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ASCO 2018: World’s largest cancer conference seeks to expand the reach of precision medicine


Leading cancer researchers from across the world are travelling to Chicago for the ASCO 2018 Annual Meeting, the world’s biggest cancer conference. The conference is aiming to ensure as many patients as possible benefit from latest advances in precision medicine – and ICR researchers are at the forefront.

Posted on 01 June, 2018 by Tilly Haynes

Image from the 2016 ASCO conference which was held in Chicago, US

Image from the 2016 ASCO conference, held in Chicago, US (photo: ASCO/Todd Buchanan 2016)

This weekend more than 32,000 cancer researchers and clinicians from all over the world will gather to discuss state-of-the-art treatments and groundbreaking therapies at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

It’s the world’s biggest cancer conference, with a reputation for setting the agenda for cancer research across the year – and our researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, will be playing a leading role.

This year the theme of the conference is ‘Delivering discoveries: Expanding the reach of precision medicine’. It’s a recognition of the success cancer research has had in discovering new precision treatments for cancer, but also of the need to do more to make these more personalised approaches available for patients.

The ICR is in a special position to contribute to that discussion. Last year, we won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our outstanding contribution to the discovery of new cancer drugs, including pioneering the transition from one-size-fits-all chemotherapy to targeted drug treatment.

Our research strategy, joint with our hospital partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, also aims to take research advances and develop them for patients as quickly as possible – and to go further by embedding research advances into routine healthcare. 

On Monday 4 June at 15:00-18:00 (CDT) the ICR’s Professor Johann de Bono will be delivering a not-to-be-missed keynote talk (abstract 5007) about his exciting research into the use of the immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab, for the treatment of very advanced prostate cancer.

Professor de Bono’s talk is just one of a series of exciting contributions from ICR researchers. All of the conference abstracts are available ro read, but below is a round-up of some of the ICR highlights to look forward to at this year’s ASCO conference:

Saturday 2 June:

  • Abstract 11555: In this poster presentation Professor Winette van der Graaf, Professor of Personalised Oncology at the ICR, will present results from the PREDICT study. The research examines how the outcome of patients with soft tissue sarcoma treated with the chemotherapy drug pazopanib can be predicted from their early metabolic response.
  • Abstract 5024: Professor Emma Hall, Deputy Director of the Cancer Research UK-funded Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at the ICR, led this phase II study into the use of Radium-223, which is known to improve overall survival in patients with advanced prostate cancer. The research looked at the effect of the treatment on the disease spreading to the patient’s bones.
  • Abstract 6036: Also presenting a poster is Professor Kevin Harrington. He is discussing the use of the combination therapy T-VEC, the first treatment of its kind to be approved for use in adults with advanced melanoma, in combination with a second immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab.
  • Abstract 5063: Dr Pasquale Rescigno, Clinical Research Fellow at the ICR, will be presenting a poster about his work on prostate cancer as part of Professor de Bono’s team. The study looks at how changes in PSA levels in the first four weeks of treatment with abiraterone can be linked to the outcome of this treatment.

Sunday 3 June:

  • Abstract 10515: This oral presentation will focus on a report from a number of children’s cancer groups and cancer institutes, including the ICR, about genetic errors that lead to the childhood cancer, rhabdomyosarcoma, and how they affect the outcome of treatments in these patients. The ICR’s Professor Janet Shipley was involved with this study, as Chair of the Biological Committee for the European Paediatric Soft Tissue Sarcoma Study Group.
  • Abstract TPS4139: This study, led by Dr Marco Gerlinger (Team Leader in the ICR’s Centre for Cancer and Evolution), is part of the ICONIC trial. It focusses on the development of innovative therapeutic combinations, using immunotherapy drugs alongside the standard chemotherapy, for the treatment of gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma.

Monday 4 June:

  • Abstract LBA5005: Another study to which Professor de Bono contributed will feature in an oral presentation, this time comparing survival rates between African-American and Caucasian men with prostate cancer. This abstract will go live on Friday 1 June, so watch this space.
  • Abstract TPS2610: Professor Udai Banerji, Deputy Director of the Drug Development Unit at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, led this phase I/IIa trial of the new treatment BT1718 for patients with advanced solid tumours – including non-small cell lung cancer, triple negative breast cancer and sarcoma.
  • Abstract 12026: Dr Adam Sharp, Clinical Research Fellow in Professor de Bono’s team, will be presenting on research into a specific mutation in prostate cancers and whether it leads to resistance to treatment with abiraterone followed by enzalutamide.

Follow the conference news

There are plenty more ICR poster sessions taking place during the weekend so if you’re going to the conference make sure to have a look!

Otherwise, keep up to date with the exciting research presentations at the conference by following along on social media using the hashtag #ASCO18.


Johann de Bono ASCO pembrolizumab
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