AACR 2017

AACR 2017April brings more than just showers – the month kicks off with a very important cancer research conference. Tomorrow we are headed to Washington, DC for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting held April 1-5, 2017.

Our team will be joining approximately 20,000 cancer researchers from across the country and around the world for this important meeting. Several physicians and scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian, and the Meyer Cancer Center again served on the scientific program committee, including our own Dr. Scott Tagawa.

We’re also proud that Dr. Bishoy Faltas was selected as an AACR NextGen Star, a competitive award that supports professional development and advancement for scientists who are early in their career. Dr. Faltas will be presenting important updates related to bladder cancer, and his NextGen Star talk will take place on Wednesday, April 5, and is titled Genomic dissection of the clonal evolution dynamics of chemotherapy-resistant urothelial carcinoma.

We have a lot to share at AACR 2017, so please check back frequently as we’ll be updating the blog regularly throughout the week.

Here are some additional highlights of what’s to come:

  • Updates regarding circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and the role of biomarkers in non-invasive diagnostics and treatments
  • How organoids may help us better treat neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC)
  • The different types of radiation used to treat prostate cancer and how we’re targeting PSMA – a marker on the surface of most prostate cancer cells – with radioimmunotherapy to kill cancer cells
  • The latest updates in bladder cancer research, including updates in genomics and targeting molecular pathways

2017 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium Day 3

gu_symposium_2017_img_3054The third day of the 2017 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium started with a Best of Journals session on renal cell carcinoma (the most common form of kidney cancer) and the early poster sessions focused on renal cell, testicular, penile, and urethral cancers.

The first major morning session was focused on “novel targets and controversies in advanced testicular cancer.” Experts in the field first discussed actionable targets in testicular tumors, also referred to as germ cell tumors. This session also addressed a debate regarding treatment intensification in the subset of patients with “poor prognosis” – or germ cell tumors whose blood tumor markers do not decline optimally after initial chemotherapy. This subject remains controversial, but fortunately only affects a small number of patients, as in the current treatment era, after initial chemotherapy treatment, approximately 95% of all patients diagnosed with testicular cancer will be cured.

linehanThe Keynote Lecture on renal cell carcinoma was delivered by Dr. Marston Linehan from the National Cancer Institute. He discussed the current state-of-the-art treatment which is based upon decades of research largely led by him on the genetic basis of renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Several of his discoveries about the genomics and biology of RCC have led to the current wealth of drugs available to treat this disease. One such discovery was the importance of the von Hippel Lindau gene in patients with familial cancer syndromes that also affects tumor genomics in most patients with clear cell RCC. This discovery led to investigation in targeting the VEGF pathway which is the backbone of most currently approved drugs.

The session on the diagnosis and treatment of local renal cancer (confined to the kidney) started with a presentation on the role of active surveillance or watchful observation in small renal tumors, and was followed by discussions on imaging and biopsy of renal masses. A talk about the use of ablation in small renal tumors was followed by an abstract presentation on a registry of active surveillance of patients with small renal masses.  In summary, experts in the field discussed strategies and data behind the options of imaging and/or biopsy followed by either close surveillance or minimally invasive treatment strategies for patients with small renal masses.

The oral abstract scientific presentation session featured a presentation that followed up on the morning theme of small renal masses, also discussing surveillance, imaging, and circulating biomarkers. The Mayo Clinic group highlighted the success of treating carefully selected healthy patients with cryoablation in an expert center. A novel computer-assisted technique appears to be useful in assessing response to therapy compared to standard radiology assessment. A collaborative group led by Drs. Pal and Choueiri presented results of a large group of patients who had assessment of circulating tumor DNA (cfDNA) with a commercial platform prior to first-line or subsequent lines of treatment for metastatic disease.  Additionally, an Italian group presented an abstract on changes in tumor burden and prognostic classification when patients with metastatic RCC utilize an active surveillance strategy rather than take medications or undergo a local procedure. This is important to realize that for carefully selected patients, just because there are metastatic (spread) tumors on scans, immediate treatment is not always necessary. Sometimes these remain stable over long periods of time without treatment and this can be discussed with experienced clinicians.

Kidneys_GU Blog_FBThe final session of the conference reviewed the opportunities and challenges in systemic therapy for advanced kidney (renal) cancer. Imaging techniques to optimally evaluate one’s response to targeted therapies was discussed, highlighting examples of successful treatment with very little change in tumor measurements by traditional techniques. For example, it’s possible for a tumor to appear the same size after treatment by standard measurement, but it can be 95% necrotic (dead) tissue and in this scenario, the patient feels better and may live longer. This would be classified as non-response (or stable disease). Unfortunately, for patients with larger or more invasive tumors, many patients are not cured with surgery alone despite normal scans elsewhere in the body. Dr. Karam reviewed the results of recently presented trials utilizing targeted therapy following surgery. While these are not quite ready for primetime, the medical community is currently awaiting the results of other studies well as current studies utilizing immune checkpoint inhibitors in combination with surgery. Drs. Vaishampayan and Jonasch discussed the multiple different treatment options available to physicians and patients with advanced RCC. Physicians were reminded to consider referral to a highly experienced center for high-dose interleukin (IL)-2, a treatment which offers long-term disease-free survival off therapy in a selected subset of patients with advanced kidney cancer. Current studies are ongoing to assess different drug combinations, as well as novel agents. The last presentation of the conference was led by Dr. Powles who presented a late-breaking abstract on the randomized phase II study of atezolizumab with or without bevacizumab versus sunitinib in patients with advanced previously untreated metastatic RCC. While not definitive, the results were intriguing and support the continuing phase III study assessing the use of the combination of atezolizumanb and bevacizumab. There are multiple new studies looking at combinations of drugs and we encourage patients interested in this type of treatment to look for sites that are enrolling.

Overall, the conference was a great opportunity for both academic and community physicians from all different specialties (including medical oncology, urology, radiation oncology, radiology, and pathology) to mix with and learn from each other.  We look forward to participating next February in San Francisco for the 2018 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.

2017 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium

gu_symposium_2017_img_3054The 2017 Genitourinary (GU) Cancer Symposium kicked off on February 16th in Orlando, Florida, bringing together more than 3,000 attendees from all over the world. At this annual conference, clinicians from a wide range of disciplines treating people with prostate cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and testicular cancer come together to hear from experts on the latest scientific discoveries and how they impact clinical care for patients.

The Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) and NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) GU Oncology team is down in the Sunshine State highlighting the cutting-edge research and patient care that has been taking place back on campus in New York City.

twitter-iconTeam member Dr. Bishoy Faltas was selected by the conference to be a “Featured Voice” on Twitter, so be sure to follow him (@DrFaltas) for updates in real-time. Dr. Scott Tagawa (@DrScottTagawa) is now on Twitter too and also tweeting live from the symposium. The official conference hashtag is #GU17.

Some #GU17 highlights

Day 1 – The initial session focused on active surveillance for prostate cancer, including using both imaging as well as tissue biomarkers to help select optimal patients for surveillance versus those who should undergo surgery or radiation. A subsequent session focused on prostate cancer that progresses despite therapy and the pathways of resistance that can develop. This included a discussion of prostate cancer subtypes that become independent of the androgen-receptor (hormonal) pathway, including aggressive variant and neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC). Neuroendocrine prostate cancer is one of the most aggressive and treatment-resistant types of prostate cancer that most often evolves from prior hormonal therapy.

beltran-attard
Dr. Misha Beltran and Dr. Gerhardt Attard are two of the primary investigators for the 2016-2018 Movember Foundation-PCF Challenge Award

Dr. Gerhardt Attard at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, gave a great talk on the value of circulating tumor DNA in prostate cancer. He spoke about the collaborative grant from the Movember Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) that he, Dr. Misha Beltran and others have used to develop signature ways to confirm neuroendocrine prostate cancer with a blood test. An additional collaborative grant will allow optimization of this technology across a larger number of centers. Learn more about this prestigious Movember Foundation-PCF Challenge Award and how we’re using genomic characterization of tumors in less invasive ways in order to bring precision medicine – or narrowly tailored, personalized treatment – to more patients.

evi_taxynergy_gu-symposium_jpgDr. Evi Giannakakou explains to a crowd of physician-scientists results from our TAXYNERGY clinical trial showing additional evidence of using cancer cells circulating in the blood, also referred to as circulating tumor cells or CTCs, as a primary biomarker for chemotherapy response. This research validated prior work regarding the mechanism of action of chemotherapy in prostate cancer and demonstrates that using a simple blood draw, within one week of first chemotherapy treatment, we’re able to determine whether men with metastatic prostate cancer have a higher chance of responding. In the future, this might spare men from additional treatment (with associated side effects) with a drug that has a lower chance of working. For additional background information on this research, check out our prior in-depth blog post on the topic.

jok9106Dr. Josephine Kang, a radiation oncologist at WCM/NYP, presented a poster on Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT), which is an emerging treatment modality with excellent control rates for low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancer. The role of SBRT for high-risk prostate cancer has not been studied as closely, but this trial showed encouraging results for those with high-risk disease. These results are very encouraging, as the treatment can be completed in 5 treatments. Additionally, this data longitudinally followed men treated with this modality for 7 years, and it appears to be a safe and effective treatment for high-risk prostate carcinoma. SBRT may be a good treatment alternative particularly for patients unable to undergo hormonal therapy (androgen receptor therapy/ADT) or unwilling to receive standard 8-9 week radiation therapy. More research is ongoing. Learn more about our open clinical trial using this modality. Another study will soon be opening.

In the oral abstract session, data was presented from a cooperative group trial that the older chemotherapy drug mitoxantrone should not be used immediately following surgery. Assays from biopsy material can separate different classes of prostate cancer with different risk for inferior outcomes. Blood biomarkers utilizing circulating tumor cells appear to be prognostic and potentially predictive of response to certain drugs. We are currently participating in a study to validate this data across multiple institutions and technology platforms.

In the keynote lecture, Dr. Charles Drake who recently joined the NYP family at Columbia discussed the current status and future directions of immunotherapy for prostate cancer.

Stay tuned for additional updates throughout the symposium!