Day 3 of ASCO12 – Observations and Soldier Field

Guest blogger: Christoper Adams PhD an economist at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission shares some notes and his personal insight of his experience on Day 3 of the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

It is my two year anniversary! Two years ago today I had my colon resection. My doctor said that next year I can have a small party. This year I decided to start my celebration by attending a session on liver resection for metastatic colon cancer. Note to self, don’t begin a day of celebration by attending a session on liver resection for metastatic colon cancer.

The session was presented by the holy trinity of cancer treatment, a medical oncologist, a surgeon and a radio oncologist. The surgeon discussed the great benefit of surgery, the radio oncologist talked about the great benefit of radiation, and the medical oncologist told of the less than great benefit of chemotherapy. The session did raise a interesting counter point to the argument for moving to palliative care for certain patients. A speaker pointed out that certain treatment regimes including palliative care can become dogma if we are not careful and continue to test the boundaries. By we, the speaker was of course referring to patients and their families.

Today is the day of the big presentations of the breakthrough trials. No. There are no big breakthrough results for colorectal cancer. I did however learn how they come up with those fantastic trial names like DREAM and CORRECT. Apparently the best way to do this is to have an extremely long name for your trial where you utilize a lot of spelling bee words. You then put the letters into a computer program that chooses the best combination. There was some controversy at the session when the author and the reviewer disagreed on which exact letters were used to come up with the CORRECT acronym. Maybe some more time and effort should be spent on trial design rather trial naming.

Avastin, Avastin, Avastin, Avastin, Avastin, Avastin, Avastin…The day felt a bit like that famous scene from Monty Python where a lot is spoken and nothing much is said. I started to feel the discontent expressed by other patient advocates on the slowness of progress and the smallness of the steps.

With a heaviness descending over me I entered the plenary session. The first lecture of the session was to be given by a chemical engineer. When he started his talk with the words “for the next 40 minutes” the heaviness pushed further down.

But WOW! What a talk. Who knew an engineer could give such a fascinating talk. Dr Jain, a Ph.D. not a medical doctor, provided a scientific and engineering explanation for how Avastin and other similar drugs actually work in the tumor. See more about Dr Jain’s fascinating work here:
The day ended at Soldier Field where patient advocates and notables in ASCO ate and drank as part of the ASCO Presidential Dinner.

Now that is the way to end a day of celebration!

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