Conference Coverage

Four phase 3 studies highlighted at ASCO mark progress in GI cancers



– Findings from four recent, phase 3 gastrointestinal cancer studies mark a step forward toward “the answers we need” for patients with pancreatic, colorectal, or esophageal cancer, according to Andrew S. Epstein, MD.

In this video interview, Dr. Epstein summarizes and provides context for the findings, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and highlighted during a press briefing there. Dr. Epstein, an ASCO Expert and a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, who was invited to discuss each of the studies at the briefing, said the UNICANCER-sponsored Prodige 7 trial addressed an important, long-unanswered question about the value of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) with surgery for colorectal peritoneal carcinomatosis.

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“This randomized study, very importantly, answered that longstanding question and showed us in a less-is-more type of way that the addition of the chemotherapy during surgery actually did not improve the overall survival of these patients,” he said, adding that, at 60 days, HIPEC actually had done more harm than good.

The findings are helpful, as HIPEC has been widely used without a solid data foundation, and now the use of an “additional toxic nonbeneficial treatment” can be avoided in a subset of patients.

Two studies regarding chemotherapy in patients with pancreatic cancer also provided important information about treatment. Preliminary data from one, the PREOPANC-1 trial, suggested that perioperative chemoradiotherapy significantly improves outcomes in resectable and borderline resectable patients, compared with immediate surgery; the other – the Prodige 24/CCTG PA.6 trial – demonstrated that adjuvant mFOLFIRINOX, a four-agent regimen, improved disease-free, metastasis-free, and overall survival, with treated patients living a median of 20 months longer and being cancer free for a median of 9 months longer than those who received gemcitabine therapy.

“We saw a very impressive, encouraging, statistically and clinically significant improvement,” he said regarding survival outcomes in Prodige 24. In patients with good performance status who can tolerate the regimen, mFOLFIRINOX “seems to be the way to go now,” he added, noting that patients receiving the regimen require close monitoring by a medical oncologist.

The fourth study, a prevention trial known as the ASPECT trial, showed that high-dose esomeprazole and low-dose aspirin taken for at least 7 years moderately reduces the risk of high-grade dysplasia and esophageal cancer, and may delay death from any cause in patients with Barrett’s esophagus.

“[It is] obviously of huge importance to be able to prevent a cancer before its onset. ... So with esophagus cancer, which also is a very difficult disease to treat in whatever stage it is, it would be a huge benefit to have a way in which to effectively prevent it,” Dr. Epstein said.

However, more information is needed about the actual benefits in terms of all-cause mortality and the contributors from aspirin versus the proton pump inhibitor versus both, he noted, adding that it is important for the public to know that the findings only apply to those with Barrett’s esophagus and shouldn’t be attempted with over-the-counter treatments as some treatments are associated with complications, and the proton pump inhibitor dose used in this study is not available over the counter.

“So I think it is an intriguing study which needs more clarity and more follow-up, as the author himself said,” he added.

In summing up the findings presented at the briefing, Dr. Epstein said that “collectively we see that the challenge of cancer remains significant and we need high-quality studies like the ones presented today in order to best present ...what the best therapies are for [patients].

“With good sound science like this we continue to inch closer to the answers we need,” he concluded.

Dr. Epstein reported having no disclosures.

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