Preface – ESMO 2021
Yelena Y. Janjigian, MD Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY, USA
For the second time, the ESMO scientific meeting took place virtually from 16th – 21st September 2021. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the ESMO committee received an increased number of submitted abstracts compared to last year. Overall, more than 22,700 registrants from 143 countries attended this highly anticipated annual European oncology congress and talks, discussions, and symposia, across 21-track scientific and educational programs, were presented by more than 450 speakers in 170 different sessions.
At this year’s meeting, a range of practice-changing new studies were presented, keeping in mind the ESMO’s motto of “giving the right treatment at the right time, to the right patient”. The very latest standard of care across different solid tumors highlighted the multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment. Ground-breaking new data presented to the oncology global community aim to allow participants to stay at the cutting edge of research and thus have the potential to change or influence their current clinical practice.
Real-world data that bring an increased added value to prescribers were just some of the highlights of this congress. Additionally, immunotherapy was shown to work across several cancer types, and newcomers in the precision oncology field showed their potential of becoming breakthrough therapies. In colorectal cancer, immune checkpoint inhibitors demonstrated their efficacy and safety, mostly combined with other anti-PD-1 agents and/or with chemotherapy. Moreover, selective and irreversible KRASG12C inhibitors showed promising antitumoral effects by concomitant good tolerance in patients with KRASG12C-mutated CRC, while a new CDK4/6 kinase inhibitor is currently under investigation in therapy-naïve patients with microsatellite stable mCRC. In patients with gastric/gastroesophageal cancer, the 24-month update of the phase III CheckMate 649 study confirmed the benefit of nivolumab plus chemotherapy in this population, while innovative approaches with sintilimab showed encouraging results too. For the treatment of persistent, recurrent, or metastatic cervical cancer, new landmark studies showed an overall survival superiority – regardless of the PD-L1 status at initial diagnosis – for the addition of pembrolizumab to chemotherapy in 1L treatment or for cemiplimab versus chemotherapy after 1L progression. In patients with breast cancer, phase III data with antibody-drug conjugates revealed to be promising in the metastatic setting, while interim data from a new neoadjuvant combination demonstrated antitumoral activity.
By sharing the latest advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, this second consecutive virtual ESMO 2021 edition perfectly highlighted its tagline: “Connecting and engaging those who care about cancer”.