publication date: Sep. 11, 2020

A reminder: The real goal is saving lives

Dear Editor,

was disappointed to see that you reported on the results of the IMpassion 131 trial, without context. [The Cancer Letter, Sept. 4, 2020]

I often see stories touting increased funding at NCI and changes in the payline. However, these are not the ultimate goals we are all working toward. More money, more research, and more researchers are simply the tools to achieve the real goal: saving lives. Is the system set up to accomplish the real goal? I continue to question that.

The coverage and reaction to the recent IMpassion trials in breast cancer do not give me a great deal of comfort that the community is moving in the right direction.

We know that immunotherapy is considered the latest “breakthrough” for cancer, including breast cancer. We all want immunotherapy to “work” for breast cancer patients. For the National Breast Cancer Coalition, that means therapy that will result in a cure or significantly prolonged survival without adverse impact on quality of life. We expect that the evidence of that benefit will be shown by well-designed, well conducted prospective randomized clinical trials sufficiently powered to support that result.

The tale of atezolizumab shows us we are not there yet. Not that long ago, many in the medical oncology community celebrated a “practice changing” result from IMpassion130, a phase III randomized clinical trial of atezolizumab (Tecentriq), a PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitor, combined with nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane) in patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

That excitement was a reaction to reports of an increase in progression free survival of 2.6 months and an analysis of a subgroup of patients with … Continue reading A reminder: The real goal is saving lives

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