Therapeutic breakthroughs and the growth in importance of ‘personalised care’ were among the main themes across a series of specialty updates delivered on the opening day of the Gathering Around Cancer 2023 meeting in Croke Park, Dublin.
In an update on prostate cancer on Thursday 16 November, Dr Lynda Corrigan, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Tallaght University Hospital, Dublin, said her area of specialty was increasingly able to ‘individualise’ treatment “in an era of growing therapeutic choice”.
“It is fair to say there have been great strides in the developments of new therapeutics for prostate cancer over the last 10 years,” Dr Corrigan said.
She added that cancer treatment is increasingly marked by “individualising [patient] treatment choice by incorporating a patient’s clinical, bio-chemical, and radiological factors to determine whether they need more intensified treatment…. I think that is where we are moving with prostate cancer in this era of multiple therapeutics.”
Dr Corrigan said that outcomes for men with prostate cancer “will improve as therapeutics move to earlier disease states”. “The key now is patient selection for avoidance for over and under treatment. We need to select the right patient for the right treatment.”
Addressing the specific role of clinicians in this changing era of prostate cancer care, Dr Corrigan said “our job is to advocate for access to therapeutics”.
She also said the job of clinicians was “to continue to grow our international academic and industry networks to bring prostate cancer clinical trials to Irish men”.
Also speaking on the opening day, Dr Jane Sui, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Mater Private Hospital, Dublin, delivered an update on lung cancer.
“There is an explosion of many therapeutic approaches in lung cancers,” Dr Sui told delegates.
She said that this “explosion” in approaches included those in “early stage and metastatic settings”. In her talk, Dr Sui also highlighted the importance of genomic testing in non-small cell lung cancer. She said this testing was important “to identify biomarkers at the time of diagnosis to inform therapeutic strategy and personalised cancer care”.
Mr Conall Fitzgerald, Head and Neck Surgeon at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, provided an update and overview on head and neck surgical oncology.
He told delegates that “when we are taking about head and neck cancer we are not really talking about one disease, we are talking about a whole range of different diseases”.
Highlighting data from the National Cancer Registry Ireland, Mr Fitzgerald said that “generally head and neck cancer has shown a mild increasing trend in the last 20 years”.
“When we look projecting forward, it’s thought that there will be a significant increase in head and neck cancer rates by 2045, mostly driven by an increase in the age of our population, and HPV-related disease in the male population for whom [HPV] vaccination is only really been expanded out in recent times.”
On the HPV vaccination, he said: “Hopefully, we will see the impact of that in due course but, for now, it is anticipated that we will see an increase in the rates of head and neck cancer over the next 20 years or so.”
On the specialty and its current patients, Mr Fitzgerald said there were “exciting treatment advances and trial opportunities”. He noted that “we are very lucky we have some excellent clinical trials… across the country”, for patients.
Mr Fitzgerald hoped that the number of patients on such trials would increase in the future.
Elsewhere in his presentation, he pointed to the “complexity” of head and neck cancer patients.
“Complexities remain to be understood,” Mr Fitzgerald said, adding that “further research will provide answers” to develop cancer care treatment for future patients.
Continuing the theme of recent developments in therapeutics, Prof Jack Gleeson, Medical Oncologist, Cork University Hospital, spoke to delegates on advances in kidney cancer treatment.
“What we see that is over the past 10 years… there has been a significant expansion of treatment options that we have for first-line kidney cancer treatment,” said Prof Gleeson. “This is on the back of a much better understanding of the underlying cancer biology.”
Ms Jacqueline Daly, a cancer patient advocate, also addressed the specialty update session on the importance of cancer community support. Ms Daly, who works with East Galway and Midlands cancer support, said that the group collaborates closely with local hospitals.
“But we give practical support, we give emotional support to people who have been diagnosed with cancer. We don’t give medical advice ever. But what we try to do is to be there for someone when that terrible news has been delivered that they have a cancer diagnosis.”
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