My First of Many ASCO Meetings

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In June, I attended my first ASCO Annual Meeting. Although I have been practicing and teaching urology for 35 years with a specific interest in genitourinary oncology and I have attended dozens of national meetings, the ASCO Annual Meetings were not on my radar.

Focus on the Patient

The opportunity to interact with and learn from the multidisciplinary scholarly colleagues that ASCO brings together is invaluable. While the Annual Meeting may seem overwhelming—11,600 papers, 35,000 attendees, and more than 400 exhibitors—the quality and ease of interaction allows the maximum amount of learning to occur. Bringing to bear the experience of medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists upon both esoteric and common medical issues, ASCO enlightens the professional for the sake of the patient.

In the May 1, 2011, issue of The ASCO Post, I wrote:

At this year’s ASCO Annual Meeting, we will be introduced to new ideas, discoveries that open windows of opportunity for improving our patients’ quality and quantity of life, and creative methods of reducing the ravages of disease. Data, statistics, facts, and erudite discussions will inundate our week. But we must realize that all of this new information and all the biotechnologic marvels that are displayed in the convention hall are meaningless to the person with cancer unless we are patient-focused.

If my concerns were valid and I had any cause for uneasiness that the information may not be patient-centered, the meeting dashed those concerns, proving that a focus on the patient and scholarly research are compatible efforts, not competitive or mutually exclusive.

My Top Learning Experiences

In an excellent session titled “Treating Genitourinary Malignancies (Prostate, Kidney, and Urothelial Cancers): The Latest and Greatest,” I was educated about “Advances in Prostate Cancer Therapeutics” by Gary R MacVicar, MD, from Northwestern University. For the first time, he was able to report an increase in survival of patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer using sipuleucel-T (Provenge), abiraterone (Zytiga), or cabazitaxel (Jevtana). Christopher Sweeney, MBBS, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discussed “What’s New in Urothelial Cancer.” Unfortunately, there is not much new in this setting, but the future is bright with enormous efforts in clinical trials. Dr. Sweeney then summarized the state of the art in treating testicular and bladder cancer. Finally, Elisabeth Heath, MD, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute gave a review titled “Update on Renal Carcinoma: Treatment Options for the Practicing Oncologist.” Her overview of the FDA-approved therapeutics for treating renal cell carcinoma was aimed directly at the oncology community closest to the patient.

The clinical science that Dr. MacVicar reviewed was explained in great detail by Charles Ryan, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, in the Clinical Science session, “Translational Science Advancing AR Targeting in Prostate Cancer.” Dr. Ryan authored the paper on a phase II study on abiraterone. He clearly discussed the findings that have excited the community about the prospect of making advances on a particularly difficult problem, metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer.

The educational session, “Dutasteride, Finasteride, Micronutrients, and Vitamins for Prostate Cancer Prevention: How Do We Apply What We Have Learned to the Community?” led by Ian Thompson, MD, of the University of Texas Cancer Center in San Antonio, Gerald Andriole, MD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and Otis Brawley, MD, the Medical Director of the American Cancer Society, was a tour de force of the present thinking on prevention of prostate cancer. Again, the emphasis was on the pragmatic approach for practicing oncologists and urologists who care for these patients.

The next session that addressed my interest, “The Changing Face of Castration-resistant Prostate Cancer: Standard Therapy and New Targets,” featured Kim N. Chi, MD, from the Vancouver Cancer Centre, Charles G. Drake, MD, PhD, from the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Thomas W. Flaig, MD, from the University of Colorado. The topics of emerging investigational therapies, immunotherapy, and new standards in medical management of metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer brought the audience up to date on all the newest (and future) approaches to our most difficult cases of patients with prostate cancer.

Finally, the oral abstract session, Genitourinary Cancer (Nonprostate), co-chaired by Evan Y. Yu, MD, and Carsten Bokemeyer, MD, offered the audience a comprehensive look at renal cell, germ cell, and urothelial cancers. Once again, the Genitourinary Tract Planning and Educational Committee brought together the most interesting and thought-provoking series of papers, clearly presented by forward-thinking educators and scholars.

My first ASCO meeting gave me a much better understanding of state-of-the-art care for patients with genitourinary tract malignancies and will serve my patients and students well. I look forward to ASCO 2012 in Chicago. ■

Disclosure: Dr. Boxer reported no potential conflicts of interest.

Dr. Boxer is Professor of Clinical Urology at the University of Miami and Clinical Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Madison College of Wisconsin.