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09 Feb 2021
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ASCO 2021 Advance of the Year

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology

In news out last week, the American Society of Clinical Oncology has recognised Molecular Profiling Driving Progress in Gastrointestinal Cancers as the Advance of the Year in Clinical Cancer Advances.

The latest ASCO report on annual progress against cancer also catalogs a year’s worth of significant research advances, highlights areas of research opportunities, and reinforces the importance of federal funding for cancer research.

Molecular Profiling Driving Progress in Gastrointestinal Cancers

GI cancers account for 26% of the global cancer incidence and 35% of all cancer-related deaths. The ability to molecularly profile a GI tumor has expanded the treatment options for patients with GI cancers—extending survival while minimizing adverse effects.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common and lethal cancers worldwide with pancreatic cancer currently the 5th most common cause of cancer death in Australia, predicted to become the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths globally by 2030.

Professor Peter Gibbs VCCC Research and Education Lead (R&E Lead) GI Cancers says the VCCC alliance makes it possible to connect all the elements that will bring us closer to our goal of personalised medicine. “While we have good access to cross-disciplinary care in radiology, surgery, medical oncology and radiotherapy, molecular profiling opens up a frontier of individualised treatment for each patient. These tests tell us more about the cancer prognosis and guide us to select the best possible treatment strategy for each patient.

“While we have good access to cross-disciplinary care in radiology, surgery, medical oncology and radiotherapy, molecular profiling opens up a frontier of individualised treatment for each patient."

Professor Peter Gibbs, VCCC Research and Education Lead, Gastrointestinal Cancers 

"Biological and technological tools are enabling us to embark on real-time genomic testing for patients with challenging to treat cancer cases, opening up new therapy possibilities, including identifying good drug treatment options that otherwise would not have been considered. These include immunotherapy options, with the potential for sustained treatment benefit in carefully selected cases.

"As we are able to molecularly profile more patients through the VCCC supported programs, we are learning more about how to use this information to best treat patients, including those with poor prognosis tumours such as pancreatic cancer."

Health Equity in Clinical Cancer Research

The Clinical Cancer Advances report not only reviews the prior year’s progress but also recognises important issues and conversations in cancer research and highlights areas where progress is most promising. This year’s report includes a discussion of health equity in clinical cancer research, offering potential solutions. It is not surprising that global events of the past year have raised the profile of health inequities as one of the greatest challenges currently facing medicine.

Unfortunately, Australia is not exceptional in this regard, as not everyone with cancer benefits equitably from the strides made. Lack of diversity in clinical trials, the disparity of outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those in lower socioeconomic groups and the ability to deliver high-quality, consistent care to people living in remote and rural communities present challenges to be overcome. 

These inequities are incorporated into the key themes in VCCC strategic program planning with a very clear goal to pursue equity for all Victorians affected by cancer. 

ASCO new president-elect

In other news from ASCO, Dr Eric Winer, from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will take office as president-elect for the next term, beginning with the ASCO Annual Meeting in June this year. Dr Winer, was the guest of the VCCC R&E Lead Breast Cancer program for its conference in February last year prior to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

Read the full ASCO Clinical Cancer Advances 2021 report.