Patients, Pathways,the Focus of ASCO Presidents

June 2011, Vol 2, No 3 -

Chicago, IL—Addressing the many attendees at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, outgoing President George Sledge Jr, MD, of Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, said, “I think I could write the history of our specialty by looking at the history of our annual meeting. Some of the milestones I recall from past meetings in just the last decade include imatinib for [gastrointestinal stromal tumors], arguably one of the most, if not the most, dramatically effective antineoplastic treatments to date; adjuvant treatment of breast cancer with the targeted agent trastuzumab; and last year’s crizotinib, also an exquisitely targeted agent, for lung cancer. These are the great moments of our profession.” The data to be presented at this year’s meeting promise to be no less exciting, he said. And indeed, they did not disappoint.

The theme chosen for ASCO 2011 was “Patients, Pathways, and Progress.” “Patients always come first,” said Dr Sledge. “They are our primary focus and our inspiration as physician/ scientists.”

The term “pathways” in this context has multiple meanings: molecular pathways dominating invasion, growth, and metastasis of tumors; pathways patients follow during the course of their care; and clinical research pathways that new treatments traverse on their way to the clinic. “Progress follows from our mastery of those pathways and from our commitment to research and clinical excellence,” Dr Sledge noted.

Incoming ASCO president Michael Link, MD, the Lydia J. Lee Professor in Pediatric Cancer at Stanford University School of Medicine and a member of the medical staff of the Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, is no less enthusiastic about the work ahead.

Given that the vast majority of cancer research presented at ASCO addresses adult onset of disease, Dr Link is quick to describe the advantages he will bring to ASCO as a pediatric oncologist.

“It’s clear that many of the advances in oncology were pioneered in pediatrics,” he said. Although pediatric oncology is a relatively small area in cancer care, pediatrics has been on the leading edge of cancer care for quite some time. “The multidisciplinary approach to the patient with cancer was pioneered in pediatrics; many of the issues of survivorship, and awareness of late effects of treatment have come from pediatrics and from long-term follow-up of our cured patients.”