publication date: May. 15, 2020

In Brief

ASCO highlights: 2020 annual meeting scientific program lineup

Five studies from the virtual scientific program of the 2020 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting were highlighted in a press briefing and released May 13:

  • Greater Decline in Cancer-Related Deaths Seen in Medicaid Expansion States in First Nationwide Study: States that adopted Medicaid expansion following passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 saw greater decreases in cancer mortality rates than states that did not, according to the first nationwide study of its kind.

  • Maintenance Therapy With PARP Inhibitor Olaparib Extends Survival By Over 1 Year in Patients With Relapsed Ovarian Cancer and BRCA Mutation: Maintenance therapy with olaparib (Lynparza) extended overall survival by nearly 13 months (12.9) compared with placebo in women with platinum-sensitive relapsed ovarian cancer with BRCA 1 or 2 mutations, in a randomized phase III trial.

  • Videoconference Intervention Significantly Reduces Anxiety and Distress Among Remote Caregivers of People With Cancer: A videoconferencing intervention significantly reduced levels of anxiety and distress among “distance caregivers” who live more than an hour away from the patients with cancer they support, according to the results of a federally funded study.

  • Quitting Smoking at Any Point, Even Close to a Lung Cancer Diagnosis, Improves Chances of Survival: People who quit smoking at any time—even less than 2 years before a lung cancer diagnosis—improve their chances of survival after being diagnosed with the disease, according to the results of a large international study.

  • Integrating Geriatric Assessment and Management Into Cancer Care Improves Quality of Life, Reduces Hospital Admissions for Older Patients: Older people with cancer set to receive anti-cancer therapy had significant improvements in quality of life when comprehensive geriatric assessment and geriatrician-led management was integrated into their care plan.

The theme of this year’s Annual Meeting is Unite and Conquer: Accelerating Progress Together. The meeting’s scientific program will be held virtually May 29-31 and provide an engaging lineup of scheduled and on-demand scientific content across a variety of approaches, disciplines, and specialties.

Approximately 2,215 abstracts were accepted for virtual presentation, and more than 3,400 additional abstracts were accepted for online publication. The vast majority of these abstracts have been publicly released and are now available on ASCO’s Meeting Library. Late-Breaking Abstracts, including Plenary abstracts, will be released online on Thursday, May 28, at 5:00 p.m.


Long, Smith, Quinn named to new positions at Roswell Park

Three leaders were appointed to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center:

  • Mary Ann Long was named senior vice president of nursing. Long will focus on evaluating service in inpatient, outpatient and community practices, and will provide leadership to all nursing teams across the center.
    Long was previously director of Magnet at Roswell Park until her retirement in 2012, and also served as assistant director of nursing and director of patient care services, in addition to more than 30 years of service as an intensive care unit nurse.

  • Laurie J. Smith was named vice president of clinical research services. As vice president, Smith will support more than 400 active clinical trials a year and supervise staff engaged in study submission, study implementation, data collection and management.
    Smith previously served as an independent consultant and, prior to that, as vice president of clinical research for AMITA Health in Chicago.

  • Timothy Quinn was named chief of critical care. Quinn, previously co-director of the Intensive Care Unit, has been named to the newly created role of chief of critical care. He will work with members of Roswell Park’s Intensive Care Unit and Intermediate Care Unit to provide cutting-edge and evidence-based oncologic care to patients. A critical care anesthesiologist at the Center, Quinn’s research interests include preoperative evaluation of high-risk patients, intraoperative care and postoperative quality-improvement initiatives.


DFCI and Silverberry Genomix form population health initiative for research and education

Science Health Education Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute launched the SHE Biobank initiative, a large, long-term study that will investigate the impact of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to the development of disease

The SHE Center’s goal is to bring best practices, better health outcomes, and increased stability to developing countries including the Middle East and North Africa, a region urgently in need of all three.

Navid Madani, director of the SHE Center and a senior scientist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has led educational workshops and training programs in the region, which reinforced the understanding of the current lack of health data infrastructure and solidified the need for such platforms in the region.

“Biobanking is crucial to this research and helps researchers, healthcare providers and governments to health policies and assign resources properly. In recent years, due to advancements in healthcare technologies, data availability and decreasing DNA sequencing costs, various biobanks have been created around the world,” Madani said in a statement.

“However, the majority of such projects have been launched in developed countries, contributing to an increasing gap between developed and developing countries. This initiative aims to decrease that gap,” Madani said.

The SHE Biobank offers researchers to conduct studies and the infrastructure it provides so the data can be put into action for public good. It also helps increase readiness of the healthcare community to prevent or combat future disease outbreaks.   

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of availability of digital health platforms to provide access to data and enable research and collaboration at scale for a large size of population,” Shayan Mashatian, founder of Silverberry Genomix, said in a statement. “By making the Silverberry platform available to this critical endeavor, we are facilitating a rapid launch of the project, connecting the researchers, healthcare institutions and other interested parties so more people can take advantage of scientific advancement, preventing disease or empower the emerging field of precision medicine.”

Researchers, universities, government agencies, companies, and foundations as well as individual participants, are invited to participate in the initiative.


Paczesny, Mehrotra named co-leaders of cancer immunology at Hollings Cancer Center

Sophie Paczesny and Shikhar Mehrotra were named co-leaders of the cancer immunology program at Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Paczesny begins her appointment on July 1 as a professor and chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at MUSC in the College of Medicine. Mehrotra, whose appointment began March 2, is an associate professor in MUSC’s Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine, and is also the co-director of the MUSC Clean Cellular Therapy unit.

Mehrotra has been with Hollings Cancer Center since 2006. His research focuses on understanding T-cell signaling and metabolic pathways to improve the functionality of T cells in adoptive cell therapy.

Paczesny is a member and counselor for the American Society for Clinical Investigation, co-chairperson for both the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant immunobiology working group and the American Society of Hematology task force on immunotherapies.

Other areas of her research include developing and translating biomarkers for the outcomes following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT); discovering inhibitors of drug targetable biomarkers for HCT patients; finding novel therapies to treat graft-versus-host disease and improve graft-versus-leukemia reactions, including cellular therapies; and exploring the Alarmin Interleukin-33/ST2 signaling pathway as a novel immune checkpoint in myeloid malignancies and other cancers.

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