The Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting

George W. Sledge, MD, FASCO

Feb 28, 2011

You could, I think, write the history of our specialty by looking at the history of our Annual Meeting. Certainly some of the great moments that I recall from past meetings—in the past decade think of imatinib for GIST tumors, adjuvant trastuzumab for breast cancer, and last year’s crizotinib trial for lung cancer—are the great moments of our profession. They are the moments when scientific promise fuses with a clinical problem to create something altogether novel, something that betters the human condition and changes forever how we look at a disease. They are also like great theater, with an enthralled audience applauding a show-stopping tune. They are the times that remind you why you became part of a great and noble endeavor.

I have friends who do not like attending the Annual Meeting. The general complaint that I hear is that the meeting is simply too much. One is reminded of that famous Yogi Berra line about a New York restaurant: “No one goes there any more; it’s too crowded.” I appreciate the sentiment; it can seem a bit crazy. But there are many solutions to this particular problem. The simplest involves planning ahead. ASCO offers attendees excellent tools to pre-plan their Annual Meeting experience. For those who still find it a bit much, the Virtual Meeting offers an alternative means of “attending” the Big Show.

The crowds have never bothered me, in part because they are full of my friends. I can stand on a corner and in 10 or 15 minutes see those who trained me, those I trained with, and those I have trained. I see old friends from the cooperative groups, colleagues from around my locality, and those I want to touch base with for professional reasons. A joke—I think it is a joke—in my institution is that the best way to meet my Indiana University colleagues is to attend the Annual Meeting. ASCO offers the best opportunity for efficient networking of any week in the year for me, and I have traditionally gotten more new ideas and more new projects off the ground at the Annual Meeting than in any other venue.

So please join me in Chicago, a great city with much to offer, for the 2011 Annual Meeting. If, my friends, I seem a bit harried when you run into me, it is because the ASCO staff has my day programmed down to the minute. I think they have programmed in breathing, though I have my doubts about sleeping. I have been told I can do that next year.


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