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The 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers Symposium took place Jan. 18-20 in San Francisco, bringing together experts in cancers of the GI tract, including oncologists, nurses, researchers, industry, survivors and patient advocacy groups, like PanCAN. This meeting provides an opportunity to network and learn about updates in the diagnosis, treatment and management of people facing these diseases.

At this year’s conference, data generated from several of PanCAN’s clinical and scientific initiatives were on display. Two posters were presented showcasing learnings from PanCAN’s Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service. Through Know Your Tumor, patients undergo biomarker testing of their tumor tissue to identify their unique tumor biology – and inform the patient and their healthcare team of any biomarkers that may help determine which treatment options may be most beneficial for them.

Data from Know Your Tumor have shown that about one in four patients’ tumors has a biomarker that signifies a certain treatment may work well for their disease, leading to longer average survival when the patient goes on the matched therapy. In addition to valuable personalized information for patients, years of collecting data allows for broader studies to understand how certain alterations impact the aggressiveness and treatment response of patients’ tumors at a population level.

The first Know Your Tumor-based poster at the GI Cancers Symposium described findings related to a protein called TP53, which is commonly mutated in pancreatic cancer but isn’t able to be targeted by any drugs. TP53 is considered a tumor suppressor, which means its normal function is to prevent the transformation of healthy cells to cancer. When mutated, TP53 becomes inactivated and facilitates the initiation and progression of cancer. The data presented at the conference by PanCAN partners at the company Perthera and several academic institutions showed differences in patient outcomes and response to standard-of-care chemotherapy based on the presence or type of TP53 alteration in their tumor.

Another poster presented data about a family of proteins known as Wnt in pancreatic tumors analyzed through Know Your Tumor. Wnt and Wnt-related proteins have previously been found to be mutated in pancreatic tumors, but their clinical significance was unknown. The investigators found that patients with tumors with Wnt-related alterations showed longer survival, and their tumors responded better to standard-of-care chemotherapy.

The next poster also used Know Your Tumor information, accessed and analyzed through the PanCAN SPARK health data platform. Researchers from University of Miami queried these data to understand whether production of a secreted biomarker called CA19-9 may vary between people with pancreatic cancer who are white or Black. Health disparities contribute to higher rates of pancreatic cancer incidence and death in the Black community in the U.S. While socioeconomic factors and systemic barriers to quality care play an important role, the investigators looked for biological clues as well.

Consistent with others’ results, the team found that people who do not produce CA19-9 were more likely to be Black, and they also discovered a higher prevalence of alterations in certain genes in pancreatic tumors from Black people. These factors may impact the poorer response of Black patients’ tumors to chemotherapy administered before surgery.

Finally, PanCAN staff and partners from multiple institutions presented results from the first investigational treatment option that was tested through the Precision PromiseSM adaptive clinical trial platform. Precision Promise was designed to expedite the drug development process, and the statistical design of the study allowed the quick determination that this investigational treatment did not improve outcomes for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer as their second treatment regimen.

As PanCAN works toward our vision to create a world in which all people with pancreatic cancer will thrive, we will continue to lead transformational research initiatives, partner with the clinical and scientific community and disseminate findings so others can learn from and build upon the results.

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