RARE Daily

ASCO Names Progress in Treating Rare Cancers Advance of the Year

February 4, 2019

Rare Daily Staff

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has named “Progress in Treating Rare Cancers” as the Advance of the Year.

In announcing the selection ASCO also published a list of research priorities to accelerate progress against cancer in its annual Clinical Cancer Advances report.

“It’s exciting to see such substantial progress over the course of a single year, particularly against rare cancers. With U.S. cancer cases set to rise by roughly a third over the next decade, we must continue to advance research that saves lives,” said ASCO President Monica Bertagnolli. “Federal investment plays a key role in continuing progress—in rare and common cancers alike. We need to prioritize federal funding of cancer research in the years to come. Americans are counting on it.”

Although rare cancers account for about 20 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States each year, treatment progress has lagged behind that of more common forms of the disease. In the past year, however, ASCO said research and regulatory achievements in five rare cancers were particularly impactful and together comprise ASCO’s Advance of the Year.

The five achievements include:

Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma:  FDA approved the first treatment for this form of thyroid cancer in nearly 50 years, a targeted therapy combination of dabrafenib (Tafinlar) plus trametinib (Mekinist) for patients with anaplaystic thyroid cacinomas with a specific type of mutation. This approach produced tumor shrinkage in over two-thirds of study participants.

Desmoid Tumors: Sorafenib (Nexavar) became the first treatment to improve progression-free survival for patients with this rare form of sarcoma.

Midgut Neuroendocrine Tumors: FDA approved 177Lu-Dotatate (Lutathera), which delivers targeted radiation to tumor cells, based on research showing it lowers the risk of disease progression or death by 79% for patients with advanced disease.

Uterine Serous Carcinoma: Trastuzumab (Herceptin) was shown to slow progression of HER2-positive uterine serous carcinoma, one of the most aggressive forms of endometrial cancer.

Tenosynovial Giant Cell Tumor: Research identified the first promising therapy, pexidartinib, for this rare cancer of the joints, producing responses in nearly 40% of patients.

ASCO said this progress could not have come about without decades of sustained federal support for clinical cancer research. Several ongoing research initiatives sponsored by the National Institutes of Health have yielded important insights for rare cancers, and three of the five studies featured as part of the Advance of the Year received funding from the U.S. government.


February 4, 2019
Photo: Monica Bertagnolli, president of ASCO

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