Interview with Prof. Solange Peters, ESMO Scientific Committee Chair, conducted on 22 October 2018 by Dr Robbert van der Voort
ESMO is the leading European professional organisation for medical oncology. Last year, Prof. Solange Peters was elected as ESMO President for 2020-2021. As Scientific Chair of the ESMO 2018 Congress, she shares her opinion with Medicom about highlights of the Congress and future opportunities in the field.
What is your opinion about the ESMO 2018 Congress?
In recent years, the ESMO Annual Congress has consistently been growing in terms of the number of attendees and abstracts. Both are important, since one of ESMO’s goals is to share new data and the best knowledge with the largest possible audience to improve the care of cancer patients. In this respect, the ESMO 2018 Congress is very successful, with over 27.000 attendees, the highest number ever.
The ESMO Annual Congress provides medical oncologists and other professionals working in oncology with a platform on which they can share and discuss their findings, interact, and establish an integrated, multidisciplinary point of view. This is of crucial importance, since we cannot provide the best cancer care on just clinical research data.
Some of the key results presented at the ESMO 2018 Congress are strongly anticipated to change our daily practice in oncology. Furthermore, we for instance heard about public policy in drug management, such as the integration of the ESMO Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale, and the pricing, reimbursement, and accessibility of novel anticancer drugs.
For the first time at an Annual Congress, the programme of ESMO 2018 features a nursing track through a collaboration with the European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS). We always had some nurses attending, but the past years we’ve developed a close collaboration with the EONS, which now resulted in several sessions dedicated to nurses in oncology. This fits in a time where nurses have increased medical knowledge and nursing approaches medicine as a profession. Nursing and medicine are in fact more and more complimentary to each other. Hopefully, we’ll have more joint platforms in the future.
Which areas in cancer care warrant our attention in the near future?
There are probably three areas that deserve our attention in terms of innovation. The first is the molecular characterisation of tumours, by which subsets of patients can be defined who particularly benefit from a specific therapy. This is an interesting area, because it imposes some thought about what we are able to measure, evaluate, and systematise.
Secondly, major advances are made in targeted therapy, and particularly immunotherapy. For instance, for many types of cancer, immunotherapy has now moved to the frontline, a major breakthrough in medical oncology.
The third topic that deserves our attention is how we can adequately accumulate, analyse and interpret all the data from (pre-)clinical research. For instance, PD-L1 is now frequently used as a biomarker for immunotherapy, and single mutated genes for precision medicine, but how will we process dozens of biomarkers and extensive genetic profiles in the future? My expectation is that this needs a ‘big data’ approach and the involvement of bioinformaticians, biostatisticians, and artificial intelligence, and will surely add an additional layer of complexity in oncology.
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Interview with Prof. Solange Peeters
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