ECCO 2017 -- Only Truly Multidisciplinary Cancer Conference

Zosia Chustecka

January 20, 2017

Multidisciplinary discussion of new data will be a unique feature of the inaugural meeting of the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) Congress, which is to be held next week in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

"We really thought about what we want from a meeting. With the travel and expense of spending a few days at the meeting, we decided that it has to be more than just listening to presentations of new data," commented Peter Naredi, MD, president of ECCO and conference chair. "And so in planning the meeting, we built into the end of every day a critical clinical review session, where the new data will be discussed, debated, and then the audience will have a chance to vote on whether they think the new data are clinically relevant and should change practice or not.

"But the audience is not voting blind," Dr Naredi commented in an interview with Medscape Medical News. The new findings will be discussed from the point of view of different disciplines. For instance, a surgeon, a medical oncologist, and a radiation oncologist, as well as a pharmacist and a policy maker, if relevant, might comment, he explained. These experts will not only discuss the new data but will also explain the context and where the findings fit with respect to current treatments. They will also discuss how the data could alter clinical practice and the potential cost consequences of such changes. Also joining the discussion will be patients, who bring another perspective on the findings.

"This will be a unique discussion session that brings together all the disciplines that work on oncology," Dr Naredi commented. "It's the true multidisciplinary approach to treating patients ― not only considering one perspective but all the different sides."

Dr Naredi, who is also professor of surgery at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, hopes that the discussions, as well as the voting, will highlight areas that need to be worked on – for example, in the case of new drug treatments, the discussion will focus not only on how well the drugs work but also whether they are available and are affordable.

Also emphasizing the unique multidisciplinary nature of the meeting is Michael Baumann, MD, scientific chair of ECCO 2017. "It's the only conference where everyone who has a stake in treating cancer can come together, where all aspects of patient care are addressed," he said in a statement.

"I am a radiation oncologist," Dr Baumann said. "That means I don't go to surgery conferences, and maybe not to drug conferences either. But cancer, as we know, is treated by a combination of surgery, radiotherapy, and drug therapy – this is still true and will continue to be so."

Dr Baumann emphasized that the meeting will focus not only on what is new but also on what is genuinely practice changing: "We will take a critical look at the quality of new data and ask if it's really good enough to change the way we treat patients. This annual meeting will showcase what's really new and what is important in daily practice."

Inaugral Meeting

The inaugural meeting is a new step into the future for ECCO – previously, ECCO held meetings in collaboration with the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) every 2 years. ESMO held its own meeting in the intervening years. Now both societies will have annual meetings each year.

ECCO began as a collaboration of six oncology societies, including medical, radiation, and pediatric societies, but about 10 years ago, ESMO broke out from the fold. It had grown so large that it wanted to establish its own identity, Dr Naredi explained.

"We are now an amalgamation of 25 different societies, and the idea is that we should all meet once a year," he said. This year, about 3000 delegates are expected to attend, but "we hope that it will grow, and in the future, it will become the big European meeting," he said.

Another new aspect of this meeting is that sessions will be geared toward primary care. "We need to involve these professions," he said, "because we need to diagnose cancer earlier, and primary care look after the millions of cancer survivors with their potential long-term complications," he commented.

New Findings of Interest

Among the news coming out of the meeting that the scientific committee has highlighted is a presentation about melanoma incidence.

"We know that throughout Europe, melanoma is one of the fastest rising tumor types, increasing by several percent per year," Dr Naredi commented. "In Sweden, 1 in 50 people will be diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.

"And yet we are warning every year about avoiding sun exposure and about going to the doctor with suspicious moles," he continued. "The paper to be presented at the meeting will show that this public health education is having an impact and that these efforts at cancer prevention are effective," he said.

Other news that will be highlighted concerns early diagnosis of cancer. One presentation identifies a link between pancreatic cancer and medication for diabetes. The presentation suggests that it may be worth screening this particular patient population, with the hope of finding pancreatic cancer at an early stage, when curative treatment may be possible. Another presentation describes a new breath test for esophageal and stomach cancer, which could in the future be used by a general practitioner or nurse at a clinic. The test would identify patients who need further investigation with endoscopy.

A number of presentations are outcome studies. At other meetings, such presentations would be relegated to a poster session, but "here at this meeting, we wanted to highlight these findings, because they are often important, and they add new information that cannot be obtained from phase 2 and 3 studies," Dr Naredi commented. One example is a presentation that will compare long-term outcomes for breast cancer patients who undergo mastectomy vs breast-conserving surgery.

Full details on these presentations will be reported here on Medscape Medical News, so check back regularly.

European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) Congress 2017.

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