Welcome to our series where we take a look at what’s happening in kidney cancer each month! From treatments and clinical trials to genetic testing and government regulations, the KCA’s Medical Director, Sallie McAdoo, MS, CGC, will show you what’s new and why it matters.
This month’s update was pushed back a little so that I could include my insights from the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting that took place virtually June 4-8th. There were over 200 total sessions covering a wide range of topics from treatment to genetics to survivorship. Building on our European International Kidney Cancer Symposium in April, there was also a continued push to think “outside the box” beyond just drug treatments for improving care. You can read the highlights in kidney cancer here.
Although the meeting was full of exciting potential drug combinations and biomarker research, kidney cancer still has a long way to go. Kidney cancer was only the focus in 2.7% of those 225 sessions and 4% of over 1,000 condition-specific posters. This was a lot lower than other cancer types such as lung or breast cancers, which had 4 times as many sessions and posters and were mentioned as examples in many more talks. As a cancer type that needs more research, the KCA will continue to push for more awareness and recognition, not only on drug treatments but on better identification, diagnosis, and improved care overall. Please join us in this!
Throughout the ASCO program, disparities in both access and delivery of cancer care is an area finally getting the attention it needs. Understanding where and why these differences exist is important when changing research and care models to improve outcomes for ALL people with kidney cancer. There isn’t a simple answer; it is a complex interaction of cultural barriers, socioeconomic situations, biological factors, institutional discrimination, historical habits in research, personal behaviors/beliefs, and unbalanced environmental influences that will go into the solutions. ASCO did a great job of addressing this with over 25 sessions (11%) dedicated to the topic. Hopefully, these focused sessions will drive greater inclusion and establish institutional change.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on bringing more information and perspectives about clinical trials to the KCA’s Facebook community to raise awareness of their significance in clinical cancer care and the importance of greater inclusion among participants through Facebook Live events.
Clinical data on marginalized populations is greatly lacking either due to small numbers or lack of inclusion, and I have mentioned here before that most research done in kidney cancer focuses on clear cell carcinoma in white males at major academic centers. Look for more details on the upcoming direct-to-patient division of our Kidney Cancer Data Federation as a way to help start bringing that gap in research and extend beneficial outcomes to a wider group of people with kidney cancer.
Finally, I want to share one quote from the 100+ talks I listened to that continues to stand out to me days after the meeting has ended. During his talk “Why the Cancer Team and the Way They Play Matters”, Chris Draft, a patient advocate and former NFL player, said:
“People don’t just show up at a cancer center; they get referred there.”
He urged improved education and awareness for both the general public and non-oncology providers who may be the first people to notice a cancer symptom. Learning how to spot those early signs and investigate them can improve outcomes. Understanding when and who to refer to and what information (tests, medical history, etc.) should be ready when those referrals take place can enhance the care journey from step one. I hope you continue to join us in learning about kidney cancer and sharing what you know with others so that, maybe, someone will recognize kidney cancer early enough to get life-changing treatment.