Pitt Cancer Researchers Share Findings at American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting in Chicago

PITTSBURGH, June 2, 2011 - Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the School of Medicine will be presenting findings from their projects at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago, June 3 through 7.

In addition to sharing their findings in numerous posters, several UPCI and Pitt scientists will give oral presentations.

Highlights include:

Saturday, June 4: 

Perspectives on electronic health information among people affected by cancer

Ellen Beckjord, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, UPCI Behavioral Medicine, and her colleagues found that cancer patients are eager to share their electronic health information to improve quality of care. The researchers analyzed two data sources to determine patient perspectives on electronic health information: a 2010 survey of more than 7,400  cancer patients by LIVESTRONG and results from the National Cancer Institute's 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey providing the same perspectives from the American public.

"We found that nearly all people affected by cancer think that privacy is important with regards to electronic health information, and more than 70 percent want information-sharing with providers to be more convenient. In comparison, almost 50 percent of the American population find it very important that providers share data," Dr. Beckjord said. "Most compelling to me, as a researcher, is the willingness of almost 60 percent of the cancer patient respondents to have their information de-identified to support research activities. This finding could lead to further research using electronic health records." (Poster, Abstract 6123)

Monday, June 6:

Impact of bevacizumab on efficacy of second-line chemotherapy for triple-negative breast cancer

Adam Brufsky, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and associate director of clinical investigation at UPCI, and his colleagues analyzed data from a subset of patients in a larger trial called RIBBON-2, which added bevacizumab, or Avastin, to chemotherapy regimens for second-line treatment of metastatic breast cancer. They found that among the 159 patients with triple-negative breast cancers, meaning the tumors do not carry estrogen, progesterone or human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2) receptors, adding bevacizumab lengthened progression-free survival, improved treatment response rate, and potentially increased overall survival by nearly six months.

 "These findings suggest that bevacizumab may change the natural history of patients with advanced, progressive, triple-negative breast cancer," Dr. Brufsky said. "We await the final analysis of this trial later this year to see if the benefit is sustained in this subset of patients who have few other effective treatment options." (Oral presentation Abstract 1010)

Safety of vaccine for recurrent malignant glioma

Hideho Okada, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurological surgery, and his colleagues tested a novel brain cancer vaccine they developed for safety and ability to generate an immune response. They found that among patients with recurrent malignant glioma, the vaccine was well-tolerated; the most common side effects were skin reactions at the injection site and transient fever and chills. About 80 percent of the participants developed an immune response against the tumor antigens.

"Nearly half of the recurrent glioblastoma patients and two-thirds of the anaplastic glioma patients had shrinkage of their tumors or stable disease," Dr. Okada said. Further trials of the vaccine are underway. (Oral presentation, Abstract 2506)

Associations between lifestyle behaviors and cancer incidence in women

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  • Stephanie Land, Ph.D., research associate professor and director of the ReSET center, Graduate School of Public Health, and colleagues examined the associations between lifestyle behaviors and cancer incidence in women enrolled in the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial conducted by the Pittsburgh-based National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project. The prospective study analyzed the risk of common cancers in 13,388 healthy women at high risk of breast cancer, based on the participants' baseline self-reported smoking, alcohol use and physical activity.  

Dr. Land's study showed that compared to women who never smoked, the incidence of invasive breast cancer was 60 percent higher for women who smoked at least 35 years and 35 percent higher for women who smoked between 15 and 35 years.

Also, the incidence of colon cancer was significantly higher for women with longer histories of cigarette smoking. Endometrial cancer incidence was significantly higher in women with low levels of leisure-time physical activity, which may be due to the association between fitness and obesity, which is also a risk factor for endometrial cancer.

"This study provides a rich resource for examining the associations between lifestyle behaviors and cancer incidence in a geographically diverse population of adult women," Dr. Land said. "The final takeaway of this study is that mom's advice to stay fit, not drink too much, and not smoke is still a good idea." (Oral presentation Abstract 1505)

About the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute

As the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in western Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) is a recognized leader in providing innovative cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment; bio-medical research; compassionate patient care and support; and community-based outreach services. UPCI investigators are world-renowned for their work in clinical and basic cancer research.

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1997.

Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see www.medschool.pitt.edu.