June 2018

Join the competition for the 2018 ROI Publication Award

By Robert C. Miller, MD, MBA, FASTRO

Nominations for the 2018 Radiation Oncology Institute (ROI) Publication Award are due in less than one month, and the competition is intensifying as more manuscripts are submitted for consideration. The ROI is looking forward to recognizing the very best scientific work in one of its priority research areas: communication, safety and quality, toxicity management, comparative effectiveness and value. Research on these topics is essential to ensuring the future of radiation oncology, and it is promising to see so much high-quality work in these critical areas.
The ROI has established the Publication Award as a new way to encourage, recognize and support research that addresses the practical needs of radiation oncology in the changing health care landscape. The field needs more of this type of research to build a body of evidence to help ensure that patients who could benefit from radiation therapy receive it and to secure radiation oncology’s position as an integral part of multidisciplinary cancer care. In 2018 and beyond, the ROI Publication Award will celebrate excellence in research within the ROI’s priority topics.
The 2018 ROI Publication Award will honor an article or a set of articles resulting from a single study that was published in a scholarly journal between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, and will have a lasting impact on the field of radiation oncology. The results presented in the winning manuscript must have the potential to change current thinking, transform practice and significantly improve patient outcomes. The ROI will recognize the winner of this year’s Publication Award at the 2018 ASTRO Annual Meeting in San Antonio, and the lead author will receive a $5,000 grant to be used on research that will build upon the work in the manuscript.

ASTRO members can nominate an article written by colleagues or one that they have authored. Submitting a nomination is easy and consists of providing a PDF copy of the manuscript and a one-page statement supporting the nomination. The ROI will be considering how well the research aligns with one or more of its priority areas, its impact on the field of radiation oncology as a whole and how the grant would be used to further the research.

Through the nominations process, the ROI is seeking the most important articles to be considered for this honor. Nominate an outstanding article for the 2018 ROI Publication Award by July 20 before 5:00 p.m. Eastern time and look for the winner to be announced in the fall.

Robert C. Miller is Vice-chair of the ROI Research Committee and Professor and Vice-chair in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Miller is also Editor-in-Chief of Advances in Radiation Oncology.  
Posted: June 26, 2018 | 0 comments

Interview with Giorgio Trinchieri, Md, Keynoter for the 2018 Research Workshop

By Chih-Chien Chou, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

At ASTRO’s 2018 Research Workshop focusing on the tumor microenvironment, the keynote address will be given by Giorgio Trinchieri, MD, who is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Distinguished Investigator and Director of the Cancer and Inflammation Program (CIP) in the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Dr. Trinchieri received his M.D. from the Università di Torino in Italy in 1973. Before his position at NCI, he worked at the Basel Institute for Immunology in Switzerland; the Medical Genetics Institute at the Medical School of Turin; the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia; the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research in Épalinges, Switzerland; the Schering Plough Laboratory for Immunological Research in Dardilly, France; and the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland.

Dr Trinchieri is among the most influential leaders in the field of cancer immunology. His research mainly focuses on the role of inflammation/innate resistance and commensal microbiota in carcinogenesis. He also studies the cellular and molecular mechanism of cancer progression via elucidating the role of cytokines (including IL-12 family, type I and II interferons, interleukin-10) in regulation of immune cells.

I recently asked Dr. Trinchieri some questions about his career path leading up to his keynote presentation at ASTRO’s 2018 Research Workshop: Targeting the Tumor Microenvironment (TME) in Radiation Oncology on July 26-27.

What are your current research interests?
For many years, I have been interested in the interplay between inflammation/innate resistance and adaptive immunity, and in the role of pro-inflammatory cytokines and interferons in the regulation of haematopoiesis, innate resistance and immunity against infections and tumors. My laboratory’s focus is the role of inflammation, innate resistance, immunity and commensal microbiota in carcinogenesis, cancer progression and prevention or therapy of cancer.

What are the discoveries that have led up to your current work?
Recently, the discovery that the microbiota modulates the effectiveness of both chemotherapy and immunotherapy has reignited my interest in understanding how the microbiota affect carcinogenesis and cancer therapy.

How will your research findings eventually translate into clinical practice?
The experimental and clinical data on the role of the microbiota in cancer therapy suggest that one day we might be able to predict whether patients are likely or not to respond to therapies from their microbiota composition. If they are not likely to respond, possible modifications of the microbiota composition could be utilized therapeutically to improve the probability of a successful response. However, we still do not know what a favorable microbiota composition is, exactly, and our procedure to change the composition of the microbiota are still rudimental. We need to know much more, but the possibility of clinical translation of these results is quite high. Overall, we hope that in a not-so-distant future we will be able to modify the patients’ microbiota in order to increase patients’ response to treatment while decreasing treatment toxicities and co-morbidity.

What are your hopes for the future of cancer immunotherapy?
Although immunotherapy has been very successful, only a proportion of patients with certain tumors respond to it. In order to increase the proportion of responsive patients, it will be necessary to alter the immune profile of the tumor microenvironment. This could be attained by combining immunotherapies with other therapies, including radiation, and possibly by targeting the composition of the microbiota.

What do you plan to discuss during your keynote address at the TME workshop?
I will discuss the role of the microbiota in carcinogenesis and cancer therapy with some discussion on how these results also extend to radiation oncology.

To learn more about Dr. Trinchieri and his research, please join us at the 2018 Tumor Microenvironment Workshop in Washington, D.C., on July 26-27. Registration is open now for the 2018 Research Workshop: Targeting the Tumor Microenvironment in Radiation Oncology. Be sure to register by June 27 to take advantage of the advance registration rates. Book your hotel now also to receive the discounted rate at the Washington Hilton. 
Posted: June 20, 2018 | 0 comments

Advocacy Day for first timers or veterans: A time to elevate the profile of radiation oncology

ASTRO Alternative Payment Reform Subcommittee.
By Shilpen Patel, MD

What happens if radiation oncologists are left out of the conversation? The possibilities are endless, but through ASTRO’s annual Advocacy Day, we, as physicians, have the opportunity to bring the issues that affect our profession and our patients directly to members of Congress and their staff. Despite the political turmoil on Capitol Hill, Advocacy Day is an opportunity to make sure that the issues that face us every day remain at the forefront of Congress’ mind. It is important that we continue to have a dialogue with our lawmakers so that we can ensure the stability of radiation therapy as a treatment option for cancer patients.
If you have never participated in Advocacy Day before, we welcome your participation. On Monday, June 25, you will hear from ASTRO staff and government insiders about what ASTRO members’ current legislative priorities are and how to best advocate for them. You will get the information you need to confidently advocate for radiation oncology. Panels will include bipartisan Capitol Hill staffers from the offices of our Congressional champions: Rep. Paul Tonko (D-New York), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina).
Another panel will include Ellen Lukens from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Office of Innovation (CMMI). Last year, the possibility of a Radiation Oncology Alternative Payment Method (RO-APM) was introduced at Advocacy Day. This year, Lukens will sit on a panel and offer insights into the status of alternative payment models (APMs). This discussion will be especially enlightening because of her work on the Oncology Care Model.  
The next day, Tuesday, June 26, we will attend House and Senate meetings with other radiation oncology professionals who are from our home states. At these meetings, you’ll put into action everything you learned the day before. We will meet with a mix of Congressional staff and members of Congress.
At last year’s Advocacy Day, many members of Congress and staffers asked for more information so they could continue to learn more about our legislative priorities. One of the topics we spoke about was preserving access to care through stable Medicare payments. The Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (PAMPA) was designed to provide stability in reimbursements during the transition to a system focused on quality. During our meetings, we called attention to the issue of radiation oncology reimbursement rates and let members of Congress and their staff know that it is important to our profession and, more importantly, to continuing the access to radiation therapy as a safe and effective treatment option for cancer patients.
In early 2018, when PAMPA and its associated rates were set to expire, Congress worked to secure a one-year extension on the payment freeze. This would not have been possible without ASTRO members starting this important conversation during 2017 Advocacy Day. This was a direct result of our advocacy efforts.  In every meeting, we asked members of Congress and their staff to take a tour of radiation oncology facilities in their home districts. This allowed us to show legislators the importance of what we do, so they can make the connection between our work in their voting districts and their work on Capitol Hill.
This is an opportunity for us to elevate our profession. If we do not make our voices heard, we risk the chance of Congress passing legislation that could be harmful to radiation oncologists and our patients. We all know that there are plenty of issues Congress can focus on, but we can ensure that our issues remain a priority for members of the House and Senate by speaking up. Advocacy Day gives us the opportunity to bring those concerns and issues to our members of Congress and their staff. This year, we need to continue to strengthen our relationships with our champions and build new ones with other members.
Day one of Advocacy Day will be held at the Washington Court Hotel, near Capitol Hill. If you have not registered, there is still time to be a part of ASTRO’s 2018 Advocacy Day. Please join me and other health care professionals on June 25-26 for two days of advocating for our profession. You can view the full schedule and learn more about the continuing medical education credits (CMEs) available for attendees.
If you are unable to join us in person, follow along with us on Twitter using the hashtag #astroadvocacy.
Dr. Patel is medical director with Grail Inc., represents ASTRO at the American Medical Association, serves on the Government Relations Committee and recently completed his term as chair of the ASTRO Alternative Payment Reform Subcommittee.
Posted: June 6, 2018 | 1 comments