ASCO: Based on previous registration analysis there would have been more than 500 people with a primary interest in CNS tumours at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference held at Chicago during 3-7 June. The IBTA distributed 250 copies of its magazine from its location in the ASCO-sponsored Patient Advocacy Booth. The National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) and the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) were also present in the Exhibit Hall.
The overall highlight of the meeting were advances in the treatment of melanoma. In the CNS track there were 127 abstracts presented, the most significant being four relating to the RTOG 0525 trial which was a Phase III Trial Comparing Conventional Adjuvant Temozolomide (days 1-5) with Dose-Intensive Temozolomide (days 1-21) in Patients with Newly Diagnosed Glioblastoma. The principal investigator was Dr Mark A Gilbert. In a major undertaking in which the EORTC and NCCTG collaborated, one hundred and eighty-five facilities in North America and 24 facilities in Europe enrolled 1173 study participants who were also stratified according to MGMT methylation. Even a negative result can be significant - according to the RTOG summary “no significant improvement in overall patient survival or disease progression was observed for patients who received the dose-intensive (dose-dense) TMZ plus radiotherapy as compared to patients who received standard-dose TMZ plus radiotherapy.” Useful results were also obtained in regard to clinical outcomes and molecular classification, and longitudinal data collection about patient status.
BTEC: Also in June the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Brain Tumor Epidemiology Consortium (BTEC) was held in San Francisco, attended by more than 50 participants from Europe, USA, the Republic of Korea, and Israel. Presentations and abstracts covered subjects ranging across a wide area, including Gliomas and Residency within Counties of Potential Elevated Radon, Gene-Environment Interaction, and Pilocytic Astrocytomas of Childhood. The 2012 meeting will be held in Montpellier, France, and will be hosted by Dr Luc Bauchet.
Roger Stupp: We congratulate Dr Roger Stupp (Switzerland), currently Vice President of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), at his being appointed President-Elect of the Organisation for a term commencing in 2012.
South Africa: The IBTA will assist Deirdre Kohler in establishing the Brain Tumour Foundation of South Africa by attending the Fifteenth National Congress of the SA Society of Clinical & Radiation Oncology, and the SA Society of Medical Oncology in August and by participating in later meetings in major population centres.
USA and Italian Collaboration: The Carlo Besta Institute of Milan, Italy, will collaborate with Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins University, and Ohio State University, in the Tenth Annual International Neuro-Oncology Update Conference, to be held in Nashville during 15-16 September.
MRI Directive: The European Commission proposes to revise a Directive on electromagnetic fields (EMF) and has introduced an exemption for MRI from the binding limits proposed in the new directive. The original Directive crept onto the scene without the relevant professional bodies being alert to its implications and would have wreaked havoc on some medical procedures involving use of MRIs.
Hong Kong: The IBTA heard from an oncologist at ASCO that moves are underway to establish a neuro oncology group in Hong Kong.
Caregiving video: The ASCO Cancer.net web resource has uploaded to You Tube a 3 minute video presentation by Dr Susan Chang (Past President of the Society for Neuro Oncology) entitled “Caring for a Person With a Brain Tumor”. It is located here and is worth recommending to families and caregivers of newly diagnosed patients.
Canada: IBTA Chair Denis Strangman attended meetings of the British Columbia Cancer Agency brain tumour support group and planning committee in Vancouver en route to the ASCO meeting and while there obtained some ideas for the patient resources component of a proposed cancer centre in his home city which he has uploaded here. Denis is a member of the Executive Reference Group for the new Centre.
BNOS meeting: IBTA Co-Director Kathy Oliver is currently attending the British Neuro-Oncology Society's (BNOS) 2011 annual conference in Cambridge, UK where she will give a presentation on "Treating Patients as Individuals" during the Education Day. Over 200 neuro oncology specialists, researchers, allied healthcare professionals and representatives of UK brain tumour patient groups are present.
Brain Tumours and Exercise: The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Centre at Duke University (USA) is one of the leading treatment and research centres for brain tumours. Dr Lee W Jones from the Duke Centre has found in a study of 243 patients that brain tumour patients who are able to exercise live significantly longer than sedentary patients. He doesn’t claim that their exercise necessarily led to their longer survival (that awaits further study) but it may be an indicator of their long-term outcome.
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs): The IBTA was unable to participate in the UN Civil Society meeting held in New York on 16 June to put its view (supported by 700 signatures) of the inappropriateness for rare cancers, most of whose causes are unknown, of an undue emphasis on screening and early detection as a common denominator approach for the major NCDs. A Senior Director from ASCO did attend and reported: “… there was also broad recognition that a dedicated "vertical" response like the one the UN mounted in 2001 against HIV/AIDS is neither feasible nor even perhaps desirable. Instead, "integration" was the catchphrase -- integration of prevention strategies common to NCDs (tobacco control, lower salt intake, etc.) into not only health strategies, but also into trade, agriculture and other government policies; and integration where feasible of NCD screening, detection and treatment into overall healthcare systems, especially at the primary care level.” In retrospect, a major NCD that has been seemingly bypassed in this whole process is the burden of mental illness and perhaps the neuro-oncology community should have been more pro-active in forging alliances with advocates and health professionals from this other arm of neuroscience, for input into the September UN NCD Summit.
Therapy and device news: EMD Serono has announced that patient enrolment (over 500) in the Phase III CENTRIC clinical trial involving cilengitide in combination with standard therapy for a MGMT methylated sub-group of newly diagnosed GBM patients, has been completed. Antisense Pharma has been granted patents in the USA, Canada, Europe and Asia for its portable application system of delivering drugs by convection enhanced delivery (CED) into the brain. The system has been developed to administer its drug trabedersen for brain tumours. The European Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has recommended approval in the EU for the Novartis drug Votubia (everolimus) for children and adults with SEGA associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Specialised Therapeutics Australia Ltd has signed an agreement with a German company to licence Gliolan (5-ALA) in Australia and New Zealand. The drug is used to identify brain tumour cells during neurosurgery. Last month we reported on the development by Zeiss of a microscope for use with 5-ALA. We understand that Leica has also developed a special microscope for this purpose which has been approved for sale in certain countries. Tocagen Inc has commenced enrolment in a first-in-human Phase I/II clinical trial for its novel gene combination therapy, Toca 511 and Toca FC, in recurrent high grade glioma. Arno Therapeutics, Inc. has announced that its Phase II clinical study of AR-67 has met pre-defined interim goals for patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme who were not previously treated with Avastin and will continue toward completion. Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc is pleased with the 8.8 months interim medium overall survival for glioblastoma patients in a Phase II trial using a once-off interstitial infusion of Cotara at first relapse as reported at ASCO. ImmunoCellular Therapeutics Ltd has announced the issuance of a US patent for its potential vaccine treatment ICT-107 for glioblastoma. It “covers the combination of a dendritic cell based vaccine combined either before or concurrently with chemotherapy at the recurrence of the disease”. NICO Corporation has received permission from Health Canada to sell its Myriad system brain tumour removal tools in Canada. After first concentrating on its applicability to adult brain tumour patients Celtic Pharma is recruiting for a Phase I/II trial to test the tolerability of the anticipated steroid-sparing Xerecept in a paediatric brain tumour population.
Siddhartha Mukherjee: Dr Mukerherjee’s book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” has only a few passing references to brain tumour treatments but his work is a masterly study of the development of cancer treatments generally and is worth reading by all those involved with cancer, either as patient advocates or health professionals. It has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. The transcript of an interview with the author which was broadcast on US NPR can be accessed here.
Thank you for your continuing support.
Kathy Oliver (Co-Director)
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