News Release

Breast and lung cancer studies meeting major unmet needs to be presented at March ESMO Virtual Plenary

ESMO Virtual Plenary, 16-18 March 2022

Meeting Announcement

European Society for Medical Oncology

Lugano, Switzerland, 15 March 2022 - First data from two keenly awaited trials in early breast cancer and lung cancer will be reported at the ESMO Virtual Plenary, taking place on 16 and 17 March 2022. (1,2) Original data presentations by the authors of the OlympiA and PEARLS/KEYNOTE-091 trials will be followed by critical analysis and discussion with a panel of renowned experts. 

Phase III OlympiA trial: Pre-specified event driven analysis of Overall Survival (OS) of adjuvant olaparib (OL) in germline BRCA1/2 mutation (gBRCAm) associated breast cancer 

“Some women with HER2-negative early breast cancer with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations have a high risk of recurrence despite best current standard-of-care local and systemic therapy,” says  OlympiA Steering Committee Chair and co-principal investigator Andrew Tutt, Professor of Oncology, The Institute of Cancer Research, London and King’s College London, UK. “There is a clear unmet need in this group of patients. Despite best treatments around 10-15% of women at higher risk, like those we recruited to the OlympiA trial, die in the 3-4 years after diagnosis. This needs improving and that was our aim in this trial.” 

Around 5% of unselected patients with breast cancer carry germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations; these are more likely in patients with a strong family history of breast cancer, who are younger and those with contralateral breast or ovarian cancer. “In our previous research at The Institute of Cancer Research London (3) we found that tumour cells in breast cancers with a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have a deficiency in homologous recombination DNA repair,” explains Tutt. “PARP inhibitors specifically target this deficiency in DNA repair. In OlympiA we hypothesised that PARP inhibitors would provide benefit as adjuvant therapy for patients with germline BRCA1/2 associated early breast cancer.” 

“Women developing triple negative breast cancer or with strong family history of breast cancer routinely have tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. OlympiA answers the question: should we seek and use this information to treat these patients differently? And will treatment targeting the biology associated with these faulty genes reduce the risk of recurrence and save lives in women with high-risk early breast cancer with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations?” says Tutt. He concludes, “The trial has been a huge team effort involving women with genetic forms of breast cancer, scientists understanding the biology of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and clinicians from hundreds of hospitals across the world. It is a real example of co-operation between fundamental science, cancer genetics, clinical trialists and pharma to work with patients to try to develop and test individualised medicines.” 

Randomized, triple-blind, phase III EORTC-1416-LCG/ETOP 8-15 – PEARLS/KEYNOTE-091 study: Pembrolizumab versus placebo for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) following complete resection and adjuvant chemotherapy (chemo) when indicated 

“We need to improve the cure rate for patients with early non-small-cell lung cancer. It’s a major unmet need. Even with potentially curative surgery and chemotherapy, more than 50% of patients with early-stage disease relapse and die,” explains lead author Luis Paz-Ares, Chair of Medical Oncology, Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre, Madrid, Spain.  

In the last years, the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors revolutionised the lung cancer treatment scenario for advanced or metastatic disease. “Pembrolizumab is a standard of care for patients with advanced lung cancer so we wanted to see if it could improve outcomes in patients with early-stage, completely resected disease. There is less dysregulation of the immune system in early lung cancer so we might be able to improve survival by decreasing the risk of relapse with immunotherapy.” 

Considering the clinical significance of the new study, Paz-Ares suggests, “In my opinion our findings are really good news for patients with early NSCLC. We may have an additional treatment to enable patients to remain free from relapse.” He adds, “It is important to have further follow-up to see if the decrease in recurrence rate translates to a long-term survival benefit.” 

ESMO Virtual Plenaries 

ESMO Virtual Plenaries give rapid access to ground-breaking cancer research with monthly meetings where researchers present latest data from important randomised phase II or phase III trials that demonstrate remarkable therapeutic benefit, scientific insight or progress in an area of unmet need. They provide opportunities for researchers to share new data where the science is moving quickly and is too important to wait for annual meetings to share the findings with clinicians, discuss the data and enable its translation into clinical practice to benefit patients.  

“By timely presenting clinical and scientific data, ESMO Virtual Plenaries are complementary to and enhance the value of conventional scientific congresses, whilst adhering to the principles of peer review, analysis and audience interaction,” says George Pentheroudakis, ESMO Chief Medical Officer. 

The ESMO Virtual Plenaries are freely available to all healthcare professionals working in oncology. ESMO Members or anyone with an existing myESMO account can log in and attend the Virtual Plenaries. 



ESMO Press Office 





This press release contains information provided by the author of the highlighted abstracts and reflects the content of these abstracts. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of ESMO who cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the data. Commentators quoted in the press release are required to comply with the ESMO Declaration of Interests policy and the ESMO Code of Conduct. 



1 “Pre-specified event driven analysis of Overall Survival (OS) in the OlympiA phase III trial of adjuvant olaparib (OL) in germline BRCA1/2 mutation (gBRCAm) associated breast cancer” presented by Andrew Tutt on 16 March 2022 at 18:30 CET 

2 “Pembrolizumab (pembro) versus placebo for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) following complete resection and adjuvant chemotherapy (chemo) when indicated: Randomized, triple-blind, phase III EORTC-1416-LCG/ETOP 8-15 – PEARLS/KEYNOTE-091 study” presented by Luis Paz-Ares on 17 March 2022 at 19:15 CET 

3 Tutt A, Ashworth A. The relationship between the roles of BRCA genes in DNA repair and cancer predisposition. Trends Mol Med 2002;8:571-576. 


About the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) 

ESMO is the leading professional organisation for medical oncology. With more than 25,000 members representing oncology professionals from over 160 countries worldwide, ESMO is the society of reference for oncology education and information. Driven by a shared determination to secure the best possible outcomes for patients, ESMO is committed to standing by those who care about cancer through addressing the diverse needs of #ONEoncologycommunity, offering #educationforLIFE, and advocating for #accessiblecancerCARE.  



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