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An interior image of the Upstate Cancer Center.

Upstate professors to present at international cancer conference in Spain

Three Upstate Medical University professors will present work at the world’s second-largest cancer conference starting this weekend in Spain.

Jeffrey Ross, MD, Jeffrey Bogart, MD, and Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, will attend the annual European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 in Barcelona, Spain. About 30,000 cancer specialists gather at ESMO each fall. It is an opportunity for oncology experts from around the world to share their latest research and findings.

“Many breakthroughs in anti-cancer drug trials are now being presented at the ESMO meeting,” said Ross, an assistant professor of pathology at Upstate and medical director of Foundation Medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ross, who has attended ESMO many times over the years, said he is involved in eight Upstate projects that will be either presented or addressed at ESMO. His recent research into a particularly deadly type of cancer called Carcinoma of Unknown Primary (CUP) site, will be presented by a colleague at this year’s Congress and is being highlighted by the organization as a significant study.

CUP affects about one in 15 patients with cancer. CUP patients are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread and no primary tumor can be located. Only one in 10 CUP patients survive for one year.

Ross is first author on the study, which showed that about one in three patients with CUP may be a candidate for targeted treatment or immunotherapy based on DNA changes in the tumor. Ross said a colleague will present the study and he will be available to answer questions. This paper is a follow-up to one that was published in 2015, Ross said.

“That paper allowed pharma to initiate a $100 million clinical trial to enroll patients for treatment based on the genomic findings of their cancer,” he said.

Bogart, interim director of the Upstate Cancer Center, will present on “interim toxicity analysis for patients with limited stage small cell lung cancer (LSCLC) treated on the experimental thoracic radiotherapy (TRT) arms of CALGB 30610 (Alliance.)” And Bratslavsky, chair of Upstate’s urology department, will present on malignant pheochromocytoma and malignant paraganglioma.

Bogart said his research is based on a 10-year study of more than 700 patients throughout the country – including many treated at Upstate. The study involved varying radiation treatment plans for patients with small cell lung cancer.

“The trial is completed and we will have to follow up with these patients over the next several years,” Bogart said. “The final question is one we don’t have the answer to yet and that is the best way to give radiation, which will have a big impact for how patients are treated in the future.”

Bogart and Ross said Upstate’s involvement at an international conference like ESMO helps to further establish Upstate as a leader in cancer research. 

“It’s exciting for Upstate Cancer Center to be a significant source of new information for cancer patients and to be on the cutting edge of this kind of cancer genomics research,” Ross said. “It’s hopefully going to make the breadth of cancer work done at Upstate more well known. We’re doing more than just treating cancer patients. We’re doing basic and clinical research trying to help patients not just in Syracuse but everywhere.”