Journalists from Japan, Portugal and other countries lined up to interview Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s associate director of global oncology, Gilberto Lopes, M.D., MBA, outside the press room at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). It was Sunday, June 3, and as lead author of the Keynote-042 study, Lopes had just released the impressive results of an immunotherapy drug for lung cancer patients at an early morning news conference in Chicago.
That afternoon Lopes made a similar presentation before a crowd of thousands of his peers, simulcast to thousands more in a huge overflow room.
“We were proud and humbled that our study was selected to be presented at the plenary session at ASCO, and we are especially happy that patients now have another option for treatment with greater efficacy and fewer side effects,” said Lopes.
More than 5,800 abstracts were selected by a committee to be presented on site or online at ASCO. From that total only four were chosen for the coveted plenary session. According to ASCO, plenary presentations highlight scientific abstracts chosen because they are “deemed to have the highest merit and greatest impact on oncology research and practice.”
“These findings would change the way we practice and treat our patients,” explained outgoing ASCO President Bruce Johnson, M.D.
Lopes’ Phase III trial involved more than 1,200 previously untreated patients with advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with PD-L1 expression of 1 percent or more. Patients treated with the immunotherapy pembrolizumab (Keytruda) lived longer and had fewer side effects than the study patients on standard chemotherapy.
“The era when chemotherapy was the only option for patients with NSCLC is drawing to a close. This study represents a true milestone for the field,” said John Heymach, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “The majority of patients with NSCLC can start their treatment without chemotherapy.”
“Our study shows that pembrolizumab provides more benefit than chemotherapy for two-thirds of all people with the most common type of lung cancer,” said Lopes.
At age 44, he is among the youngest to ever present at an ASCO plenary session.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Lopes’ accomplishments,” said Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D. “The research he presented in this meeting is practice-changing. His success reflects the amazing transformation of our medical oncology program.”