By Laura Thevenot, ASTRO Chief Executive Officer
You might have heard some rumors over the past few months that ASTRO is making some changes to our Annual Meeting. You may even have been contacted to give your feedback on the meeting, whether it was to participate in a focus group or take a survey. We’ve taken an in-depth look at our Annual Meeting with a goal of transforming it into an indispensable experience not only for our members, but for anyone involved in cancer treatment.
While the ASTRO Annual Meeting is a successful, well-attended event, we need to evolve to keep pace with newer learning styles and a changing audience. In addition, the pace of change in radiation oncology and cancer treatment overall has greatly accelerated, and we felt it was time to reengineer the Annual Meeting to meet the needs of our audience. Here is a sampling of suggestions we received from attendees:
- Provide more innovative, forward-thinking information, with session formats to match.
- Offer a less packed schedule – with more time to connect with the content and colleagues.
- Allow for opportunities to solve problems collaboratively.
- Provide wrap up sessions with key points for attendees to take back to their practices.
- Present a more comprehensive look at cancer care, incorporating interdisciplinary approaches.
- Make the Exhibit Hall more of an educational hub, with interactive experiences.
What’s new in 2019? Innovate, Collaborate: Transform!
ASTRO 2019 will be the beginning of a three-year transformation of our Annual Meeting. Here are some of the exciting changes we have planned this year:
- An all-new format for the Presidential Symposium, based around the provocative question: “Curing Metastatic Disease with Radiotherapy — Myth or Reality?”, with an Oxford-style debate, followed by facilitated break-out sessions, and the opportunity to continue the discussion on various subtopics in the Innovation Hub with “Table Talks.” We will be asking for your input on this — stay tuned for more information on how to provide feedback, as well as more details on the Symposium coming from our president, Dr. Ted DeWeese, in next week’s blog post.
- A new focus on wellness throughout the meeting, with a special luncheon, more healthy food options available throughout the day, Sunrise Yoga and more free time in the schedule, giving you a chance to relax, reflect and connect with old and new friends.
- An inspirational closing session on Wednesday, “Cancer Breakthroughs: Takeaways from the Major 2019 Oncology Meetings,” that will highlight the big takeaways from the meeting along with an overview of the advances from the past year in multidisciplinary cancer treatment.
What’s on tap for 2020 and beyond?
In the past we have positioned the ASTRO Annual Meeting as “the premier radiation oncology scientific event in the world.” We are still that event, but we have the potential to be so much more. With curated content, a warmer, more inviting environment, a focus on debate, discussion and collaboration, along with the top practice-changing science, we can provide a cohesive and unifying experience for the entire cancer care community. We are working on plans to move the meeting in this new direction over the coming years, and we welcome your feedback and suggestions as these plans take shape.
Radiation oncology is at the intersection of humanity and technology. ASTRO’s Annual Meeting can be the place where the best of the oncology community connects to advance cancer care, improve patient outcomes, and inspire and renew providers.
New Grants Aim to Individualize Radiotherapy by Improving Patient Experiences and Outcomes
By Gita Suneja, MD, MS, ROI Research Committee Chair
The Radiation Oncology Institute is excited to announce new funding awards to four research teams who will be working to personalize radiation therapy for cancer patients. We received a record number of applications, highlighting the strong enthusiasm and ongoing work in this area of radiation oncology research. The following teams were selected for the ROI Personalized Radiation Therapy research awards.
Minimizing Cardiac Toxicity for Lung Cancer Patients Carmen Bergom, MD, PhD, and El-Sayed Ibrahim, PhD, and their team at the Medical College of Wisconsin will conduct a pilot study to determine whether cardiac MRI can be used to detect early, non-symptomatic damage to the heart in lung cancer patients treated with radiation therapy. They will measure associations between delivered cardiac dose and subclinical cardiac damage, as well as test whether biomarkers associated with cardiac dysfunction correlate with the damage to the heart. Eventually, this information could be used to prevent and manage the effects of radiation to the heart by personalizing treatment plans to minimize cardiac toxicity and improve long-term outcomes for lung cancer patients.
Enhancing Patient Experience and Reducing Anxiety Using Virtual and Augmented Reality Platforms David Byun, MD, and his team at New York University School of Medicine will take on a new project that will explore whether the application of virtual and augmented reality platforms during consultation visits could better increase patient knowledge about radiation therapy, reduce anxiety, and improve the quality of their overall treatment experience. Dr. Byun’s CurieUx (Curie User eXperience) mixed reality patient education software is designed to include a novel virtual reality 360° tour of simulation and treatment rooms for patients to explore, as well as interactive virtual disease-specific anatomy models to help physicians personalize their verbal explanation of each patient’s diagnosis and treatment. To measure the efficacy of the intervention, Dr. Byun and his team will conduct a feasibility study, followed by a prospective trial, to determine whether using the CurieUx platform would help reduce patient anxiety and improve their overall treatment experience.
Customizing Patient-Physician Communication Daniel Golden, MD, MHPE, and Ritu Arya, MD, at the University of Chicago are focused on improving communication between patients with cancer and their physicians by developing a personalized discussion guide that explains external beam radiotherapy in an easy-to-digest format. With the grant from the ROI, Dr. Golden, Dr. Arya and their partners at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology will build upon their existing collaboration to create three new guides in the “Communicating the External Beam Radiotherapy Experience” (CEBRE) series that are tailored for patients with breast, lung and prostate cancer. The guides will be written at the sixth-grade level and provide understandable information unique to the patient’s disease site and treatment process in a graphic narrative format. Patients, caregivers, medical and non-medical staff will be involved in the development of the site-specific CEBRE guides to ensure a human-centered design process with key stakeholder input.
Individualizing Radiation Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer Patients Adam Wolfe, MD, PhD, and Terence Williams, MD, PhD, at The Ohio State University have discovered a molecular signature made up of microRNAs that could predict which patients with pancreatic cancer are at high-risk for local-regional recurrence following surgery. One of these microRNAs shows promise to help identify the pancreatic cancer patients who might benefit most from radiation therapy. With the ROI grant, Dr. Wolfe and his team will validate whether the molecular signature can predict for local-regional recurrence in an independent dataset using samples from two other institutions. They will also use cell and mouse models to examine if microRNA-296 increases cell death following radiation. Together, these two aims will improve patient selection for radiotherapeutic management of pancreatic cancer.
The future of the field is bright! We look forward to sharing more about each of these projects with you this month in honor of May being National Cancer Research Month. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to get all of the latest news on these and other research projects in our portfolio.