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2021 ASCO Annual Meeting: Five Things to Know

June 15, 2021

The 2021 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) underscored the importance of health equity in cancer care through its theme, Equity: Every Patient. Every Day. Everywhere. While this important topic was threaded in discussions throughout the conference, researchers also released noteworthy study results, highlighted prominent clinical trials, and shared valuable perspectives. Below are five valuable topics to share from ASCO’s annual meeting.

Addressing Barriers to Cancer Care

Throughout the meeting, presenters discussed barriers to health equity in cancer care and solutions related to geography, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and gender identity, health insurance, culture, and trust.

Health equity in cancer care is a priority for Texas Oncology as the practice focuses on delivering quality cancer care and mitigating healthcare disparities for Texans fighting cancer through its locations in communities of all sizes throughout the state, including smaller cities and towns. In addition, telemedicine connects patients with care teams both locally and with access to specialized physician expertise in other cities. Online support groups, including nutrition support groups, serve patients no matter where they live so they can receive the critical support they need.

Additional Chemotherapy for Cervical Cancer Isn’t Always Beneficial

According to findings from the international randomized phase 3 OUTBACK trial, in which Texas Oncology participated, women with locally advanced cervical cancer who received additional chemotherapy after standard chemoradiation did not experience improved overall or progression-free survival. Additionally, the therapy was associated with increased side effects.

This trial is significant for clinicians because it shows that giving additional chemotherapy to the standard chemoradiation treatment regimen doesn’t benefit cervical cancer patients whose cancers are advanced but not spread to other parts of the body, ensuring that these patients don’t receive this additional treatment, which could cause unnecessary side effects," said Antonio Santillan-Gomez M.D., MBA, FACOG, a gynecologic oncologist at Texas Oncology–San Antonio Medical Center and Texas Oncology–San Antonio Stone Oak.

Radiopharmaceuticals Are on the Horizon

Radiopharmaceuticals are delivered via IV and deliver radiation directly to cancer cells by tracking them within the body and emitting radiation directly to the tumor cells within range. According to research released at ASCO, this therapy can help men with advanced prostate cancer live longer than those who receive only the standard of care. Few drugs of this type are currently approved for use, but the positive study results indicate that they may become a treatment option for patients with hard-to-reach or inoperable cancers.

Kidney Cancer Treatment Shows Promise

For more than a generation, scientists have searched for an effective therapy to give to high-risk patients with renal cell carcinoma after initial surgery for the tumor. Findings from a new study presented at ASCO, which Texas Oncology participated in, indicate that the use of a specific type of immunotherapy (PD-L1 inhibitors, which help block the defenses of tumor cells) after surgery can decrease disease recurrence which will hopefully improve survival.

Even with surgery, recurrence is common in high-risk renal cell carcinoma, and if it does recur, there are limited curative treatments available," said Jeff Yorio, M.D., medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology-Austin Central. "The study results shows that these patients may soon have a new treatment option."

Biosimilars: A Cost-Saving, Effective Treatment Option to High-Cost, Name-Brand Cancer Drugs

Biosimilars, which are FDA-approved medications that are comparable to name-brand medications, can lower the cost of cancer care by providing effective treatment options for patients. At ASCO, Texas Oncology presented findings that showed a substantial cost savings by utilizing biosimilars in place of name-brand medications, unless a payer insisted on the brand drug or a specific biosimilar was not in the practice formulary. Communication with physicians and healthcare teams along with patient education were key to increasing the use of biosimilars.

Our comprehensive, team approach to the use of biosimilars led to a substantial cost savings, demonstrating that their use has real implications in controlling the total cost of cancer care, while still providing the best  treatment for patients," said study author Lalan Wilfong, M.D., medical oncologist, hematologist, and executive vice president of value-based care at Texas Oncology.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.