Doctor patient skin exam
ASCO Highlights Practice-Changing Results in Melanoma
November 16, 2021

From the Co-Chairs, November 2021

Dr. O'Dwyer and Dr. Schnall

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

Many of you know that ASCO has just launched a new program, called the ASCO Plenary Series, designed to bring the most clinically relevant cancer research to the global oncology community year-round. The series is planned as a monthly event, with presentation, discussant, and a panel for additional feedback. In their words, “research is advancing faster than ever before. Rapid dissemination of practice-changing science is needed … Novel, high-impact research that will have immediate implications for practice can’t wait for the next big oncology meeting. The ASCO Plenary Series offers the opportunity to present and discuss the results of clinical trials as soon as the data are available.”

We are indeed delighted that the first presentation in this series on November 16 featured the results of a trial of our Melanoma Committee, DREAMseq (EA6134), led by Michael Atkins, MD. The DREAMseq (Doublet, Randomized Evaluation in Advanced Melanoma Sequencing) phase III trial was terminated early when a planned interim analysis revealed the very striking results presented at this ASCO plenary by Dr. Atkins, with Dr. Keith Flaherty serving as discussant. The full abstract describing the results is included in this newsletter for your interest. The remarkable results of this trial build on the major contributions of the Melanoma Committee to the field and will be recognized further at our Spring 2022 Group Meeting.

We also celebrate the re-election on November 2, 2021 of Mitchell Schnall, MD, PhD, as the co-chair of the Group. As the co-chair penning this paragraph (POD), I am truly delighted that Mitch will continue as a superb partner in developing our research activities, our relevance to the cancer community, our precision medicine focus in both screening and treatment, and our increasing role as a forum for information exchange and debate for our membership. His leadership is appreciated widely in the Group, and we offer heartfelt congratulations.

Additional appointments announced at the Executive Committee meeting include the leadership positions in two therapeutic committees. The Thoracic Cancer Committee, so ably led by Dr. Suresh Ramalingam (chair) and Dr. Heather Wakelee (co-chair) until now, will be chaired by Dr. Julie Brahmer, professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she leads the Thoracic Oncology Program. Dr. Brahmer has chosen Dr. Hossein (Hoss) Borghaei, professor of medicine at Temple University Medical School and chief of the Division of Thoracic Medical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center, as co-chair of the Committee. The GI Cancer Committee, replacing Dr. George Fisher and me, will be chaired by Dr. Jordan Berlin, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University, and associate director for clinical research in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Dr. Berlin has chosen Dr. Kim Reiss Binder, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, as co-chair of the Committee. We congratulate all, and are confident that these appointments will advance research in these important areas.

These happy announcements are tempered by the loss on October 19, 2021 of Robert Catalano, PharmD a mainstay of this Group for over 20 years. BobCat (as he was widely known) was a founder of what came to be the specialty of oncology pharmacy, and since most of the available drugs in the early days were investigational, became an expert in clinical trials, their design and conduct, and in the regulatory aspects of protocol development. These were the skills that accelerated getting drugs to patients who needed them, and BobCat never lost sight of that motivation. A tireless and energetic participant in ECOG and ECOG-ACRIN research, his title of Regulatory Officer of the Group, important as that was to maintaining momentum, did not begin to describe how important he was to how the Group worked. It also could not capture the good humor and wit that he brought to daily interactions, and the wisdom that led to his being consulted on issues far afield from this role. An appreciation of Bob is included in this issue, and we will recognize his importance when we return to in-person meetings.

We sign off again offering our congratulations to Dr. Atkins and the Melanoma Committee, and wishing all our members a Happy Thanksgiving, one brighter and fuller than has been possible for a while.

Read the November 2021 issue here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *