By Nagi S. El Saghir, MD, FACP, FASCO, and Nizar Bitar, MD
Missing Chicago and missing Beirut for the second year in row! This is what our Best of ASCO faculty and attendees said throughout our 16th annual Best of ASCO Lebanon meeting, licensed by ASCO and organized by the American University of Beirut Medical Center in collaboration with the Lebanese Society of Medical Oncology (LSMO) and regionally with the Arab Medical Association Against Cancer (AMAAC). We put the Raouche Pigeon Twin Rocks, Beirut’s most famous natural beauty landmarks, on the cover of our announcement, invited our friends and colleagues from all over the globe, and had a superb Best of ASCO meeting that included several important practice-changing presentations.
The Best of ASCO21 Lebanon announcement featured the Beirut natural landmark Raouche Pigeon Twin Rocks.
To make sure presentations are as clear as possible, without interruptions due to internet sources and reception, and that messages are satisfactorily discussed, we asked our speakers to pre-record presentations and be present at the 10- to 15-minute debates at the end of each session. This format is now being implemented at most oncology meetings and it is one of the best ways of holding successful virtual meetings.
The virtual format made it easier for us to get an extraordinary faculty from all over the globe and from among our own talented colleagues here in Lebanon. Our top expert Guest Faculty included:
- Mohamad Mohty, MD (Saint-Antoine Hospital and Sorbonne University, Paris, France)—Hematologic Malignancies
- Fadlo R. Khuri, MD (American University of Beirut, Lebanon)—Head, Neck, and Lung Cancer
- Ghassan K. Abou-Alfa, MD (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center [MSKCC], New York, NY), Eileen M. O’Reilly, MD (MSKCC), and Philip A. Philip, MD, PhD, FRCP (Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI)—Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers
- Hikmat Abdel-Razeq, MD (King Hussein Cancer Center, Amman, Jordan), Ahmad Awada, MD (Université Libre de Bruxelles , Brussels, Belgium), Sana Al-Sukhun, MD, MSc (University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan), David Cameron, MD (University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom), Mark E. Robson, MD (MSKCC), and Nuhad K. Ibrahim, MD (MD Anderson Cancer Center [MDACC], Houston, TX)—Breast Cancer
- Toni Choueiri, MD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA)—Genitourinary (GU) Cancers
- Hussein Tawbi, MD, PhD (MDACC)—Melanoma
Highlights of the meeting included rich discussions of immunotherapy in lung cancer, melanoma, and GU cancers with Plenary Session abstracts and overviews. Dr. Choueiri presented his own Plenary Session abstract, KEYNOTE-564 on post-nephrectomy adjuvant pembrolizumab therapy, and recommended it as standard of care.
There were fruitful discussions on the PARP inhibitor olaparib as adjuvant therapy for patients with triple-negative breast cancer at high risk for recurrence. Dr. Robson presented the data from the OlympiA trial and was pleased with the results and with new ASCO guidelines recommending adjuvant olaparib for patients who fulfill entry criteria for the OlympiA trial. Faculty and audience members were quick to say that the oncology community should be ready to counsel patients and family members of patients who have BRCA mutations regarding adjuvant therapy, surveillance, and risk-reducing surgeries, and also be ready for explanations and more research needed on interpretation of the various other mutations reported on mutation panels that most people now order. Dr. Cameron discussed the MINDACT trial results for patients who have ultralow risk for recurrence using the Amstrerdam-70 genomic profiling; Dr. Cameron stressed the importance of data from MINDACT and earlier data from TAILORx for de-escalating chemotherapy and optimal use of endocrine therapy for patients with hormone receptor–positive HER2-negative early breast cancer.
Best of ASCO21 Lebanon breast cancer debate chairs and faculty.
A very active debate on various advances in GI malignancies with Dr. Abou-Alfa, Dr. O’Reilly, Dr. Philip was greatly appreciated.
Best of ASCO21 Lebanon gastrointestinal cancers debate chairs and faculty.
Dr. Tawbi nicely outlined current recommendations for immunotherapy in melanoma. Gynecologic oncology experts concurred with OUTBACK trial results that adjuvant chemotherapy following neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiation for cancer of the cervix is no longer recommended.
In our introductory welcome notes, along with our colleague Sami Khatib, MD, President of the AMAAC, we praised the ASCO21 theme of then ASCO president Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO—Equity: Every Patient. Every Day. Everywhere—and how it applies to patients all over the world, including countries with limited resources. This is particularly true in the case of Lebanon, which is suffering from a big political, economic, and financial crisis, and where we are seriously concerned that patients will become unable to get their state-of-the-art treatment. In spite of all difficulties, we continue to advance education and research to make sure our patients get the best possible treatments.
Dr. El Saghir is chair of Best of ASCO Lebanon 2021, head of the Hematology Oncology Division at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, and past chair of the ASCO International Affairs Committee.
Dr. Bitar is co-chair of the Best of ASCO Lebanon 2021 and president of the Lebanese Society of Medical Oncology.