Elena Bernedo Arzac, Head of Oncology, GPS at Roche Pharmaceuticals: Advancing the science through our computer screens.
At this time of year, we are all used to the familiar buzz within the oncology community that marks the countdown to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting. As I write this, I would normally be preparing to make the trip to Chicago and looking forward to saying hola to friends and colleagues from around the world.
Instead, my hope is that you are all safe, well and managing to make the best of this hopefully temporary new reality that we are all being required to live.
We have all been bombarded with messages around the importance of technology and on maintaining close connections in a world of social distancing. This applies equally to our professional lives, with an explosion in video calling and now the transformation of ASCO into a virtual meeting.
In spite of the virtual nature of this year’s congress, ASCO plays a vital role within the oncology community; it provides a platform for sharing the latest science, it stimulates debate and new thinking, and it of course facilitates new partnerships and collaborations. In this climate, it could be tempting to write off ASCO 2020 with the belief that these things can’t be achieved through a virtual meeting. However, at a time of even greater uncertainty than usual, I believe that we must work harder than ever to deliver a successful ASCO and protect its contribution to progress in oncology. At Roche we are playing our part in providing additional resources to help physicians, through our dedicated online tools and services.
At Roche we have long believed in the power of collaboration to accelerate scientific progress for the benefit of patients.”
Uniting & Accelerating
The theme of ASCO 2020 is Unite and Conquer: Accelerating Progress Together. Never has an ASCO theme been more relevant to the world than it is this year. At Roche we have long believed in the power of collaboration to accelerate scientific progress for the benefit of patients. By uniting and collaborating with our partners at Foundation Medicine and Flatiron Health, we have been able to continue to accelerate scientific progress by incorporating a more comprehensive approach to cancer care. By utilising the power of real world data, genomic profiling and next generation sequencing among other insights tools into the Roche science driven approach to drug discovery, we are better able to identify which patients and which subtypes of cancer will have the greatest response to a particular treatment, and why. If you would like to learn more about our approach to personalised healthcare, please read more here.
At ASCO we will be presenting new data and discussing new approaches that highlight the power of these partnerships and how integrated clinical and genomic data are already fuelling cutting edge science and transforming treatment approaches in the clinic. We will be sharing an update of an ongoing study in partnership with Flatiron Health and Foundation Medicine designed to prospectively link longitudinal, real-world clinico-genomic imaging and outcomes data for patients with metastatic lung cancers. The study is monitoring circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) using FoundationOne® Liquid, and tumour tissue samples will be genomically profiled using FoundationOne® CDx. You can find more information about this by visiting the ASCO website and searching for abstract number TPS2087.
Transforming patient outcomes
The data we will be sharing with the oncology community at ASCO is always driven by the question, “how will this impact the lives of people with cancer?”
One of the greatest shifts we have seen over the past decade has been in lung cancer. A greater understanding of the molecular basis of lung cancer has opened up new approaches to treatment and driven innovation that has transformed patient outcomes in recent years. We’re proud to have played a major role in this transformation and one of the highlights of our programme will be the presentation of updated five-year overall survival data in anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-positive non-small cell lung cancer, a particularly aggressive subtype of the disease where advances in treatment continue to positively impact outcomes for patients. You can find more information on this by visiting the ASCO website and searching for abstract number 9518.
Advancing the science of cancer
Immunotherapy is already transforming outcomes for many patients and our growing understanding of how the immune system responds to cancer continues to open up new opportunities for amplifying the response to cancer immunotherapy.
One of the most promising streams of research is into the role of TIGIT (a T cell immunoreceptor), an immune checkpoint protein expressed on immune cells, that was identified by our own scientists. With our cancer immunotherapy combination approach, we aim to block both the TIGIT and PD-L1 pathways simultaneously to enhance anti-tumour activity. We are very pleased to present the first randomised anti-TIGIT results at this year’s ASCO congress. Furthermore, we recently initiated two phase III studies in lung cancer and we continue to explore its potential in a range of different tumours. You can find more information about this by visiting the ASCO website and searching for abstract number 9503.
Cancer does not go into lockdown, but neither does our passion and commitment to transforming outcomes for patients.”
Finally, I wanted to acknowledge that with the ongoing pandemic comes a huge amount of anxiety, anxiety felt by both cancer patients and among healthcare professionals alike. So I want to assure you that while many countries remain in lockdown, we know that cancer does not go into lockdown, but neither does our passion and commitment to transforming outcomes for patients with cancer during these unprecedented times. This is why I am so very proud of all the work that our Roche colleagues across the globe have been doing to continue to ensure progress is not brought to a standstill, and vitally that patients can still access the essential cancer medicines they need. Our people have also been collaborating with partners across the healthcare industry to provide practical educational support for healthcare professionals and they have been working day and night to maintain supply of vital medicines to patients. You are all extraordinary and I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.
I look forward to a different type of ASCO congress this year and hope to connect with many of you through my computer screen! Please stay safe and well, and I hope to see you all again in person someday soon.