D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD
Director of Thoracic Oncology,
University of Colorado,
Aurora, Colorado, USA
National Medical Director of the
Academic Thoracic Oncology Medical
Investigators Consortium (ATOMIC)
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented on-site attendance of the world’s largest cancer conference this year, the experts’ avid interest in advances in their respective areas of s pecialization remains unchanged. Approximately 40,000 oncology professionals participated in the three-day virtual ASCO scientific meeting that was held online from Friday, May 29, through Sunday, May 31. The program contained almost 5,300 abstracts and more than 100 on-demand and broadcast sessions featuring over 2,300 oral and poster presentations, opening and plenary sessions, cancer-specific highlights sessions, and clinical cancer symposia. Until June 4, the content was viewed more than 2.5 million times. It can be said that the global oncology community has risen magnificently to the occasion.
A range of relevant and potentially practice-changing findings was presented in the field of lung cancer. Immunotherapy and targeted-therapy strategies are now being explored either before or after surgery for early stage disease, with multiple challenges in determining what is and is not a transformative approach. In addition, combinations with radiation therapy continue to be explored in different clinical settings. Moreover, patient care in the setting of rare oncogenic drivers is an important focus of lung cancer research. Significant progress has been made with regard to various aberrations including ALK, MET, HER2 and RET alterations, as well as EGFR exon 20 insertions. All of these occur only in a few percent of patients but make for excellent therapeutic targets. A considerable part of this publication is dedicated to MET aberrations and the agents that have been developed to tackle them with precision. Molecular insights play an important role here as MET alterations have many faces. Also, results for drugs that enable targeting of EGFR exon 20 insertions are promising in this difficult-to-treat subtype of EGFR-positive lung cancer.
Clinical studies and their updates presented at the conference continue to confirm the importance of immune checkpoint inhibition with the next barriers being the determination of unequivocally active combinations of immune agents and the patients/tumor characteristics in whom they may be most effective. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic itself was addressed in the context of thoracic cancer care this year. Findings obtained from the TERAVOLT study contribute to the identification of lung cancer patients at risk for fatal COVID-19 infections, while data collection is ongoing and additional analyses will expand our knowledge in this area. Overall, data in this publication are presented together with the conclusions of the authors. We welcome you to question the data and these conclusions yourself.