2018 ASCO Annual Meeting: Delivering Discoveries, Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine

Apr 24, 2018

By Carson Rolleri, ASCO Communications

Every year, the ASCO Annual Meeting attracts the best and brightest in oncology to McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, IL, where more than 39,000 attendees from around the world gather to network and hear the latest innovations in cancer care. There is no better forum to learn about and discuss the important issues and ongoing controversies in cancer care across a variety of disease sites, treatment approaches, and disciplines.  

The theme for this year’s meeting, selected by 2017-2018 ASCO President Bruce E. Johnson, MD, FASCO, sets an exciting tone for the presentation of advances in the field of cancer care. “Delivering Discoveries: Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine” highlights the importance of making precision medicine accessible to every patient with cancer.

“Precision medicine is transforming cancer care in profound ways and is a focus of this year’s meeting,” said Dr. Johnson. “I firmly believe that the number of patients who benefit from precision medicine will continue to increase as treatments become more effective.”

Don’t get overwhelmed by the extraordinary size and scope of the Annual Meeting. In this article, we highlight the meeting’s can’t-miss events, tips for connecting with colleagues, and new features for 2018.

“The Annual Meeting is one of a kind,” said David R. Spigel, MD, 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting Education Committee chair. “There is something for everyone who is dedicated to improving the lives of people facing cancer. It can be a bit overwhelming because there is so much outstanding content to choose from. My best advice is to take your time, choose what interests you most each day, and go enjoy, participate, and learn—and bring that excitement back to your community and share it with others.”

2018 Scientific Program

This year, 6,450 abstracts were submitted for consideration by the Scientific Program Committee. The committee, which is composed of 180 members across 24 tracks, puts these abstracts through an intensive review process and curates them carefully into thematic scientific sessions, meant to inform and educate attendees on the latest advances in cancer care. This year, approximately 2,515 abstracts were selected for presentation in Oral Abstract Sessions, Clinical Science Symposia, and Posters, plus more than 3,350 for online publication.

“The scientific program promises to highlight the emerging role of precision medicine, not only in research to conquer cancer but in our day-to-day care of patients,” said Ann H. Partridge, MD, MPH, FASCO, 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee chair. “Discovering new ways to treat different cancers, and how to get the best treatments to all patients who might benefit from them, is critical.”

Plenary Session

The Plenary Session showcases abstract presentations of the top practice-changing science, with commentary from expert discussants, preceded by the Science of Oncology Award and Lecture.

The Plenary Session will be presented in the North Building, Hall B1, on Sunday, June 3, from 1 PM to 4 PM. Attendees can also watch the session via live simulcast in the East Building, Hall D1, and on ASCO Live TVs located throughout McCormick Place.

Topics discussed during this year’s Plenary Session will include adjuvant therapy in breast cancer, metastatic renal cell carcinoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and immuno-oncology.

Clinical Science Symposia

Another standout in the Scientific Program are the Clinical Science Symposia, which are designed to address a cross-cutting theme or hot topic in oncology while integrating abstracts from multiple tracks. Led by experts in the field, these symposia are composed of a presentation and discussion of three to four relevant abstracts. The following Clinical Science Symposia are can’t-miss sessions for this year’s Annual Meeting:

  • “Tumor Genomics: Finding the Target, Hitting the Target” will be held Saturday, June 2, from 8 AM to 9:30 AM, and chaired by Suzanne George, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
  • “Compelling Combinations: Raising the Bar With Immunotherapy” will be held Sunday, June 3, from 9:45 AM to 11:15 AM, and chaired by David C. Smith, MD, of the University of Michigan.
  • “The Arrival of Biosimilars” will be held Monday, June 4, from 9:45 AM to 11:15 AM, and chaired by Colin Weekes, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Unique Educational Experiences

The ASCO Annual Meeting offers a variety of session types designed to teach, engage, and bring the field together. In addition to presenting the latest research in cancer care, the Annual Meeting will also offer these one-of-a-kind sessions and workshops. (Note: Session dates and times are subject to change; view the most up-to-date program information as the meeting approaches.)

Opening Session

On Saturday, June 2, in Hall B1, ASCO will kick off the meeting with its Opening Session with Fellows of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Guest Speaker’s Address, Presidential Address, ASCO Humanitarian Award, and David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award and Lecture. In the opening session, Dr. Johnson will deliver the presidential address on his theme and its message: how precision medicine is transforming cancer care. (Following the presentation, the full transcript and video of the address will be available on ASCOconnection.org.)

The Opening Session will feature special lectures from two top leaders in cancer care in the United States: National Cancer Institute director Norman E. Sharpless, MD, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. Attendees will also hear from David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award recipient Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, whose research interests include mechanisms of tumors spreading and how radiation therapy and immunotherapy improve cancer treatment.

Educational Sessions

In putting together the educational sessions for this year’s Annual Meeting, the Education Committee was guided by the presidential theme and established its own theme, “Broadening Our View: Navigating Results and Breakthroughs in Cancer Care.” With this theme in mind, the educational sessions at the meeting were developed to improve understanding and application of research results, address what both providers and patients need most from precision medicine, highlight how care decisions are approached, and educate attendees so that they can help their patients.

“Keeping pace with advances across oncology is harder than ever. The entire education program was designed to help address this primary challenge,” said Dr. Spigel. “This year’s program is focused on the issues we face as a community, the data we have, and the next questions to solve.”

Relating back to the Annual Meeting’s overall theme, there will be three educational sessions in particular that highlight precision medicine:

  • “The Informatics of Precision Cancer Medicine”
  • “Incorporating Genomics into the Care of Patients with Advanced Breast Cancer”
  • “Precision Medicine for a Single Patient: What Does It Really Mean and How Do We Do It?”

ASCO Voices

Wanting to share and explore different perspectives of oncology, medicine, and the world, ASCO will introduce a new kind of
presentation, ASCO Voices, to its programming this year. The five speakers were selected among hundreds of applicants to deliver a short presentation to share their stories—without notes or slides.

“One of the sessions I’m most excited for this year is ASCO Voices,” said Dr. Partridge. “This program is going to be interesting and engaging for the oncology community. There were so many wonderful auditions, and the speakers selected will really put together something novel and different from anything we’ve ever seen at the Annual Meeting.”

ASCO Voices will be presented in the Arie Crown Theater on Friday, June 1, from 12 PM to 1 PM.

ASCO Book Club

ASCO Book Club brings together meeting attendees to discuss the human side of medicine. Now in its fifth year, this year’s session will feature Dr. Damon Tweedy, The New York Times bestselling author of Black Man in a White Coat. Everyone is welcome to attend (even if you haven’t read the book) as Dr. Tweedy discusses race and bias in medicine, health issues in black communities, and his personal life journey. The session will be held on Saturday, June 2, from 4:45 PM to 6 PM. Books will be available for purchase onsite, and Dr. Tweedy will be signing copies after the session.

Covering Cancer: Perspectives from the Media

New this year, ASCO is convening health reporters from top media outlets—the Associated Press, Forbes, NBC, STAT, and Kaiser Health News—to discuss their experiences covering cancer science, policy, and patient care. The panel, moderated by ASCO Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FSCT, FASCO, will offer insights into how the media determine the news value of cancer research and how the evolving media landscape has changed the way cancer is covered in the news. The session will also include comments from Dr. Johnson and ASCO CEO Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, FASCO. The session will be held in the Arie Crown Theater on Saturday, June 2, at 1:15 PM.

ASCO Town Hall: Utilization Management in Oncology

During this new event, moderator and session chair John V. Cox, DO, FASCO, will guide speakers through a conversation that includes the vision of the American Medical Association (AMA), pathways and MACRA, pharmacy benefit managers, and what to expect from future legislation. Speakers include AMA president-elect Barbara McAneny, MD, FASCO, MACP (the first oncologist elected to lead the nation’s largest physician organization), Robin Zon, MD, FACP, FASCO, Melissa S. Dillmon, MD, and Blase N. Polite, MD, MPA, FASCO. The Town Hall session will be held on Saturday, June 2, from 1:15 PM to 2:30 PM.

Cultivating Primary Resilience: Burnout Prevention on a Larger Scale?

Burnout is not a new concern for oncology professionals. In fact, according to a 2014 ASCO-sponsored study of burnout and career satisfaction among U.S. oncologists, 44.7% of surveyed oncologists reported feeling symptoms of burnout (Shanafelt TD, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32:678-86). To emphasize the importance of taking steps to prevent burnout and maintain wellness, ASCO has dedicated a session at Annual Meeting to help oncologists work through these feelings and build their resiliency skills. “Cultivating Primary Resilience: Burnout Prevention on a Larger Scale?” will be led by Susana Banerjee, PhD, MA, MBBS, MRCP, on Monday, June 4, at 3 PM.

Friday Afternoon Workshops

If you’re looking to get a leg up on your education at the Annual Meeting, Friday’s workshops are a great starting point. The following workshops are being offered this year; no ticket is required but seating is limited, so plan to arrive a little early:

  • Risk Communication Workshop
  • Genomics for Oncologists 101: An Interactive Workshop
  • Developing a Survivorship Clinic Workshop
  • Grant Writing Workshop

Pre-Annual Meeting Educational Opportunities

Looking for a way to really maximize your educational experience at Annual Meeting? Prior to the official start of Annual Meeting, ASCO will host Pre-Annual Meeting Seminars and a Pre-Annual Meeting Case-Based Course, which attendees can register for in addition to their Annual Meeting registration. Both educational offerings have been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.

The Pre-Annual Meeting Seminars offer in-depth and extended educational opportunities for interested meeting attendees. They will be held onsite at McCormick Place from 1 PM to 5 PM on Thursday, May 31, and from 7:30 AM to 11 AM on Friday, June 1. Seminar registration includes a boxed lunch on Thursday and a continental breakfast on Friday. Three seminars are being offered this year:

  • New Drugs in Oncology focuses on the theoretical and practical aspects of both recently and soon-to-be approved drugs. Topics covered include mechanisms of action, administration, toxicity and side-effect management, and use in the clinic. This seminar is approved for physician and pharmacist credits.
  • The Economics of Cancer Care includes a discussion of treatment costs, managing therapeutic innovation, and reimbursement coverage, along with a look at clinical trial costs and overall treatment spending. This seminar is approved for physician credits.
  • Cancer Immunotherapy Today: Maximizing Patient Outcomes (co-sponsored with the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer) enables the entire medical team to effectively offer their patients additional treatment options through immunotherapy. This seminar is approved for physician, nursing, and pharmacist credits.

The Pre-Annual Meeting Case-Based Course offers an interactive format focused on case-based learning. It will be held onsite at McCormick Place from 7:30 AM to 11 AM on Friday, June 1. Registration includes a continental breakfast. One course is being offered this year:

  • Genetics and Genomics for the Practicing Clinician focuses on cancer genomics and genetics specifically for the clinician using case-based discussion with renowned experts. It will cover both tumor and inherited genetic variation, as well as explain the variety of tests available to the clinician and implications on management and screening. This course is approved for physician and nursing credits.

Making Connections

When the brightest minds in oncology are all under one roof, there are unprecedented opportunities to network. Make new professional connections at some of the Annual Meeting’s many networking events.

Women’s Networking Center

The Women’s Networking Center is a place to gather, discuss, and attend informal interactive panel discussions touching on the issues that affect women in oncology. The ASCO Professional Development Committee has developed programming that offers something for every woman, regardless of work setting, track, or years of experience. Interested attendees can also reserve time for one-on-one mentoring conversations in the center before the meeting.

Trainee & Early-Career Oncologist Member Lounge

Designed for medical students, residents, fellows, early-career oncologists, and oncology training program directors, this lounge provides attendees with an opportunity to receive career advice and network. Attendees can meet with and learn from experienced, notable ASCO members through career development and science discussions, small-group Poster Walks, and mock job interviews.

Happy Hour on the Terrace

After a full day indoors, Happy Hour on D2 Terrace is a great place to unwind, with a landscaped deck and a sweeping view of Lake Michigan. Stop by to recount sessions with colleagues and meet other attendees looking for a break outdoors. Beverages will be available for purchase from 4 PM to 6 PM on Friday, June 1, through Monday, June 4.

Lakeside Lounge

For another stunning view of Lake Michigan, the Lakeside Lounge in the East Building in front of Halls D1 and D2 offers space to unwind or meet with colleagues between sessions. Here, attendees can charge devices, eat, listen to a Conquer Cancer StoryCorps recording, watch ASCO Live TV, and do some shopping at a pop-up shop.

Final Tips


Abstracts will be released on May 16, 2018, at 5:00 PM EST on ASCO's Meeting Library.

Interact, powered by SYNC

New to the Annual Meeting after a successful debut at the thematic symposia, ASCO will be offering Interact, powered by SYNC, in all sessions. This platform allows attendees to view speaker slides on their personal devices in real time, take notes on slides during sessions, and pose questions to session faculty. After a session, Interact users will receive an email with a link to a PDF containing all the slides and their notes. Attendees can access Interact using the iPlanner on both their mobile device and laptop.

Social Media

Connect with @ASCO on Twitter and use #ASCO18 to keep up with the latest information during the Annual Meeting. You can also follow ASCO’s Featured Voices, volunteers who have committed to leading a robust social media conversation throughout the Annual Meeting. The list of Featured Voices will be announced in mid-May.

Getting Around Chicago

To help ease the commute to McCormick Place, ASCO provides free shuttle service to and from all of its official hotels. Chicago also has a variety of transportation options, including taxis, Metra, CTA (“L” train), Divvy Bikes, and app-based rideshares. Review the full list of transportation options in the Insider’s Guide on am.asco.org.

Nursing Mothers’ Rooms

Inside Room N227a (North Building, Level 2), eight private rooms are available for use by nursing mothers. The rooms are open for use from Thursday, May 31, through Tuesday, June 5. Each room will be equipped with a chair, table, power outlet, and refrigerator.

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