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ASCO Meeting Day 3: Do More Treatments Equal A Longer Life?

Erika Janowicz

The 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) just wrapped up in Chicago, Illinois, with meetings and presentations from May 30 to June 3.

At this year's 50th Annual Meeting, more than 25,000 cancer specialists gathered to discuss research on the theme of "Science and Society."

On Sunday, studies over advances in breast, colorectal and prostate cancers were reviewed at the ASCO Annual Meeting.

Do More Treatments Equal A Longer Life?

In a couple ongoing studies, researchers discovered that Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE) exemestane (Aromasin) was more effective than DARA BioSciences's (NASDAQ: DARA) tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Soltamox) at preventing the return of hormone- sensitive breast cancer for premenopausal women when paired with ovarian function suppression.

Related Link: 5 Things You Should Know About The ASCO

The research highlights that exemestane and tamoxifen work differently as hormonal therapies. Tamoxifen has been the standard hormonal treatment for premenopausal women, as women needed to have low estrogen in their system that naturally occurs after menopause. To better compare the two therapies, researchers removed ovaries, used medicine to suppress ovarian function or used radiation therapy to lower the estrogen levels.

The results from two studies suggested that the combination of exemestane with ovarian function suppression reduced the risk of the return of breast cancer by 34 percent when compared with tamoxifen plus ovarian function suppression.

For early stage, human epidermal receptor 2 (HER2)-positive breast cancer, researchers discovered that the addition of GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE: GSK) lapatinib (Tykerb) to Genentech's trastuzumab (Herceptin) and chemotherapy after surgery does not lengthen patients lives.

In a study of 8,381 women, researchers found that the combination of the two therapies were not statistically significant as compared with women who only received trastuzumab. In addition, patients who had both therapies saw additional side effects of rash, diarrhea and liver problems.

With doctors weighing the benefits of drugs and therapies, an ongoing study on treatments for colorectal cancer proved to be equally effective. In addition to chemotherapy, patients lived two and a half years after diagnosis by adding Genentech's targeted therapy bevacizumab (Avastin) or Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) and Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY) cetuximab (Erbitux). The disease worsened after around 10 months for the patients who received cetuximab versus approximately 11 months for individuals who received bevacizumab.

Weary of the significance of additional targeted cancer treatments after models showing little to no significance, the National Cancer Institute presented results showing that the addition of docetaxel (Docefrez, Taxotere) with hormone therapy lengthened the lives of men with metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer. The research found that patients who initially added this drug to their hormone therapy regimen lived 14 to 17 months longer (depending on the extent of the disease) than individuals who just received hormone therapy.

Even more significant, the study showed that it took approximately 13 months longer to experience symptoms of the disease worsening or spreading, than patients who just received hormone therapy.

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