UCSF Health Cancer Experts Featured at Premier Cancer Meeting

ASCO 2024 Focused on Clinical Cancer Research and Patient Care

By Melinda Krigel

Oncology specialists from around the world came together for the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting to discuss the latest developments in cancer care, research, technology and education.

The meeting featured over 200 sessions exploring this year’s theme, “The Art and Science of Cancer Care: From Comfort to Cure.” More than 30,000 people attended the meeting that took place in Chicago and online May 31 to June 4.

UCSF experts discussed research findings in an array of cancer specialties. They shared best practices in educational sessions highlighting innovative treatment strategies.

UCSF’s Eric J. Small, MD, FASCO, has been elected to serve as ASCO’s president for the term beginning in June 2025. Small took office as president-elect immediately following the ASCO Annual Business Meeting on June 3. In addition to being a long-time ASCO member and volunteer, Small is co-leader of the UCSF Prostate Cancer Program and deputy director and chief scientific officer of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Several UCSF clinicians and researchers received awards from ASCO at this year’s meeting, including:
• Young Investigator Awards – William S. Chen, MD; Lindsey M. Draper, MD; Kelsey Natsuhara, MD; Michael P. Randall, MD; and Noah Younger, MD, PhD 
• Annual Meeting Merit Awards – Kirkpatrick Fergus, MD; Mulki Mehari, BA; and Ali Sabbagh, MD

Featured UCSF Presentations

Hope Rugo, MD, a medical oncologist, Winterhof Family Endowed Professor in Breast Cancer, and director of Breast Oncology Trials and Clinical Education at UCSF led a panel of breast cancer experts discussing treatment options for patients with triple negative and HR-positive/ HER2-negative breast cancer in the session “Transforming Metastatic Breast Cancer Management: Harnessing the Power of Antibody-Drug Conjugate Therapies.” These patients have limited treatment options after the development of endocrine resistance. This dearth of options is particularly acute for Black women and other marginalized patients, and results in treatment disparities. The panelists led participants through a discussion of treatment with antibody-drug conjugates, adverse event management and strategies to foster equitable care of patients with metastatic breast cancer.  

Katy K. Tsai, MD, a medical oncologist and UCSF associate professor of Medicine, led a case-based panel, “Navigating Melanoma Management From Early Stages to Post-Adjuvant Therapy.” The panel addressed multidisciplinary care for patients with stage II melanoma, including the role of sentinel lymph node biopsy, neoadjuvant and adjuvant options, assessment of pathological response and management of locoregional relapse following anti-PD1 immunotherapy.

Steven Z. Pantilat, MD, Kates-Burnard and Hellman Distinguished Professor in Palliative Care and director of UCSF’s Palliative Care Program, participated in the clinical science symposium on symptom science and palliative care, “Hope Beyond a Cure.” Pantilat discussed his research project looking at cancer patients and the role of depression in their lives. The goal of the work was to assess whether depressed patients could find hope to help improve their mood and achieve the things that are most important to them.

Kevan M. Shokat, PhD, UCSF professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and AACR Academy Fellow, presented “The Story of KRAS-Directed Therapy from Bench to Bedside: A Roadmap for Success?” during the special session “ASCO/AACR Joint Session: Drugging the 'Undruggable' Target: Successes, Challenges, and the Road Ahead.” DNA mutations in K-Ras proteins are the most common activating lesions found in human cancer, and are generally associated with poor response to standard therapies. While K-Ras has been an obvious drug target, the use of traditional drug discovery strategies has been a major challenge. Shokat discussed the first targeted therapy based on Farnesyl Transferase Inhibition to target Ras mutant tumors and explored the biochemical basis for activation of K-Ras through mutation of the G12 position and the discovery of the first small molecules that irreversibly bind to the most common K-Ras somatic oncogenic mutant in lung cancer, K-Ras (G12C). He also discussed the evolution of the K-Ras (G12C) inhibitors into highly selective drug candidates for K-Ras (G12D) mutant tumors, and the novel chemistry that he and his team used specifically to target K-Ras in pancreatic cancer cells and not the rest of the body.

Matthew A. Gubens, MD, MS, FASCO, a thoracic medical oncologist and UCSF professor of Medicine, presented “Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer with Oncogene Addiction/Driver Mutation (not EGFR)” during the education session “Advanced Lung Cancer: State-of-the-Art Approaches and Insights.” Gubens also served as a panelist during the session reviewing current state-of-the-art approaches and recent advances in the care of patients with metastatic small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. The participants also discussed strategies for selecting an appropriate therapy for patients with different disease subtypes.

UCSF Research Presentations

Benjamin Joshua Lerman, MD, MS, UCSF clinical fellow, presented “Longitudinal tumor-wide sampling of glioblastoma reveals diverse genomic drivers of the earliest clonal expansion at diagnosis and recurrence” at the clinical science symposium “Advancing Trial Design: Illuminating Tumor Evolution in Central Nervous System Cancer.” Much of therapy resistance in glioblastoma (GBM) is attributed to intratumoral heterogeneity; tumors are not homogeneous masses as they evolve but acquire genetic changes in different parts of the tumor. Few genomic studies have gone beyond analyzing single tumor samples per patient. Lerman and his colleagues used a spatially oriented, whole-tumor sampling approach to obtain 43 biopsies from 3 GBMs at diagnosis and recurrence. Whole-tumor sampling at both points identified a diversity of genomic drivers and deeper and more complex genetic roots of individual GBMs than previously seen in single-biopsy studies. Abstract 2009

Zoe Quandt, MD, MS, an endocrinologist and assistant professor in the UCSF department of Endocrinology presented “HLA associations with immunotherapy related endocrine toxicity,” during the rapid oral abstract session on developmental therapeutics and immunotherapy. Endocrine immune related adverse events (irAEs) such as thyroid dysfunction, diabetes mellitus and hypophysitis, are caused by treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) and are largely irreversible, posing a burden to cancer patients. Quandt’s study included 6,300 patients from multiple international centers who were treated with ICIs for multiple cancer types. In her talk, Quandt reported on the most common endocrine irAEs, as well as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) types associated with endocrine irAEs. Patients with HLA types predisposed to ICI diabetes overlapped with the same HLA types that predisposed patients to developing type 1 diabetes not associated with ICIs. Abstract 2516

John Frederick de Groot, MD, a neuro-oncologist division chief of Neuro-Oncology in the UCSF department of Neurological Surgery, presented final results of his study, “Evaluation of VAL-083 in GBM AGILE, a phase 3 registration platform trial for newly diagnosed and recurrent glioblastoma,” during an oral abstract session on central nervous system tumors. The study found that Glioblastoma Adaptive Global Innovative Learning Environment (GBM AGILE) is an efficient and effective model for phase 3 drug development. It evaluated a DNA targeting agent, VAL-083, that targets the N7 position of guanine residues and facilitates inter-strand DNA crosslinks, leading to DNA double-strand breaks and cell death. GBM AGILE evaluated this agent in less time, at lower cost, and with fewer patients than typical registration trials. Abstract 2005

Rahul Raj Aggarwal, MD, a genitourinary oncologist and UCSF professor of Medicine, presented “Phase 1b study of tarlatamab in de novo or treatment-emergent neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC)” during a rapid oral abstract session on prostate, testicular and penile cancers. NEPC is an aggressive form of prostate cancer with poor prognosis and no standard treatment approach. NEPC can be characterized by late, treatment-emergent transformation from adenocarcinoma to high-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma in 10-15% of patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Aggarwal reports primary analysis data of tarlatamab in NEPC. Findings from this phase 1 study of tarlatamab in patients with NEPC demonstrated manageable safety with encouraging anti-tumor activity in DLL3 expressing NEPC. Abstract 5012

Katherine C. Fuh, MD, PhD, a gynecologic oncologist and associate professor in the UCSF department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, presented “AXLerate-OC/GOG-3059/ENGOT OV-66: Results of a phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo/paclitaxel-controlled study of batiraxcept (AVB-S6-500) in combination with paclitaxel in patients with platinum-resistant recurrent ovarian cancer” during a rapid oral abstract session focusing on gynecological cancer. The addition of batiraxcept to paclitaxel did not improve progression-free survival (PFS) or overall survival (OS). However, in AXL (a tyrosine kinase enzyme receptor) high tumors, the PFS and OS were higher in participants who received batiraxcept with paclitaxel compared to paclitaxel alone. Abstract LBA5515

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