March Madness: Submitting Abstracts to Multiple Meetings

Bruce D. Cheson, MD


April 01, 2015

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Hello again. This is Bruce Cheson from Georgetown University Hospital, the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, speaking to you for Medscape Hematology.

Well, it is that time again—yes, March Madness. I'm looking at a bracket right here. No, no, not the basketball March Madness—but, incidentally, go Wahoos (a team in Virginia)!—this is the season when all the abstracts for the various national and international meetings come due.

I have a chart, or bracket, of the meetings. Perhaps the strongest set of teams is the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting,[1] although hematology is weak in this bracket. Then we have the International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma (ICML),[2] the so-called Lugano meeting, where the best of lymphoma goes, often bypassing ASCO.

We also have the European Hematology Association (EHA),[3] which is kind of the weakest of all links—they take what they can get—but it is held in very nice venues.

And there is the American Society of Hematology (ASH),[4,5] the stronger of the hematology brackets.

Now this year, there's been a bit of chaos thrown into the bracket. It's the encore: One company takes an abstract and submits it to multiple meetings. For example, an abstract might go to ASCO and ICML—for which the submission deadlines are pretty much the same—and then also to EHA, which is right in the middle, because these three meetings are held within 2 weeks of each other.

Multiple submissions were previously not allowed. How this is accomplished is that companies submit late-breaking abstracts, which are just shells. It gives information on methods and some background but no data, so you don't know whether there is repetition from one abstract to the other. The companies also jockey around the submission dates so that they can still submit to multiple meetings without appearing as if there is this kind of conflict between the abstracts.

This is good, and it's bad. It's good because if you are an investigator on one of these abstracts, you may get to go to multiple meetings and numerous nice places. It's also good because some of these meetings are national, and some are European or international. As a result, the data, which are frequently very important, have a broader audience. A lot of Europeans don't get to go to ASCO. Most Americans don't get to go to EHA or to the ICML, which has a cap of 3000 attendees.

Now the bad side is obvious, and it is that if you go to multiple meetings, there is repetition. You get a sense that there's little new out there because the same information gets repeated over and over again. This came to my attention recently because I'm involved in one of these abstracts.

I think the only way to resolve this is to have clearer guidelines for the various meetings. What will they accept? What won't they accept? It should be thought about, and then decisions made as to what is best for primarily the audiences of each meeting. But the investigators have to be considered also; and you've got to consider the companies, because they're conducting most of the big trials these days.

That's the story in the hematology bracket from our March Madness. Hopefully, you will get to go to ASCO in Chicago; ICML in the lovely town of Lugano, Switzerland; EHA, which is in Vienna this year; and ASH in Orlando. Four decent places. Maybe we'll see the same data at all those meetings, which would be unfortunate—but as I said, there are pros and cons.

This is Bruce Cheson, signing off from Medscape Hematology and getting back to the real bracket: basketball. I hope your team ends up where you would like it and that Virginia doesn't beat them by too much. Thank you.


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