Professor Michael Baumann, scientific chair of ECCO2017, explains how the new-format congress provides the big picture that all cancer professionals need, and gives a preview of the year’s most exciting topics.
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“I am a radiation oncologist,” Professor Baumann says. “That means I don’t go to surgery conferences and maybe not to drug conferences either. But cancer, as we know, is treated by a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and drug therapy – this is still true and will continue to be so. That’s why multidisciplinarity is paramount.
“ECCO2017 stands alone in being truly multidisciplinary. It’s the only conference where everyone who has a stake in treating cancer can come together, where all aspects of patient care are addressed. For me, ECCO is unmissable because if I go, I don’t need to go to all the monodisciplinary conferences.”
Professor Baumann says that sessions at the congress will cater for the full scope of multidisciplinary experts. For example, in early breast cancer, there will be lectures, proffered papers, tumour boards and scientific discussion.
Professor Baumann adds that there will be a continued interest in drug development, trials data and guidelines, alongside an increasing focus on personalised oncology and how biomarkers relate to treatment.
As scientific chair, Professor Baumann is perhaps best-placed to reveal which areas of new research look most promising this year. He says: “Interest in immunotherapy is intensifying and not only in skin cancer. We will find out how it could play a role in the treatment of neurological and gastrointestinal tumours too.
“However, we know that immunotherapy is expensive and the cost of treating cancer is rising overall. Healthcare systems, health economics and health policy will also be major topics at ECCO2017. There must be a rational approach to funding treatment, so we will be asking who should have access to new therapies?”
In terms of cancer sites, Professor Baumann sees particular interest in the areas of gastrointestinal (GI), brain and breast cancer: “Of course the congress addresses all cancer sites, but this is an annual meeting so the emphasis will change from year to year according to what is happening in the world of research.
“In brain, there is a lot of interest in particle therapies. In Germany, these are up-and-running, and the UK and Denmark, for example, are beginning to use them. But there is still a lack of data on their use. In breast cancer we are seeing a lot of interest in different systemic therapies and in GI, we will hear about advances in surgery.”
Originating in prostate cancer treatment, robotic surgery will also be discussed for other cancer sites, with research comparing the costs and patient benefits with traditional surgery.
The meeting will also examine real-world data, including the organisation and delivery of cancer care in healthcare systems, as well as individual centres.
Finally, Professor Baumann explains that ECCO2017 is not only concerned with what is new, but what is genuinely practice-changing: “We will take a critical look at the quality of new data and ask if it’s really good enough to change the way we treat patients. This annual meeting will showcase what’s really new and what is important in daily practice.”