Thursday, May 16, 2013

Follicular Lymphoma at ASCO

This year's ASCO Conference (that's the American Society of Clinical Oncology) will take place May 31-June 4 in Chicago. ASCO released abstracts on Wednesday night. Abstracts are the summaries of the presentations that oncologists who are attending the conference will use to determine which sessions are worth going to. And they give us some clues as to what the current research trends are.

ASCO time is always an exciting time, for cancer doctors and cancer nerds alike (Dr. Sharman says "It feels like Christmas morning and I'm 5 years old"). And for the next few weeks, we're likely to see lots of commentaries about some of the abstracts. As we get closer to the conference, we'll see lots of press releases touting the results. Dr. Sharman, linked above, discusses a session on Ibrutinib resistance -- a discovery about why Ibrutinibmay not work, or may stop working, for certain patients. He says it's a "MAJOR discovery" -- and I believe him, because he's awesome.

I will be adding my own commentary, for what it's worth. I'm no Dr. Sharman, but I've been reading ASCO, ASH, and other conference abstracts long enough to know what's exciting to me.

ASCO sessions often discuss research that's pretty close to being released in a peer reviewed journal, but they're more often kind of preliminary. Maybe a year or two into a long-term study, or results from a phase 1 or 2 clinical trial with a small number of patients. Or even the occasional in vitro study, where something hasn't even left the lab yet to be tested on real people. So even the really exciting stuff has to be taken with a sprinkling of skepticism.

But that sprinkling comes on top of a big steaming pile of hope. Because there's nothing more hopeful than imagining a big hotel full of oncologists, all feeling like 5 year olds at Christmas.

So for the next few days, I'll comment on some of the abstracts related to Follicular Lymphoma, and say why I'm hopeful. I encourage everyone to read on their own, and make some judgements themselves.

Now, time to open some presents.

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