being monitored by CT scan more often during this pandemic so as instances of pneumotitis began increasing they were unsure if these patients are at increased risk of infection to COVID19 or just a bias in that they are screening more often so their risk to COVID 19 is unclear.  Dr. Garissino also felt we need to move from hospital based to community based measures of prevention against COVID infection (social distancing, citizens more vigilant).  She noted that usually the cancer patients are more careful with respect to preventative measures than the general populace.  Healthcare workers have to test negative twice in three days if they had been in close contact with a COVID postitive patient.  However her hospital is still running at 80% capacity so patients are getting treated. However there are ethical issues as to who gets treated, who gets respirators, and other ethical issues related to unfortunate rationing of care.

Dr. Anne Chiang: Scheduled visits have notably decreased.  They have seen patients visits decrease from 4500 down to 2300 in two weeks but telemedicine visits or virtual visits have increased to 1000 so are replacing the on site visits.  She also said they are trying to reduce or eliminate the extremely immuno-suppressive drugs from chemotherapy regimens.  For example they are removing pemetrexemed from standard regimens and also considering neoadjuvant chemotherapy.  As far as biopsies, liquid biopsies can be obtained in the home so more preferred as patients do not have to come in for biopsy.

Dr. Edelman: Fox Chase is somewhat unique in being an NCI center which only does oncology so they rely on neighboring Jeanes Hospital of the Temple University Health System for a lot of their outpatient and surgical and general medicine needs.  Patients who will be transferred back to Fox Chase are screened for COVID19.

Brenden Stiles: Lung cancer surgeries have ground to a halt.  He did only one last week.  The hospital wants to conserve resources and considers lung cancer surgery to great a COVID risk.  They have shut down elective surgeries and there are no clinical trials being conducted.  He said that lung cancer research will be negatively impacted by the pandemic as resources are shuttled to COVID research efforts.

 Live Tweets

 

Other article of note on Coronavirus (COVID19) please see our Coronavirus Portal at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

 

 

 

 

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Responses to the #COVID-19 outbreak from Oncologists, Cancer Societies and the NCI: Important information for cancer patients

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

UPDATED 3/20/2020

Among the people who are identified at risk of coronovirus 2019 infection and complications of the virus include cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, who in general, can be immunosuppressed, especially while patients are undergoing their treatment.  This has created anxiety among many cancer patients as well as their care givers and prompted many oncologist professional groups, cancer societies, and cancer centers to formulate some sort of guidelines for both the cancer patients and the oncology professional with respect to limiting the risk of infection to coronavirus (COVID19). 

 

This information will be periodically updated and we are working to get a Live Twitter Feed to bring oncologist and cancer patient advocacy groups together so up to date information can be communicated rapidly.  Please see this page regularly for updates as new information is curated.

IN ADDITION, I will curate a listing of drugs with adverse events of immunosuppression for people who might wonder if the medications they are taking are raising their risk of infections.

Please also see @pharma_BI for updates as well.

Please also see our Coronavirus Portal at https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/coronavirus-portal/

For ease of reading information for patients are BOLDED and in RED

ASCO’s Response to COVID-19

From the Cancer Letter: The following is a guest editorial by American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO. This story is part of The Cancer Letter’s ongoing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on oncology. A full list of our coverage, as well as the latest meeting cancellations, is available here.

 

The worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) presents unprecedented challenges to the cancer care delivery system.

Our patients are already dealing with a life-threatening illness and are particularly vulnerable to this viral infection, which can be even more deadly for them. Further, as restrictions in daily movement and social distancing take hold, vulnerable patients may be disconnected from friends, family or other support they need as they manage their cancer.

As providers, we rely on evidence and experience when treating patients but now we face uncertainty. There are limited data to guide us in the specific management of cancer patients confronting COVID-19 and, at present, we have no population-level guidance regarding acceptable or appropriate adjustments of treatment and practice operations that both ensure the best outcome for our patients and protect the safety of our colleagues and staff.

As normal life is dramatically changed, we are all feeling anxious about the extreme economic challenges we face, but these issues are perhaps even more difficult for our patients, many of whom are now facing interruption

As we confront this extraordinary situation, the health and safety of members, staff, and individuals with cancer—in fact, the entire cancer community—is ASCO’s highest priority.

ASCO has been actively monitoring and responding to the pandemic to ensure that accurate information is readily available to clinicians and their patients. Recognizing that this is a rapidly evolving situation and that limited oncology-specific, evidence-based information is available, we are committed to sharing what is known and acknowledging what is unknown so that the most informed decisions can be made.

To help guide oncology professionals as they deal with the impact of coronavirus on both their patients and staff, ASCO has collated questions from its members, posted responses at asco.org and assembled a compendium of additional resources we hope will be helpful as the virus spreads and the disease unfolds. We continue to receive additional questions regarding clinical care and we are updating our FAQs on a regular basis.

We hope this information is helpful even when it merely confirms that there are no certain answers to many questions. Our answers are based on the best available information we identify in the literature, guidance from public health authorities, and input received from oncology and infectious disease experts.

For patients, we have posted a blog by Dr. Merry Jennifer Markham, chair of ASCO’s Cancer Communications Committee. This can be found on Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website, and it provides practical guidance to help patients reduce their risk of exposure, better understand COVID-19 symptoms, and locate additional information.

This blog is available both in English and Spanish. Additional blog posts addressing patient questions will be posted as new questions are received and new information becomes available.

Find below a Tweet from Dr.Markham which includes links to her article on COVID-19 for cancer patients

https://twitter.com/DrMarkham/status/1237797251038220289?s=20

NCCN’s Response to COVID-19 and COVID-19 Resources

JNCCN: How to Manage Cancer Care during COVID-19 Pandemic

Experts from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA)—a Member Institution of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®)—are sharing insights and advice on how to continue providing optimal cancer care during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. SCCA includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, which are located in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The peer-reviewed article sharing best practices is available for free online-ahead-of-print via open access at JNCCN.org.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Resources for the Cancer Care Community

NCCN recognizes the rapidly changing medical information relating to COVID-19 in the oncology ecosystem, but understands that a forum for sharing best practices and specific institutional responses may be helpful to others.  Therefore, we are expeditiously providing documents and recommendations developed by NCCN Member Institutions or Guideline Panels as resources for oncology care providers. These resources have not been developed or reviewed by the standard NCCN processes, and are provided for information purposes only. We will post more resources as they become available so check back for additional updates.

Documents

Links

National Cancer Institute Response to COVID-19

More information at https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus

What people with cancer should know: https://www.cancer.gov/coronavirus

Get the latest public health information from CDC: https://www.coronavirus.gov

Get the latest research information from NIH: https://www.nih.gov/coronavirus

 

Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know

ON THIS PAGE

Both the resources at cancer.gov (NCI) as well as the resources from ASCO are updated as new information is evaluated and more guidelines are formulated by members of the oncologist and cancer care community and are excellent resources for those living with cancer, and also those who either care for cancer patients or their family and relatives.

Related Resources for Patients (please click on links)

 

 

 

Some resources and information for cancer patients from Twitter

Twitter feeds which may be useful sources of discussion and for cancer patients include:

 

@OncLive OncLive.com includes healthcare information for patients and includes videos and newsletters

 

 

@DrMarkham Dr. Markham is Chief of Heme-Onc & gyn med onc @UF | AD Med Affairs @UFHealthCancer and has collected very good information for patients concerning #Covid19 

 

 

@DrMaurieMarkman Dr. Maurie Markman is President of Medicine and Science (Cancer Centers of America, Philadelphia) @CancerCenter #TreatThePerson #Oncology #Genomics #PrecisionMedicine and hosts a great online live Tweet feed discussing current topics in cancer treatment and care for patients called #TreatThePerson Chat

UPDATED 3/20/2020 INFORMATION FROM NCI DESIGNATED CANCER CENTERS FOR PATIENTS/PROVIDERS

The following is a listing with links of NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and some select designated Cancer Centers* which have information on infectious risk guidance for cancer patients as well as their physicians and caregivers.   There are 51 NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers and as more cancer centers formulate guidance this list will be updated. 

 

Cancer Center State Link to COVID19 guidance
City of Hope CA Advice for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers
Jonsson Cancer Center at UCLA CA Cancer and COVID19
UCSF Hellen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer CA COVID-19 Links for Patients and Providers
Lee Moffit FL Protecting against Coronavirus 19
University of Kansas Cancer Center* KS COVID19 Info for patients
Barbara & Karmanos Cancer Institute (Wayne State) MI COVID19 Resources
Rogel Cancer Center (Univ of Michigan) MI COVID19 Patient Specific Guidelines
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center (MO) Coronavirus
Fred & Pamela Buffet CC* NE Resources for Patients and Providers
Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ NJ What patients should know about COVID19
Memorial Sloan Kettering NY What COVID19 means for cancer patients
Herbert Irving CC (Columbia University) NY Coronavirus Resource Center
MD Anderson Cancer  TX Planning for Patients, Providers
Hunstman Cancer Center UT COVID19 What you need to know
Fred Hutchinson WA COVID19 What patients need to know

 

 

Please also see related information on Coronavirus 2019 and Cancer and Immunotherapy at the following links on the Open Access Online Journal:

Volume Two: Cancer Therapies: Metabolic, Genomics, Interventional, Immunotherapy and Nanotechnology in Therapy Delivery 

at

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/biomed-e-books/series-c-e-books-on-cancer-oncology/volume-two-immunotherapy-in-cancer-radiation-oncology/

AND

Coronavirus Portal

 

 

 

 

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The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Miami named 71st NCI designated Cancer Center

 

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, PhD

As seen in the Cancer Letter at https://cancerletter.com/articles/20190729_1/

Conversation with The Cancer Letter

Sylvester becomes 71st NCI-designated cancer center

Stephen Nimer

Director,

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

 

After six years of  aggressively recruiting and spending more than $250 million to build up its programs, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center has become the 71st NCI-designated cancer center in the US and the only such institution in South Florida.

The designation was announced July 29.

Sylvester, which is a part of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, is one of 64 cancer centers with the NCI Cancer Center designation in the nation. Fifty of these centers hold the Comprehensive Cancer Center designation. Seven more are designated as Basic Laboratory Cancer Centers.

“There are over 21 million people who live in the state of Florida. In 2014, Florida became the third largest state in the United States, surpassing New York—yet New York has seven NCI designated cancer centers and Florida had had only one,” Stephen D. Nimer, director of Sylvester, said to The Cancer Letter.

“There are over six million people in our catchment area, South Florida, and if they wanted to go to an NCI-designated cancer center they’d have to either get on a plane or drive nearly 300 miles—to Tampa.”

Public health programs that helped Sylvester secure the NCI designation include the Game Changer vehicle, which brings evidence-based interventions to underserved communities in the cancer center’s catchment area (The Cancer Letter, April 27, 2018). The center’s cancer control program also includes the Firefighter Cancer Initiative, a long-term study of exposures to carcinogens and ways to reduce and prevent cancer risks for Florida firefighters.

 

 

The cancer center is working on deploying another Game Changer vehicle. Recently, Peter Tunney, a New York and Miami-based artist and gallerist who donated a painting for the first Game Changer van, donated another painting that Sylvester can sell to raise money for its programs (The Cancer Letter, April 27, 2018).

 

“When they got that designation, they were walking on sunshine,” Tunney said to The Cancer Letter. “I think it’s a universal idea. I think that’s the goal for all of us—for all of mankind, for sick and healthy—to have that feeling that is so rare today: I am walking on sunshine. It’s almost like a thing of the past. Who can walk on sunshine today, in this crazy world filled with suffering and illness? And I just feel like we can, we can, it’s possible to be grateful for the things we have.

The intense yellow wallpaper motif reminds Tunney of the wallpaper in his grandmother’s house in the 1960s and 1970s, the time when American astronauts walked on the moon. “It’s somebody’s grandmother’s wallpaper from the sixties. We look back at that time, we look back at landing on the moon, and everyone is aflutter, ‘Oh, those were the good old days.’ No, these are the good old days.”

The word “comprehensive” in Sylvester’s name doesn’t refer to its level of NCI designation. When it was founded in 1973, the institution was known as the Comprehensive Cancer Center for the State of Florida. In 1992, after receiving a $27.5 million gift from the philanthropist Harcourt Sylvester Jr., it was renamed Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

 

Sylvester director Nimer spoke with Paul Goldberg, editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter.

 

Paul Goldberg:

First of all, congratulations.

Stephen Nimer: 

Thank you; it’s a big deal.

 

PG:

How long did it take to get this done?

SN:

I’d say, six years. I arrived in 2012, seven years ago, and the first year started by assessing what’s going on at Sylvester. We then developed our first five-year strategic plan, which ran from 2014 to 2018, and we submitted our [Cancer Center Support Grant] application in September 2018. We’re now in the midst of our second five-year plan.

 

PG:

And how much money did it require?

SN:

I’d have to add it all up. One of the most important things for us was that the state, in 2014, started giving us a bit over $16 million a year so that we could become NCI-designated. The health system, over a five-to-six-year period, probably gave us somewhere between $90 and $100 million. And then we’ve raised philanthropy. The philanthropy over five to six years, is maybe close to $100 million. So, it’s probably $250 -$270 million.

 

PG:

How many people did you have to recruit?

SN:

We went in [to NCI] with 124 members on our CCSG application, but over the last seven years we’ve recruited nearly 150 people. In addition to recruiting researchers I’ve been given the opportunity to build the clinical programs also.

Many of the clinical people are not included on the grant, because the grant has very specific requirements to be a member. For example, we’ve hired a couple of breast cancer surgeons, and they are not listed on the grant, because they are not yet doing significant research.

The NCI doesn’t want to know about people who don’t have grants or aren’t running clinical trials. So, out of the 124, which is what we went in with, I believe nearly 50 of our members were new.

 

PG:

How is your cancer center different from all others?

SN:

One of the things that we got the highest marks on is our community outreach and engagement efforts and how relevant the research we’re doing is to our catchment area.

A couple of examples:

We have a West Indies population, so we have an endemic HTLV-1-infected population, and thus a significant number of HTLV-1-related adult T-cell leukemia patients. So, one of our physician scientists has an R01 studying ATL. And we have a number of clinical trials for people with adult T-cell leukemia.

We also have a large burden of advanced cervical cancer patients in our region, especially in Little Haiti. And so, we have a lot of efforts on early detection of high-risk HPV, prevention and clinical treatment trials for women with cervical cancer.

Another thing that distinguishes us from many centers is the diversity of our faculty, our students, and the patients we put on clinical trials. In our CCSG application, roughly 30% of the patients on interventional trials were black and 40% were Hispanic—so both racial and ethnic diversity. We also have incredible socio-economic diversity.

What’s unique among the black population in our catchment area is that it is Afro-Caribbean more than African American—different genetics, different cultures.

The Hispanic population is unique as well. MD Anderson is probably largely Mexican Americans. New York is probably mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican. We have significant populations of Cuban Americans, Venezuelans, Brazilians, Argentinians, Colombians—an incredibly diverse group.

One example of how this plays out is in our prostate cancer research. The watch-and-wait approach is an appropriate strategy for many people. We found that our black population has more anterior prostate cancer lesions, so when you do blind biopsies, you’re more likely to miss lesions.

And then we’ve looked among the Hispanic populations as to who has a better or worse prognosis and we’ve identified subgroups within the Hispanic population that have different genetics and a different biology. So, we are tailoring our approach. Based on genetic ancestry as well as other factors.

The other thing is, we have a very strong cancer epigenetics programs, a very strong program on infections and cancer, including H. Pylori, HPV, and hepatitis viruses B and C.

We are very focused on developing programs that meet the needs of the people in this six-million-plus community.

Our catchment area is four counties, somewhat famous, because of the election news nearly every cycle: Broward, Palm Beach County, Miami Dade and Monroe County.

 

PG:

New York, where you come from, has an NCI-designated cancer center on every street corner. And Miami—make that South Florida—has just one now. How is Florida different? You would have thought that there would be multiple NCI-designated cancer centers in South Florida.

SN:

Your point is very well taken. There are over 21 million people who live in the state of Florida. In 2014, Florida became the third largest state in the United States, surpassing New York—yet New York has seven NCI designated cancer centers and Florida had had only one.

Moffitt had gotten a huge investment from the state in the past, and that enabled them to become NCI-designated. And upon designation, they could recruit more researchers, attract more patients, and get more philanthropy, and get all the positives from that. And for the longest time, Florida has only had one.

There are over six million people in our catchment area, South Florida, and if they wanted to go to an NCI-designated cancer center they’d have to either get on a plane or drive nearly 300 miles—to Tampa.

Now, one problem that we face in our region, which is very splintered in terms of market share, etc. is that there’s a lot of community hospitals here that have cancer centers, but they are not necessarily conducting cancer research in any way.

I’ve been reading Joe Simone’s Journal of Clinical Oncology paper from 2002, where he talks about the fact that there are no criteria to call yourself a cancer center. And because people may feel like you can get great care anywhere, they may not seek out the experts.

Probably, in many markets throughout the US, there’s still an ongoing process of trying to educate people as to what’s the difference between an NCI-designated cancer center and one that’s not. And, obviously, the designation is given, because of the research that’s going on. And so, people wonder: “What is the connection between the research and me being a patient there?”

A big part of educating our community is to tell people that oftentimes the doctors who are doing research on a specific cancer have a deeper knowledge about its management. Also, experts more often make the correct diagnosis and come up with more exact multidisciplinary treatment approaches for many cancers.

NCI-designated cancer centers have more clinical trials and more investigator-initiated clinical trials. Now, with NCI designation, we’ll have access to the [NCI Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program] drugs and treatments. Already, we have a very robust phase I clinical trials program, having put 161 patients on phase I trials last year.

This means that we are doing more innovative things, not accepting the status quo, which is what you often get in community hospitals.

I get asked all the time: “Don’t only complicated cancers need to get seen in Sylvester?” and I usually say, “Any cancer that you have is complicated.”

There are other things we need to stress:  Sometimes patients spend more time figuring out which flat screen TV they’re going to buy than they do figuring out who should be taking care of them. And so, we tell patients to ask: “How sure are you that you have made the correct diagnosis?”

So many people are misdiagnosed in the US each year, and sometimes people are treated who don’t need to be treated and vice-versa.

For instance, we are working with Moffitt and the University of Florida on pancreas cancer. We’re hoping to look at how many patients in our state are told that with radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery there’s a potential for cure, as opposed to being told that pancreatic cancer is terrible, and you better get your affairs in order.

While the NCI designation, of course, relates to multidisciplinary and collaborative research efforts, we have—given the diversity of our catchment area and community—an important task to educate people in culturally appropriate ways.

 

PG:

Well, there’s a lot happening that actually very good. Having the University of Florida on the path to designation is also wonderful for the state. There’s so much room in there for growth.

SN:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

 

PG:

Since we are talking about Joe Simone’s paper, the word “comprehensive” is in the name of your cancer center. Yet, you don’t—yet—have the NCI-koshered comprehensive designation. Can you change the name? Do you need to?

SN:

The University of Miami’s cancer center started in 1973 shortly after Nixon signed the National Cancer Act. Later, with a naming gift from the Sylvester family, we opened our doors as the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1992. The comprehensive in our name does not refer to an NCI designation. It’s been our name because we have always delivered comprehensive cancer care.

 

PG:

Let’s talk about the Game Changer. That’s such a cool thing. That was one of your center’s great ideas.

SN:

The Game Changer vehicle has been really incredible, already in its impact on our cancer education and early detection programs (The Cancer Letter, April 27, 2018). We’re accruing people for research, and we’re already following some of their health habits.

We’re in the process of delivering HPV vaccines. We have been working with our AIDS group, so you can get PrEP. And we go into communities, like Little Havana, Liberty City, Little Haiti. We are also going into areas to provide education on HIV. As you know, the incidence of HIV in the Miami Dade area is the highest in the nation. So, the vehicle is already having an impact in so many ways.

We’ve just gotten the second Game Changer!

Peter Tunney, the artist, is going to wrap this one also. And this one’s going to focus primarily on Monroe County, which has been hit hard by hurricanes, and also has very poor medical infrastructure.

If you travel to Miami, for business or pleasure, you don’t realize that it’s not that far to get to an extraordinarily rural area. The density of population in Monroe county is very low and access to health care is limited.

The areas that we’re trying to reach have so much socioeconomic gap and disparities. And the Game Changer vehicles are going to help us reach people who otherwise do not access traditional medical systems.

You asked me about the Game Changer vehicle as an idea, and I wanted to shout out the leadership team that we’ve been able to put together at Sylvester. They have been incredible. Our people have worked together in amazing ways. And so, when you say, “That’s a great idea of yours,” yours is the whole team, of course.

 

PG:

Of course.

SN:

It’s remarkable how much work it takes to build the research programs that allow us to even have a competitive application. There were so, so many people who spent so much time for the benefit of the cancer center, and not for their own research.

 

PG:

Can we talk about hurricanes? They have an impact on your mission.

SN:

It’s interesting, because the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center opened its doors in 1992, which is just when Hurricane Andrew hit. I’ve looked through our archives: There are some great articles in the Miami newspaper, because we remained open and provided care right after Hurricane Andrew, which has been the most devastating hurricane here in, I don’t know exactly how many years, maybe 30 or 50 or whatever.

But even following the more recent hurricanes, we’ve been able to provide care for our patients. After Hurricane Irma, in one of our satellites we were open the next day, and we treated 30 patients with chemotherapy who needed it, even though many folks were without electricity.

It’s a unique challenge. We have hurricane preparedness for our laboratories. We have drills for the hospital. And we have a command center.

During Irma, because I live on Miami Beach, in a mandatory evacuation zone, I had to leave my home for a few days. And so, my wife and I slept in the hospital for three nights. There’s food, water, and air conditioning in the hospital. It’s not a bad place to be!

 

PG:

You’re driving now to one of the clinics, even as we speak; right? One of the satellite clinics?

SN:

Yes.

 

PG:

Can you tell me about that?

SN:

We have seven sites where we deliver clinical care. The main site in downtown Miami, and then we have three quite large facilities, one in Coral Gables, one in Plantation, one in Deerfield Beach. And we have three other satellites that are smaller, in Coral Springs, Hollywood, and Kendall.

And this allows us to deliver regional care. We’re all on the same EPIC electronic medical record. And we have patients enrolled on clinical trials in the satellites. Not all the satellites at the moment can have a research pharmacy. But the plan is we’re going to continue our expansion of facilities and services and increase the number of accruals and the sophistication of the trials that are available here. Everybody working in these satellites is a University of Miami employee.

The doctors are all part of our site disease groups, and they teleconference in to meetings and lectures. And many of them spend a day in Miami at the main satellite for education and clinical and other purposes.

Many of the doctors in the satellites are principal investigators on the clinical trials. And it’s important because people don’t want to travel necessarily on the freeways here to get to downtown Miami. And so, we can deliver academic care out in the community, which is always important and a challenging thing to do.

 

PG:

Is there anything we’ve forgotten, anything we need to address?

SN:

Maybe I can talk briefly about the state money for a minute. When Sen. [Rick] Scott [(R-FL)] was the governor, he got us together in his office, the University of Florida, Moffitt, and the University of Miami, and asked us what we needed to become major cancer centers and attain NCI designation so we could have three such facilities in the state.

The next year, the state gave us $10. 5 million to split three ways. So, we each got $3.5 million to bring in somebody from outside the state of Florida, a world-class scientist, and provide them with $500,000 a year for seven years.

We brought Ramin Shiekhattar from the Wistar Institute. He’s one of the leaders of our Cancer Epigenetics Program and a year and a half ago, Ramin won one of the highly prestigious NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards. I believe they give 10 out a year.

Next, the state set up a pool of $60 million to be shared between the three institutions each year for five and now six years. These funds are being used so that all three institutions can attain NCI designation. The directors of these cancer centers get along extremely well, and, in a pretty unique model, we created something called the Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance.

It exists to promote collaborations across our institutions to conduct important cancer research and bring more federal research dollars to the state.

There are one or two other points I’d like to make: Another person we brought in, Gilberto Lopes, is the head of our Global Oncology Program and the editor of the Journal of Global Oncology for ASCO.

He just gave a plenary talk at 2018 ASCO, showing that immunotherapy is better than chemotherapy for the upfront treatment of certain subsets of lung cancer. His talk was one of four plenary talks we’ve recently given at important national cancer meetings.

I think the other message is just the level at which we’re operating on now. We are demonstrating to our community that we have people who are national leaders, and programs that are among the very best in the country. For this, I must thank the incredible team of researchers who work at Sylvester.

I think that, as we recruit more and more people, this designation is going to help us. I’m very pleased that when we submit NIH grants, the reviewers comment upon the environment in Miami, we now get the high scores for the research environment.

 

PG:

This brings up a problem that held back Sylvester for years, which was the lack of independence of the cancer center, or at least it was perceived to be that. Do you have the independence you need now?

SN:

First of all, I would never have left Sloan Kettering without the authority I needed from the leadership of the University of Miami, the health system and the Miller School of Medicine…

 

PG:

Yeah, that’s a good point.

SN:

I should point out, that I am the head of the cancer center, but I’m also the head of the oncology service line for UHealth health system. This arrangement allows me to align the clinical and the research missions in a way that many cancer center directors cannot.

It’s a real privilege, and I have great leadership and great people working on the service line to make our patient care and patient-related activities superb.

 

PG:

Well, that’s hugely important.

Copyright (c) 2018 The Cancer Letter Inc.

More on NCI Designated Cancer Centers can be found here: https://www.cancer.gov/research/nci-role/cancer-centers

Other articles on NCI Cancer Centers on the Open Access Online Journal include:

Salivary Gland Cancer – Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma: Mutation Patterns: Exome- and Genome-Sequencing @ Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Engineered Bacteria used as Trojan Horse for Cancer Immunotherapy

First Cost-Effectiveness Study of Multi-Gene Panel Sequencing in Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Shows Moderate Cost-Effectiveness, Exposes Crucial Practice Gap

 

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