What's Hot at the European Cancer Congress 2013

Roxanne Nelson

September 17, 2013

Multidisciplinary collaboration and the future of cancer care in Europe will take a prominent role at the upcoming European Cancer Congress 2013 (ECCO-ESMO-ESTRO), which promises to be a record-breaking meeting.

More than 18,000 delegates are expected to attend and 3303 abstracts were submitted for consideration; there will be an increase in posters and presentations of 37% over previous years.

Attendees can expect to hear presentations that will be practice changing, according to Congress chair Cornelis van de Velde, MD, PhD, president of the European Cancer Organization (ECCO).

Research that is really new, changes practice for prognostic predictive factors, and shows support for new therapies will be presented during the Presidential session," Dr. van de Velde told Medscape Medical News.

The Congress is a primarily a collaboration of 3 major groups — the ECCO, the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO), and the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) — and will be held in Amsterdam from September 27 to October 1.

"We are going to be hearing about real breakthroughs in metastatic melanoma, in which the immune system is mobilized to treat cancer. Immunotherapy has been promising treatments for cancer for more than 30 years, but now, with targeted therapy, it is working," said Dr. van de Velde.

The Congress will feature more late-breaking abstracts than last year, particularly in the field of gynecology. There will also be much more basic and translational research presented than in previous years, with a marked trend toward personalized medicine.

Dr. van de Velde pointed out that this is the largest multidisciplinary forum in Europe, and it was founded by medical and surgical oncologists. "We have now had 24 other organizations join us, and we will soon change the structure of ECCO and will have radiologists and pathologists on board," he said. "Multidisciplinarity with a patient focus is key to ECCO. In this conference, we focus on the interaction of all disciplines in clinical practice."

The Congress is the only multidisciplinary and multiprofessional educational opportunity in oncology that takes place in Europe, which "underpins the relevance, role, and participation of each and every specialty in oncology." The conference is being organized in partnership with several other groups, including the European Society of Surgical Oncologists (ESSO), the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR), the European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS), and the European Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOPE).

Horizon 2020

One highlight of the meeting will be a symposium on Horizon 2020 with the European Commissioner. "This is what is going to happen from 2014 onward in research initiatives in Europe, and it is funded by the European Commission," said Dr. van de Velde. "This is the first time that it will be revealed."

Horizon 2020 is the European Union's new program for research and innovation, and part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe. It is comprised of 3 main themes: excellence in science, industrial leadership, and social challenges, which supports research in areas such as health, climate, food, security, transport, and energy.

At this session there will be Euro-onco policy tracks, explained Dr. van de Velde. "We will give guidance to the community, but it will not only be covering the financial aspects," he said. "Also, certain countries use some therapies more than others, with varying results. Aspects of harmonization will be discussed on the onco policy track, as will, for the first time, the focus for the coming 6 years."

There will also be a symposium that will explain the highlights of the Congress and real improvements in outcomes and quality of care. It will also discuss a topic that is part of Horizon 2020 — "tailor-made" or precision treatments, said Dr. van de Velde.

The complexity of cancer has become more apparent, and they will be discussing new models of care, he continued. "It is not only the molecular biology of cancer that we need to look at; with Europe's aging population, we need to address comorbidities."

For example, does an 80-year-old patient with breast cancer need radiation therapy, "or can we just do surgery and hormonal therapy, and leave radiation therapy in reserve in case something goes wrong?" Dr. van de Velde asked. "We need to look at comorbidities and the effect they can have on the lifespan of the patient."

Thus, individualization on the biologic side is about new drugs and targeted therapies, but it is also about precision treatment in surgery and radiation therapy, he added.


For the first time, there are sessions on the European Registration of Cancer Care (EURECCA), which is an outcome-based quality-improvement initiative that was established to reduce differences between the countries.

"This is something unique in Europe, and right now we have EURECCA colorectal, upper GI, and breast, and, starting up, we have urology and hepato-pancreato-biliary," explained Dr. van de Velde. "And in the very early phases, we have endocrine tumors."

Surgeons and radiation and medical oncologists have initiated reviews and looked at how well practices perform in the short term and the longer term," he continued. "We look at how they compare in different hospitals and different countries. What we observed are different outcomes — sometimes there are no differences, but sometimes there are distinct differences."

This is becoming a real network in Europe, and it is something that can help other countries, Dr. van de Velde added. "We should learn from one another. This can help the world improve outcomes, and not only guide practice-changing strategies and new biologic markers, but really improve day-to-day cancer care."


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