Anjana Pillai, MD, discusses recent advances made in the HCC treatment paradigm, as well as what the conference will offer to healthcare providers working in the field.
The annual HCC-TAG Conference will be held virtually from March 25-27, 2021, and this year’s meeting will focus on the many developments made in the treatment of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Anjana Pillai, MD.
“The concept of this conference is to educate providers in different specialties who deliver HCC care on how to consider and approach patients [in a way that ensures] they are looking at all aspects of treatment,” Pillai said. “That is a key aspect of delivering good care and improving outcomes, and that is what we try to do in this conference.”
In an interview with OncLive, Pillai, the chair of this year’s HCC-TAG Conference, and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine, discussed recent advances made in the HCC treatment paradigm, as well as what the conference will offer to healthcare providers working in the field.
Pillai: I'm most excited to be able to see all my colleagues who are from different disciplines in HCC care in one area. Even though the meeting is being held in a virtual setting, we have really missed that [interaction]. Beyond just discussing the science and the treatment landscapes that have changed, the concept of having so many of us together in one space [is an exciting one].
We have been living in a pandemic since our last HCC-TAG Conference; it was [likely] one of the last conferences we all attended in-person before the nation went into lockdown. [As such], I want to highlight the important contributions of science and that, even though this year has been defined by a pandemic, science is moving forward. The fact that we have 3 vaccines approved in such a short time is an amazing feat in itself.
Similarly, so many therapeutic developments [have been made in HCC]. During the pandemic, the IMbrave150 [NCT03434379] results were released, and the nivolumab [Opdivo] and ipilimumab [Yervoy] combination was approved for second line, the first dual check point inhibitor therapy to be approved. [We have seen] data from several of the combination therapies, and it is a very exciting time. For a long time, [we] really did [not see any] movement in HCC, and now it is so hard to keep up with all the [progress made]. The pandemic has not slowed us down.
We’ll be focusing on the changing landscape—not just in systemic therapy, but using different ways of delivering locoregional therapy as well. We will also discuss using certain treatments, maybe earlier [than] what is traditional. Getting that research and data out there is very important.
The landscape is moving [toward] combination therapies and sequential treatment. As more first-line therapies get approved, [we need to consider] which first-line therapies we should choose and in which population of patients with advanced HCC. As some of the more recent combination trials are closer to wrapping up their data, we may have, for the first time, have several combination therapies in the frontline.
Could treatment for [patients with] HCC evolve like treatment has for hepatitis C, where we had a few drugs that really did not make much impact, and now there is a plethora of drugs and we can actually pick and choose? It would be wonderful if it did not matter which of these we would pick and choose, because they all have such great impact, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Once these results come out, we can have a better idea of which populations we should use [these agents] in, and if patients fail the first line options, where we should go in terms of sequential treatments.
There is such a wide variety of research topics in liver cancer, ranging from surveillance, epidemiology, biomarkers, and drug development—all of which are making strides. This conference really focuses on changes in the therapeutic landscape, specifically multidisciplinary input. It is a much smaller, more intimate venue with a lot of time devoted to discussing the nuances and details that may be missed at a larger meeting. When we looked at our feedback of attendees, that is what they love: the discussion points and the ability to talk to so many specialists who treat [patients with] HCC.