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UCI Health cancer specialists share research at national forum

The annual ASCO conference is among the world’s largest scientific gatherings in oncology

June 04, 2024
UCI Health cancer specialists and co-workers smile and pose for a photo during a reception at the American society of clinical oncology conference in chicago
The American Society of Clinical Oncologists conference drew more than 40,000 attendees from around the world, including nearly two dozen members of the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Orange, Calif. — UCI Health cancer clinicians and scientists presented key findings and insights that will help advance cancer research and care at the 2024 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), one of the world’s largest scientific gatherings in the field.

The meeting — held May 31 through June 3 in Chicago — drew more than 40,000 attendees from around the world, including nearly two dozen members of the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center based in Orange County.

This year’s conference theme was the “Art and Science of Cancer Care: From Comfort to Cure.”

Highlights of the UCI Health cancer presentations included:

  • The first study to document a strong correlation between obesity and a national rise in endometrial cancer, which is occurring disproportionately in women under 40, especially among Blacks and Latinas
  • An analysis of genetic mutations in non-small-cell metastatic lung cancer uncovered gene-splicing targets with the potential to significantly improve molecular therapy for the disease
  • Overcoming racial and ethnic disparities in cancer clinical trial enrollment in a minority-majority county

"This year’s conference was a great experience,” said UCI Health oncologist Dr. Farshid Dayyani, medical director of the cancer center’s Ralph and Sue Stern Center for Clinical Trials and Research.

"We are very proud of all of our presenters.”

Obesity-uterine cancer link a ‘public health’ emergency

In a presentation titled “Endometrial cancer and obesity trends in the United States in the 21st century,” UCI Health researchers calculated a 137% increase in endometrial adenocarcinoma among women ages 20 to 29 and a 71% increase among women ages 30 to 39 since 2001. The findings are based on data for more than 580,000 U.S. cases of endometrial adenocarcinoma collected over the last two decades.

Over the same period, obesity rates increased 7.5% a year among women ages 20 to 29, and 4.5% annually among the 30 to 39 age group, said lead author Dr. Alex A. Francoeur, a gynecologic oncology fellow at the UC Irvine School of Medicine. The lead corresponding author is Dr. Robert E. Bristow, the Philip J. Di Saia Chair in Gynecologic Oncology and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

“This represents a public health emergency,” said Francoeur, who called for an awareness campaign to educate women and the general public about the risk obesity poses for developing endometrial cancer, the sixth most common cancer in women and one that is expected to claim more than 13,000 U.S. lives in 2024. View a video of Francoeur describing the study results ›

Improving molecular therapy

Although advances in targeted therapies have shown considerable success at controlling non-small-cell metastatic lung cancer, sometimes the tumor becomes resistant to the therapy. In a presentation titled “Survey of actionable driver mutations KRAS and EGFR in non–small-cell lung cancer to evaluate coexisting splicing gene and pathway mutation,” the UCI Health team explored key tumor mutations for the disease.

They identified certain RNA-splicing genes that “could substantially enhance treatment efficacy,” wrote authors Dr. Zhaohui Arter, an oncology fellow at the medical school; oncologist and associate professor Dr. Misako Nagasaka; and oncologist Dr. Sai-Hong I. Ou, a professor and the Hamoui Salous Endowed Chair for Thoracic Oncology Research, as well as a national leader in therapeutic advances for lung cancer.

The lung cancer team also submitted a presentation assessing the importance of next-generation sequencing (NSG) tests in the development of therapies that precisely target an individual patient’s lung cancer.

“Repeat NGS testing … can be clinically meaningful to guide management, such as in detecting a target when prior tests were negative, or providing confirmation of a recurrence or a second primary (tumor),” concluded the report by lead author Dr. Brian Warnecke, a hematology-oncology fellow at the medical school.

Clinical trial disparities

Nationally, Asians and Latinos make up about 1% and 6%, respectively, of clinical trial enrollees, a disparity that limits the understanding of how therapies may apply to the increasingly diverse U.S. population. In Orange County, the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in recent years has mounted a community outreach effort to increase enrollment of Asians, Latinos and other underrepresented populations.

The ASCO presentation — titled “Overcoming racial and ethnic disparities in clinical trial enrollment: real world evidence from an NCI-Designated Cancer Center in a minority-majority county” — found that of UCI Health clinical trial participants enrolled between 2015 and 2023, 20.6% were of Hispanic heritage and 20.1% were of Asian descent, far exceeding their respective representation of 17.3% and 15.1% in overall county population.

“Our results demonstrate that accrual of minorities is feasible across all types of clinical trials,” the report concluded. “These findings suggest that minorities are not inherently less likely to enroll in clinical trials.”

The presentation authors are Frank Lee, a student at the medical school; UCI Health oncologist and assistant professor Dr. Jennifer B. Valerin; and Dayyani, who is also a professor and associate director for translational science.

Managing renal cell cancer

Another presentation explored patient and provider preferences for managing metastatic renal cell cancer. Patients surveyed preferred existing approved therapies while oncologists favored clinical trials as the best treatment options.

The study found no correlation between patients’ socioeconomic status and their treatment choices. Oncologists reported being influenced by patients’ ages and prior treatments in recommending clinical trials.

"Ultimately, this underscores the importance of individualized discussion with each patient, devoid of any assumptions, to evaluate their therapeutic objectives and make shared decisions,” wrote lead author Dr. Omid Yazdanpanah, a hematology-oncology fellow at the medical school.

“Patient education on clinical trials is also paramount.”

The presentation’s corresponding authors are UCI Health genitourinary oncologists Dr. Arash Rezazadeh Kalebasty and Dr. Nataliya Mar.

Additional cancer center presenters at the 2024 ASCO conference included Dr. Jeremy P. Harris; Dr. Hari B. Keshava; Dr. Piyanuch Kongtim and Dr. Krishnansu Tewari

About UCI Health

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system based in Orange County. UCI Health is comprised of its main campus, UCI Medical Center, a 459-bed, acute care hospital in in Orange, Calif., four hospitals and affiliated physicians of the UCI Health Community Network in Orange and Los Angeles counties and ambulatory care centers across the region. Listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 23 consecutive years, UCI Medical Center provides tertiary and quaternary care and is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma centergold level 1 geriatric emergency department and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.