Trial Spotlight: Search for patients intensifies with the opening of a new NCI-MATCH treatment arm
April 27, 2021

From the Co-Chairs, April 2021

Dr. O'Dwyer and Dr. Schnall

By Peter J. O’Dwyer, MD (left)
and Mitchell D. Schnall, MD, PhD

With cherry blossoms finished weeks ago, and fragrant magnolia blooms littering paths, Philadelphia is well into spring, and that means it must be time for an ECOG-ACRIN Group Meeting. Again, Jan Haughey, Christina Chink, Robert Brown, and Katie Heller have conspired to bring us an updated and improved virtual meeting. We hope that you will enjoy these next days, and that the schedule will match both attention spans and the ability to be parked at one screen. Thanks to our meeting organizers, the business of the Group moves along, encompassing new findings in our trials, new science in our planning committees, new priorities in the changing world around us, and best of all, new confidence that virtual-only meetings will soon be passé. But for now, we are happy to have them.

As we write, 42% of the US population, and 53% of adults have received vaccines. However, it does appear that despite almost unlimited availability, uptake is at a plateau, and daily vaccination rates are beginning to decline. All of us who have received a vaccine can attest to the sense of relief that accompanies the shot. What is remarkable is not that there have been side-effects of concern, rather that such effects have been so rare: less than one in a million of those vaccinated. If we believe that vaccination is something that is in the interest both of the individual who it protects, and of the wider public, then perhaps we have a responsibility to share that knowledge with the vaccine-hesitant, or those for whom getting it done is not high on their priority list. Using our influence for the public good, for health care that includes and is broader than cancer patients, is an opportunity that should not be wasted. Especially because helping our society recover from this disaster makes it more likely that we will have an in-person meeting again in the near future. Look for survey materials seeking your opinion on this point soon. We are excited at the prospect.

We’ll draw your attention to two sessions that we hope will be of interest. The General Session (Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00 pm EDT) will highlight several aspects of what has been going on throughout the pandemic—announcements of awards, the Young Investigator Award lecture by Dr. Bonnie Ky (University of Pennsylvania), a clinical/translational presentation of a major step forward in the treatment of mesothelioma, results of an important new breast cancer trial, and some new areas of research being developed in ECOG-ACRIN. We are also happy to report the results of an independent review of the TMIST trial, and how we plan to modify it for efficiency. This session spans the research interests of our Group, and we hope will make for an exciting program.

The second session addresses the NCI-MATCH trial and the ComboMATCH study in development. A symposium (Friday from 10 – 11 am EDT) presents some of the preliminary data that have been generated, together with an overview of what we can expect from ComboMATCH. Genomic characterization of cancers has changed the landscape of cancer treatment. It is clear that over one-third of patients have currently-actionable molecular features that are likely to be driving tumor growth. It is equally clear that detection of such lesions, and targeting with one drug, are insufficient to guarantee a deep and durable remission. Future research will build upon what was discovered in MATCH, and will follow the signposts provided by the clinical results (and the ongoing deeper molecular studies), to find even more effective therapies. Your engagement in these sessions, and your feedback on ECOG-ACRIN activities, will be welcomed and valued.

Read the April 2021 issue here.

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