ASCO Considers the Impact of New Therapies and the Role of Biomarkers

The 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting delivered news that payers and pathway developers will need to digest. Topics of discussion included:

  • New breakthrough efficacy results from combined use of immuno-oncology/checkpoint inhibitors
  • How payers and patients will cope with the “financial toxicity” of this combination
  • What role biomarkers can play in selecting the appropriate population for these new, targeted and expensive therapies

The Potential of Checkpoint Inhibitors

Results presented at ASCO demonstrated that the combination of PD-1 and CTLA-4 checkpoint inhibitors could effectively improve Progression-Free Survival and Overall Survival (OS) when compared with a PD-1 inhibitor alone in first-line advanced Melanoma and 2nd-line advanced NSCLC. Furthermore, attendees were excited to note that the OS curves are plateauing, resulting in the possibility that a significant percentage of patients will experience long-term survival.

These results were tempered by presentations by Leonard Saltz, MD and Peter Bach, MD of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and others on the cost of new therapies and how patients and payers will manage them.

The Role of Biomarkers

In addition to cost, the other controversy that emerged was the role of biomarkers to identify a select patient population that would most directly benefit from the treatment. Correlation between biomarkers and efficacy varied widely between the trials of PD-1/PDL-1 inhibitors, the tests used, the presence of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes, and cut-offs. It was clear to many attendees that biomarkers will be important for PD-1 use, but will need further development and refinement. Furthermore, due to the comparable clinical profiles of the PD-1/PDL-1 inhibitors, biomarker quality may be a differentiator and drive payer coverage preferences.

Pinnacle Can Help You

Pinnacle Health Communications, LLC has the expertise, experience, and successful track record to help you succeed within a rapidly shifting oncology market. Through assisting your organization with strategic analyses, planning and training, and securing access to key decision makers, Pinnacle helps you navigate the complexity of today’s market. If you would like to have a conversation about the state of your Key Account Management team, contact us today.

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