Today I’m heading off to attend the ASCO GI meeting in San Fransciso, and in particular, the pancreatic cancer sessions on Friday.

 Will ASCO GI herald a new era for pancreatic cancer?

Source: ASCO

The event promises to be an interesting day with a keynote from Margaret Tempero (UCSF), as well as Daniel van Hoff (TGEN) presenting the much awaited nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane) data in advanced pancreatic ductal carcinoma and a poster on masitinib from the French researchers.

Many of you will recall the excitement expressed at ESMO in this data, although the topline data in the Celgene press release on the MPACT study this week suggests the overall responses were good rather than great.

For years, we’ve seen many doublets come along in combination with gemcitabine in clinical trials and largely fail. This is a very difficult disease to treat, with many patients sadly only lasting a year or less from diagnosis.  Partly this can be traced back to the insidiously of the disease with it’s vague symptoms, and partly to the degree of oncogenic addiction to KRAS, which induces resistance and ensures the survival of the tumour.

The key with both the Abraxane and masitinib data will be in the details around potential biomarkers – and whether higher responses are seen in those subgroups or not. In Celgene’s case, it is hoped that patients with high SPARC expression will show better survival, while AB Science have annnounced the finding of a key biomarker of response with out offering any details until the presentation, we will see what each has to offer on Friday.

The other leading question is tolerability. Although gemcitabine is widely considered the standard of care for most patients and is well tolerated, younger patients are often given the FOLFIRINOX regimen upfront, which can lead to better responses at the cost of much higher toxicities, including hospitalisation.

If either Abraxane or masitinib demonstrate a similar survival advantage as FOLFIRINOX, a biomarker for selecting patients and an acceptable toxicity profile, then we may see a change in prescribing in this landscape in the not too distant future. For Celgene, the road ahead may be easier given the drug is already available for breast and lung cancers, whereas AB Science may need another trial with the biomarker first. Time will tell.

The ASCO GI meeting is at Moscone West, a huge black spot for wifi and AT&T reception at the last two cancer conferences I’ve attended there, so there’s unlikely to be much live tweeting.

I will, however, be producing a new report on the advanced pancreatic cancer landscape soon after the event, complete with insights and analysis, so if you would like to receive an early bird warning of this, please fill in the sign up form in the right hand margin.