How ASCO’s 2023 Breakthrough Meeting Is Putting a Spotlight on Cutting-Edge Advances in Cancer Care Technology and Innovation

A Conversation With Lillian L. Siu, MD, FRCPC, FASCO

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After a 4-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASCO’s Breakthrough meeting is returning to Asia from August 3–5, 2023, in Yokohama, Japan, and will also be livestreamed ( Launched in 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, “Breakthrough is ASCO’s premier scientific and educational event outside of the United States,” said Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of ASCO, during a press briefing during the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago. According to Dr. Gralow, Japan has the second largest ASCO membership outside the United States and will also host the 2024 Breakthrough meeting. The ASCO Breakthrough meeting is planned and cohosted by ASCO, the Japan Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Japanese Society of Medical Oncology, among others.

The theme of this year’s meeting is “Shining a Light on Advances in Cancer Care” and will explore global cutting-edge progress happening in cancer care through technology and scientific innovation. Here are some of the program highlights during the 3-day event:

  • Multidisciplinary educational sessions addressing the latest in technology, research, and clinical practice, including sessions on precision care using artificial intelligence, chimeric antigen receptor T-cell and adoptive cell therapies, novel therapeutics, and next-generation multiomic technology
  • Solutions to barriers to patient care in low- and middle-income countries
  • Case-based sessions with key opinion leaders focusing on the latest research in specific disease sites
  • Daily rapid abstract sessions featuring short presentations on important research
  • An in-person only Manuscript Development Workshop on August 2, held exclusively for presenting authors of accepted abstracts to provide guidance to help authors develop their 2023 ASCO Breakthrough abstracts into publishable manuscripts.

The presenters at this year’s meeting include Hiroshi Mikitani, Chief Executive Officer of Rakuten Medical, who will give a keynote address on “Innovative Technology in Oncology”; Gilberto de Lima Lopes, Jr, MD, MBA, FAMS, FASCO, Associate Director of Global Oncology at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chair of the Breakthrough Workshop Planning Group, and Editor-in-Chief of JCO Global Oncology, who will present a special session on “How Science, Technology, and Practice Can Be Enhanced in Low- and Middle-Resource Settings”; and Federica Di Nicolantonio, MD, PhD, Professor of Oncology at the University of Turin in Italy, who will present a session called “CRISPR Screening for Tumor Vulnerabilities and Therapeutic Resistance”; as well as other global leaders in oncology.

Lillian L. Siu, MD, FRCPC, FASCO

Lillian L. Siu, MD, FRCPC, FASCO

The ASCO Post talked with Breakthrough Program Committee Chair Lillian L. Siu, MD, FRCPC, FASCO, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, to learn more about the significance of hosting the conference in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the importance of bringing together oncology thought leaders, practicing clinicians, medical-technology pioneers, novel drug developers, and researchers from around the world.

Expanding ASCO’s Footprint Into the Asia-Pacific Region

What is the significance of holding the 2023 ASCO Breakthrough meeting in the Asia-Pacific region? What does ASCO hope to accomplish by having the meeting in Japan?

It is important to emphasize that ASCO is an international society, and even though most of its members are in the United States, ASCO truly has a footprint that extends to every corner of the world. It is relevant for ASCO to have its presence in all countries, and especially in the Asia-Pacific region, where it has not been as present in the past few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next, there is globalization now in terms of clinical research and cancer research. When I was an early-career investigator, clinical research, such as early-phase studies in developmental therapeutics, occurred mainly in Europe and North America. However, substantial proportions of research activities now, not just in clinical trials but also in other areas of cancer research, are happening all over the world. It is timely for us to have a meeting as unique as Breakthrough physically in the Asia-Pacific area to interest and engage not just the audience in these regions, but in every part of the world as well.

Making Progress Together

What research to be presented are you most excited about?

We received about 200 abstracts and selected the highest quality studies and the ones we think are deserving for presentation, either in oral or poster format. We have highlighted three key themes in the oral presentation sessions: (1) experimental therapeutics or novel agents on the horizon; (2) multiomic technology, which provides different ways of performing molecular assessments to bring precision medicine to the clinic; and (3) clinical trials that are multinational and how to make different organizations interested in cancer research work together to accelerate progress. Obviously, there is a large variety of other topics we will showcase in this innovative conference.

Expanding the Sphere of Knowledge

Please talk about the benefit of having an international audience of oncology thought leaders, clinicians, medical/technology pioneers, novel drug developers, and researchers presenting this research.

We are used to attending meetings where everyone has similar research and clinical practice interests, and they talk about topics familiar to them, but they may lead to only incremental gains in the fields they already know well. The idea with Breakthrough is to break those silos and bring together people in a variety of fields, so we can learn from individuals who have knowledge outside our own areas of expertise. Having these types of exchanges is important to understanding how to have breakthroughs in cancer research by eliminating not just the geographic barriers that might be hindering progress, but also the disciplinary barriers that are stalling advances.

Improving Care in Limited-Resource Settings

How might this meeting impact the diverse needs of oncology professionals in the Asia-Pacific region and clinical care in low- and middle-income countries?

Many of the abstracts are from researchers in low- and middle-income countries. This meeting will provide an opportunity for researchers, physicians, and ancillary health-care providers in these countries to network with each other and with those from higher-income countries. The interactions will help them further their research locally and build connections either within or outside their networks to facilitate cancer advances, even with limited resources. A lot of ambition exists in these countries to broaden their fields beyond what they can do now.

Becoming Published Authors

This year’s meeting is offering a workshop on manuscript development, chaired by Dr. Gilberto de Lima Lopes, exclusively for first-time authors of accepted abstracts, which will provide guidance to help them develop their Breakthrough meeting abstracts into publishable manuscripts. Why did ASCO decide to include this workshop at the meeting?

This was an ingenious initiative from Dr. Lopes and the Workshop Planning Group team, because many of the early-career investigators presenting their studies probably have not had a lot of experience in scientific manuscript writing and in publishing their work. We have arranged to have a selected number of individuals present their work and discuss their research with mentors during the workshop. We will continue to mentor them for several months after the meeting to help them get their manuscripts to the finish line and published in journals such as JCO Global Oncology or JCO Precision Oncology

DISCLOSURE: Dr. Siu has served as a consultant or advisor to Merck, AstraZeneca, Roche, Voronoi, Oncorus, GlaxoSmithKline, Seagen, Aryinas, Navire, Janpix, Relay Therapeutics, Daiichi Sankyo, Janssen, Hookipa, InteRNA, Tessa Therapeutics, Sanofi, and Amgen; and has received research funding from Bristol Myers Squibb, Genentech/Roche, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Amgen, Astellas Pharma, Shattuck Labs, Symphogen, AVID, Mirati Therapeutics, Intensity Therapeutics, and Karyopharm Therapeutics. Dr. Siu’s spouse owns stock in Agios and has a leadership role with Treadwell Therapeutics.