Researchers from SWOG, a cancer clinical trials group funded by the National Cancer Institute, will participate in 32 presentations to be made at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world's largest clinical cancer research meeting, which runs June 2-6 in Chicago.

At ASCO 2017, SWOG investigators will report on trials involving treatment and prevention strategies for more than 10 cancer types, as well as research on health services, prevention and epidemiology, and care for cancer survivors. This crop of presentations at ASCO is the largest in nearly a decade. Of the 32 presentations, 20 are on SWOG-led trials.

"We've got an exceptionally strong showing at ASCO 2017," said SWOG Group Chair Dr. Charles Blanke. "Presentations show the depth and breadth of our expertise, as well as the benefits of running cancer trials for 60 years. Our group produces a very strong body of work."

Here are SWOG highlights at ASCO 2017:

  • Results of S1406, led by SWOG investigator Dr. Scott Kopetz of University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, show significantly better outcomes for patients with a treatment-resistant form of metastatic colorectal cancer when the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib is added to a standard treatment. The findings, for the first time, point to an effective treatment for this deadly type of cancer.
  • Results of S0715, led by SWOG investigator Dr. Dawn Hershman of Columbia University, were a surprise. Use of the supplement acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC) to prevent nerve pain caused by taxanes, the common class of breast cancer chemotherapies, didn't work. In fact, more patients receiving ALC experienced nerve pain - a trend that continued two years after trial randomization. The pain treated in the study, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), effects tens of thousands of women a year, and identifying an effective treatment is a high priority in cancer research.
  • Results of S9921, led by SWOG investigator Dr. Maha Hussain of Northwestern University, show that in high-risk, post-surgical prostate cancer patients, adjuvant androgen-deprivation therapy may be even more effective in improving patient survival than previously thought. S9921, which enrolled 961 eligible patients, is one of the largest adjuvant trials in prostate cancer ever conducted.

Other presentations show SWOG's value as a publicly funded research network.

SWOG biostatistician Joseph Unger, Ph.D., of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, will present an analysis showing that Americans diagnosed with cancer gained 3.34 million years of life thanks to SWOG trials, and that the dollar return on investment is estimated to be just $125 for each life year gained. An abstract presented by Andrea Denicoff of the NCI's Clinical Therapy Evaluation Program details a new approach to insurance billing, pioneered by SWOG and now being piloted across the NCI's National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). The new system is expected to save hospitals, clinics, and other trial site staff thousands of hours and millions of dollars each year. SWOG members Connie Szczepanek and Marge Good along with SWOG staffer Casey Dawson are part of the pilot project and members of the study team.

Finally, SWOG investigators will contribute to the most high profile presentations at ASCO 2017. Cathy Eng of M.D. Anderson, SWOG's rectal cancer subcommittee co-chair, will be a discussant at the meeting's plenary session, where research with the highest merit is presented. A landmark colorectal cancer trial managed by the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, SWOG's partner in the NCTN, with co-leadership by SWOG, is also the subject of three oral ASCO 2017 presentations. The trial, CALGB (Alliance) 80405, made big news a few years ago when results showed that the location of a colorectal cancer tumor - right side or left - has a significant impact on survival outcome. Because of the trial's size and rigor, it has spawned a raft of important follow-on findings.

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