Blog November 14, 2016

From Disease Treatment to Patient Care: Thoughts from ESMO 2016

The theme of patient centricity and care that we discussed at this year’s ASCO continued this autumn at ESMO 2016.  The tagline of the conference was ‘From disease treatment to patient care,’ which according to the organizers, “intended to capture and integrate clinical research with patient needs, and reinforces our commitment to bring the best possible treatments to all patients with cancer, regardless of nationality and economic obstacles.”


ESMO 2016 saw several major data releases in the immuno-oncology space.  Merck was a big winner this year, releasing its positive Keytruda data in previously untreated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who express PD-L1.  Roche-Genentech’s PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq also demonstrated positive data in previously treated NSCLC, adding another option beyond Opdivo and Keytruda in this setting.  Unfortunately for BMS, the final analysis of their CHECKMATE-026 trial revealed no benefit for Opdivo versus chemotherapy in previously untreated NSCLC patients; however, they still have the Opdivo and Yervoy combination data to look forward to for this indication.  Outside of NSCLC, Opdivo reported on quality of life data in head and neck cancer and Merck reported a 24% ORR so far in its Phase II bladder cancer trial.  Outside of immuno-oncology, Tesaro’s niraparib showed impressive progression free survival data in ovarian cancer, and Novartis’ CDK inhibitor ribociclib reported promising data to establish itself as a competitor to Ibrance.


Biomarkers were a central theme this year, both for targeted therapies and immuno-oncology.  As anticipated, a lot of discussion was centered on the use of biomarkers in immuno-oncology, both the current situation with PD-L1 and additional biomarker approaches under development such as tumor mutational burden. Coming up with biomarkers that are truly useful for defining and selecting a patient population for a particular immunotherapy is likely to require a retrospective look across a broad spectrum of clinical data, and will not be straightforward. We discuss the current situation in the field of biomarkers and immuno-oncology in depth in our most recent In Vivo publication, “How Immuno-oncology Is Turning Biomarker Development On Its Head” and will comment further on this topic in a future blog post.


Patient advocacy received its own track this year, reflecting the focus on patient care.  This track encompassed critical topics in oncology such as timely access to innovative medicines — a key topic for European cancer patients — along with disparities in cancer care, adverse event reporting and management, and much more.  Discussions focused around how to foster education and advocacy within oncology, which will undoubtedly have positive impacts on patient care.


All in all, ESMO 2016 delivered with some much anticipated data releases and interesting conversations around how to improve patient care across the board.  In a few weeks, we’ll be heading to sunny San Diego to hear the latest and greatest from ASH 2016.