ESMO 2018 Congress: Securing access to optimal cancer care

Programme highlights from the President

As I delve into the Scientific Programme, with nearly 2,000 oral and poster discussion presentations and posters, a total of more than 200 sessions and an expected massive number of late breaking abstracts, the highlights are too many to mention here.

· A Special session on  Big data in cancer management: Genomics and disease stratification will feature trailblazers to report on the use of big data across a range of tumor types including lung, breast and CNS cancers.

· Among the 12 ‘Specials’ on day two,  Technologies of the future will bring us up to speed on the current challenges and opportunities of CAR-T cells, oncolytic viruses, and CRISPR gene editing. In view of the astonishing potential and lingering controversy surrounding the use of CRISPR, I will be looking forward to learning more.

· An Educational session entitled  Emerging opportunities in cancer immunotherapy will update on the promise of targets and biomarkers in immunotherapy.  Another session, will focus on opportunities in clinical trial design including the relevance of pre-clinical models in guiding decisions surrounding drug combinations, the role of artificial intelligence, as well as integrating biomarkers into drug development.

· Two of our three Keynotes center on immunotherapy. Sunday’s  How do we manipulate the tumour microenvironment for immunotherapy will be delivered by Thomas Gajewski, and  Beyond resistance in immune-oncology will be presented by Antoni Ribas on Monday. The third Keynote lecture, given by Thomas Helleday on Saturday, is about  Mutation signatures and targeting DNA damage response.

· Our exceptional series of 18 Multidisciplinary Interactive sessions offer all participants the opportunity to consider and debate together from a broad range of different perspectives. One that caught my eye takes place on day two of the Congress:  Molecular tumour boards in the practice of precision oncology, including viewpoints from a clinician, bioinformatician and germline geneticist.

· Sure to trigger further debate, 5 Controversy sessions as well as 42 Challenge Your Expert sessions, will also draw attendees as they continue to prove popular educational offerings year in, year out.

· The nurturing of our up-and-coming generation of medical oncologists; the future of both our profession as well as our Society, is not only a priority in today’s ever-emerging landscape of oncology, it is also an area that is very close to my heart as past mentor of the ESMO Young Oncologists Committee (YOC). This year’s Young Oncologists (YO) track certainly builds on the tremendous successes achieved by ESMO congresses past. Kicking off on the first day, the Vesalius Talk on  Work/life balance at early stages of a young oncologist’s career will offer younger colleagues invaluable advice from renowned leaders Martine Piccart, Andrés Cervantes, and Solange Peters, current mentor of the ESMO YOC.

· The track also incorporates a YO Masterclass entitled  From genetic data to clinical trial design. This joint EACR/ESMO YOC session promises an exciting meeting of research and clinical investigator minds. Topics under the lens include next-generation sequencing, biomarker data analysis, immuno-genomics, to pioneering trial design in the era of molecular oncology.

· Our fully integrated Patient Advocacy track commences with a session on  Knowledge is power: Educating patients and advocates, emphasising the central role of patients in our collective efforts aimed at securing access to optimal cancer care.

· Once again reflecting the tagline of the 2018 Congress, the session on  Pillars of an effective healthcare system in Europe will present key components of a well-functioning healthcare system, followed by an exploration into the current healthcare landscape in Central and Eastern Europe, concluding with a talk on how citizens shape the society they live in.

· Similarly, our Society must continue to assume a central role in prevention strategies and programmes.  Another important debate during this track will be on essential areas including tobacco control, cancer awareness and screening.

· For policy points and the much-needed setting of priorities,  the ESMO-ASCO Joint Symposium focused on precision medicine and accessibility, which I have the honour of moderating, will present key stakeholder viewpoints including those of UK and US regulators.

· The ESMO-DGHO (German Society of Hematology & Medical Oncology) Joint Symposium -  Access to anti-cancer drugs - will tackle questions around access, shortages and pricing of innovative drugs, with emphasis on current strategies in Germany.

· A special session themed  Are there enough cancer services and oncologists in your country? will examine access to services and professionals in oncology. It’s not solely about the medications – innovative or otherwise. The essential efforts aimed at improving outcomes in global cancer control, the need to continue to invest in cancer care as well as support the careers of oncologists and researchers will all be high on the agenda during this session, culminating in results from the WHO-ESMO Workforce Survey: How can your country assure enough oncologists for the future?

· Speaking of cancer control,  a Special symposium will center on the importance of global surveillance of cancer survival, covering different perspectives and experiences. This important session will end with the pan-global picture, Delivering affordable cancer care in developed and developing countries.

· The penultimate day of the Congress will close with an Educational session focused on treasury as we tackle the  Affordability and sustainability of new cancer drugs – which is central to ESMO’s mission of facilitating equal access to optimal cancer care to all cancer patients.

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