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    Hormone-Mimicking Drugs Are Used To Treat Gastroenteropancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (GEP-NETs)

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) can arise wherever neuroendocrine (hormone-producing) cells are found—which is in most organs. Most NETs (65%-70%) are gastroenteropancreatic, or GEP, arising in different gastrointestinal organs. GEP-NETs are most commonly found in the small bowel (including the appendix), stomach, and rectum. Still, NETs in general are rare, which complicates the development of new treatments and identification of the genetic drivers of these cancers. Treatment of GEP-NETs is clearly an unmet medical need, and is now even more urgent because their incidence has been on the rise in the last 20 years.

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    ASCO 2015: Notable Reports on Prostate Cancer Treatment

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    This year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting was short on any truly exciting developments in prostate cancer treatment. In stark contrast to other cancers, such as lung, breast, kidney, and melanoma, there were no reports of note on targeted and immunotherapies in prostate cancer. The two presentations summarized here offered new strategies in chemotherapy.

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    ASCO Highlight: Another Treatment Option for ER-Positive Breast Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Earlier this year, a new treatment option was added to the arsenal for ER-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the combination of letrozole (Femara) and palbociclib (Ibrance).

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    Melanoma at ASCO 2015: Immunotherapy Continues to Make Headlines

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    The biggest news in melanoma treatment from the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting was undoubtedly the report from a large, phase III, randomized clinical trial that compared a combination of two ‘checkpoint inhibitor’ drugs—nivolumab (Opdivo) and ipilimumab (Yervoy)—with the same drugs given alone. In the CheckMate-067 trial, 945 previously untreated patients with unresectable stage III or IV melanoma were assigned… Read more »

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    Small Cell Lung Cancer at ASCO: Some Welcome News

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a fatal disease that has not seen new drug approvals for the last 17 years. Considering the relative success of ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors’ in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), it is not surprising that several abstracts recently presented at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting were devoted to clinical trials testing these trendy, immune… Read more »

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    ‘Immune Checkpoint’ Drugs Show New Promise for Treating Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    It has become routine practice to prescribe targeted drugs to patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), whose tumors harbor molecular alterations in EGFR, ALK, and ROS. However, the majority of patients with NSCLC have no targetable mutations and lack good treatment options. Enter immunotherapy drugs, specifically ‘immune checkpoint blockade antibodies,’ to which many refer simply as ‘anti-PD-1 drugs,’ or simply ‘PD-1 drugs.’… Read more »

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    Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Melanoma: New Directions

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    The drugs pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and 2015, respectively. These two competing blockbuster drugs are already changing the outlook in metastatic melanoma, previously considered to be a fatal disease. Known as ‘immune checkpoint inhibitors,’ they work by releasing ‘brakes’ on a patient’s own immune system, freeing it to attack tumors. In the wake of their success, researchers are now taking immune checkpoint inhibition in new directions.

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    Is There a Future for Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer?

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Lately, immunotherapy—treatment that helps the body’s own immune system fight cancer—has made frequent appearances in news headlines. Indeed, researchers have reported remarkable clinical trial results for a new class of drugs known as ‘immune checkpoint blockade drugs’ in the treatment of metastatic melanoma, lung, and kidney cancers. Approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the drugs Keytruda and Opdivo for melanoma and lung cancer have quickly followed. However, it may be that immunotherapies won’t work for all cancers, but only for those considered to be ‘immunogenic’; that is, cancers that trigger activation of the immune system. Researchers are studying different types of breast cancer to determine whether they are immunogenic, and what that might mean for their prognosis and treatments.

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    Lumpectomy Versus Mastectomy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Every woman diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer faces a decision about what type of surgery to have. Together with her doctors, she will have to choose between breast-conserving surgery (BCS), also called lumpectomy, and mastectomy. BCS preserves the breast, removing the tumor and a rim of surrounding tissue, whereas mastectomy removes the entire breast. Patients with early-stage disease (with the main tumor less than… Read more »

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    Now BATting: A New Treatment Approach That Uses Testosterone First, Then ADT

    Emma Shtivelman, PhD

    Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) has long been a mainstay in the management of prostate cancer. Indeed, the vast majority of prostate cancers depend on androgens (hormones like testosterone) for their growth. Lowering testosterone levels with ADT is a reasonable approach. But it comes with two sets of problems.