Largest Meeting on Cancer Research Canceled: AACR

Zosia Chustecka

March 11, 2020

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The biggest cancer research meeting of the year has been canceled as a reaction to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which has also led to many other medical conferences being canceled or postponed.

The annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) was due to take place April 24–29 in San Diego, California. More than 24,000 delegates from 80 countries and more than 500 exhibitors were expected to attend.

There are plans to reschedule it for later this year.

This has been a "difficult decision," said the AACR board of directors, but "we believe that the decision to postpone the meeting is absolutely the correct one to safeguard our meeting participants from further potential exposure to the coronavirus."

The board goes on to explain that "this evidence-based decision was made after a thorough review and discussion of all factors impacting the annual meeting, including the US government's enforcement of restrictions on international travelers to enter the US; the imposition of travel restrictions issued by US government agencies, cancer centers, academic institutions, and pharmaceutical and biotech companies; and the counsel of infectious disease experts. It is clear that all of these elements significantly affect the ability of delegates, speakers, presenters of proffered papers, and exhibitors to participate fully in the annual meeting."

Other cancer conferences that were planned for March and that have been canceled include the following:

  • European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC), Barcelona, Spain, which was to have taken place March 18–20. This conference has been postponed and will now take place September 30 to October 2 at the same venue. Abstracts that have been accepted for the initial conference will remain in the program, and organizers will reopen abstract submissions in May.

  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), Orlando, Florida, was scheduled for March 19–22. This conference has been postponed. No new dates have been provided, but the society notes that "NCCN staff is working as quickly as possible to notify all conference registrants about the postponement and further information regarding the refund process."

  • European Association of Urology (EAU), Amsterdam, the Netherlands, at which there is always new research presented on prostate, kidney, and bladder cancer, was due to take place March 20–24. This conference has been postponed to July 2020.

  • Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), in Toronto, Canada, which was scheduled for March 28–31. SGO is "exploring alternatives for delivering the science and education."

Overall, the move to cancel medical conferences over the next few months is a good idea, commented F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, associate professor of medicine and director of Yale's Program of Applied Translational Research, in a Medscape Medical News commentary.

"There's a pretty straightforward case here," he argued. "Medical professionals are at higher risk for exposure to coronavirus because we come into contact with lots and lots of patients. Gathering a large group of medical professionals in a single place increases the risk for exposure further. Factor in airplane flights to and from the conferences, and the chance that infection is spread is significant."

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