Biggest Cancer Meeting Is Back in Full Swing: ASCO 2023

The biggest cancer conference in the world is back in full swing this year. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2023 will continue to broadcast virtually, but the conference has largely shifted back to in-person attendance.

By mid-May, 40,000 people had registered for in-person attendance — similar to prepandemic levels, Julie R. Gralow, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

“We’re looking forward to a busy ASCO,” said Gralow, chief medical officer and executive vice president at the organization. 

The scientific program will be packed as well. Nearly 7000 abstracts have been submitted this year — “more than ever by 6% or 7%,” said Gralow.

The annual meeting, which runs from Friday, June 2, to Tuesday, June 6, will be held in Chicago at the usual spot — the McCormick Place convention center.

The theme of this year’s meeting, chosen by ASCO President Eric P. Winer, MD, will be on partnering with patients.

“I think you will see a real effort to emphasize patient-centered care and patient involvement in all aspects of care and research,” Gralow said.

Winer’s talk highlighting the theme — Partnering With Patients – Making It Real — will explore strategies to help patients and patient organizations prioritize their goals and influence research.

The program will also feature over 200 sessions that will complement the patient-focused theme.

One session will spotlight how oncologists can optimize shared decision-making in ways that improve care and remain sensitive to patient needs. In the session, Yvonne Bombard, PhD, of University of Toronto, and Li Ka Shing, of St. Michael’s Hospital, will explore shared decision-making in cancer genetic testing, while Mark Lewis, MD, will discuss the patient perspective.

“The metrics that are quantitatively captured by oncologists may differ from the endpoints that matter to patients: longevity and quality of life,” Lewis, director of gastrointestinal oncology at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, told Medscape Medical News. It’s essential, Lewis noted, to better understand and align the goals of care.

Another session highlighting the core theme will explore how oncologists can define and set boundaries with patients and themselves while maintaining patient trust. This session will delve into the scope of oncologists’ ethical obligations to their patients.

ASCO will also host a workshop featuring strategies to foster the patient relationship while having challenging conversations.

Revisiting 2022 Themes

Similar to last year, deescalation of therapy will be a central theme at this year’s meeting.

The key question here is, “When we’ve got very excellent long-term overall survival in certain settings, can we back off on some of the treatment we’re giving?” Gralow said. Patients prefer to call this approach optimizing, instead of deescalating or taking away therapy, she added.

One presentation, for instance, will highlight results from the phase 3 PROSPECT trial (abstract LBA2). It will explore the use of chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus radiation therapy for patients with locally advanced rectal cancer who are undergoing surgery. The researchers will examine whether some patients can forgo radiation therapy and still have the same outcomes as their peers who receive it.

Another study will explore results from SHAPE trial (abstract LBA5511), which compared simple hysterectomy with radical hysterectomy for patients with low-risk early-stage cervical cancer, to determine whether the less invasive, less toxic surgery can provide similar long-term recurrence outcomes.

Improving access to care and enhancing innovation will continue to be themes running through this year’s meeting as well.

One featured study will explore racial disparities in gastrointestinal cancer mortality associated with Medicaid expansion across the United States. The study compares survival in Black and White patients from Medicaid expansion and nonexpansion states before and after expansion (abstract 6546).

“This is a nationwide look at all states and one of strongest studies I’ve seen on this topic,” Gralow said.

ASCO will also host a delegation of oncologists from Ukraine to discuss how they are faring a year into the Russia-Ukraine war as well as “how we can better help them,” Gralow explained.

And on the innovation front, there will be a fireside chat with National Cancer Institute Director Monica Bertagnolli, MD, and Richard Pazdur, MD, director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Oncology Center of Excellence, in which they will explore clinical trial innovation.

“I’m really excited about this talk,” Gralow said. “We’re looking to simplify clinical trials and get answers sooner.”

Medscape will have a team of journalists at the meeting reporting on the news as it is presented. Read all our coverage here.

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2023.

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