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American Society for Therapeutic and Radiology and Oncology, Sept. 21-25, 2008

American Society for Therapeutic and Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting

The American Society for Therapeutic and Radiology and Oncology's 50th annual meeting took place Sept. 21 to 25 in Boston, attracted more than 12,000 attendees from around the world, and featured more than 200 educational sessions. Highlights included advances in the treatment of breast, prostate, and head and neck cancer.

"The meeting's key theme was the increasing use of targeted treatment, which is moving us toward the individualization of treatment, whether that's by identifying genetic targets in the cancer that we can attack or by better understanding where the cancer is relative to normal tissues so we can more accurately focus the radiation beam," said Stephen Hahn, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, chair of the scientific program subcommittee. "The other major theme was the advances we're seeing in molecular medicine imaging that are going to permit us to better use radiation therapy in the future."

Keynote speakers who addressed targeted therapy included Charles L. Sawyers, M.D., of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who was instrumental in the development of imatinib (Gleevec); and Robert A. Weinberg, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Dr. Weinberg gave an excellent talk about some of the new basic advances in research that could lead to new targeted agents," Hahn said. "That has relevance for not just radiation therapy but oncology in general."

One of the highlights, Hahn said, was an update of a 2006 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine presented by James Bonner, M.D., of the University of Alabama, regarding the effect on survival of the addition of cetuximab (Erbitux) to radiation therapy in patients with locally or regionally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck compared to radiation therapy alone.

"The superb thing about this study is that it continues to show a survival benefit for a drug that is much more targeted against cancer cells than normal tissues," Hahn said. "This study shows that you can increase the effectiveness of radiation against the cancer without a concomitant increase in side effects. Whenever you give regular chemotherapy with radiation, it affects the tumor but you always pay the price in increased toxicity. This trial has shown for the first time that a targeted agent can selectively increase the effect of radiation on the tumor. It gives us hope that these targeted agents are going to improve outcomes and decrease morbidity for patients."

Full Text - Bonner

Other research presented at the conference showed that long-term survivors of adult cancers have an almost doubled risk of psychological distress that interferes with functioning at work, school or during social interactions. Presented by Karen Hoffman, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School, the study also showed that survivors under age 65 were more likely to report severe psychological distress than those aged 65 and older.

"We hope these findings will raise awareness of the psychosocial needs of long-term cancer survivors and encourage routine psychological screening of these survivors," Hoffman said in a statement. "Quick, low-cost psychological screening tests are available that can and should be performed during clinic visits."

More Information - Hoffman

Matthew Katz, M.D., of Saints Medical Center in Lowell, Mass., discussed how he and his colleagues created a free online computer tool -- the CaP Calculator -- to help clinicians access the most recent prostate cancer research and individualize patient treatment. By entering information about cancer stage, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels and biopsy information, Katz said that clinicians can more accurately assess the risk of cancer spreading beyond the prostate and weigh the effectiveness of surgery and radiation.

The tool also gives clinicians the option of printing individualized assessments to review with their patients.

"CaP Calculator still needs to be tested in clinical trials to see if this decision support tool can help reduce men's distress and uncertainty with a new prostate cancer diagnosis," Katz said in a statement.

More Information - Katz

ASTRO: Breast Cancer Recurrence Unaffected By Age

THURSDAY, Sept. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Among patients who receive lumpectomy and whole-body radiation for ductal carcinoma in situ, recurrence rates do not significantly vary by age, according to research presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting held Sept. 21 to 25 in Boston.

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ASTRO: Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy in Spotlight

TUESDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- In the treatment of prostate cancer, changes in the use of hormone therapy may be warranted, according to research presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting held Sept. 21 to 25 in Boston. New studies suggest that the use of hormone therapy before brachytherapy increases the risk of mortality compared to brachytherapy alone, and that hormone therapy following radiation therapy should begin immediately if prostate-specific antigen levels quickly increase or double within six months.

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ASTRO: Whole Brain Radiation Linked to Cognitive Decline

TUESDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- The risk of neurocognitive decline is twice as high among cancer patients with brain metastases who undergo stereotactic radiosurgery and whole brain radiation than in those who undergo stereotactic radiosurgery alone, according to research presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting held Sept. 21 to 25 in Boston.

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ASTRO: Cancer Advances Highlighted at Conference

MONDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Two recent advances in breast cancer treatment -- accelerated whole breast irradiation and accelerated partial breast irradiation using a type of balloon brachytherapy -- are safe, effective and time-saving alternatives to conventional radiation therapy. Another recent advance -- proton radiation therapy -- may be more effective than standard photon therapy at reducing secondary cancers, according to research presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting held Sept. 21 to 25 in Boston.

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ASTRO: Acupuncture Beneficial for Breast Cancer Patients

MONDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- In the management of breast cancer patients who are experiencing treatment-related hot flashes, night sweats and excessive sweating, acupuncture may be an effective alternative to conventional pharmacotherapy, according to research presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting held Sept. 21 to 25 in Boston.

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