2021 ASCO Annual Meeting Preview: Connect With One of the Largest, Most Diverse Audiences in Oncology

May 05, 2021

By Melanie Farrell, ASCO Communications
The ASCO Annual Meeting provides access to timely, breakthrough research and education to enhance patient care and improve survivorship and outcomes. As the world’s largest multidisciplinary oncology forum, there is no better opportunity to discuss state-of-the-art treatment modalities, new therapies, and ongoing controversies in cancer care. 
Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting will be a fully online experience, with live broadcast sessions and networking opportunities taking place over June 4-8. Register and find the latest program information.
The theme for this year’s meeting, selected by 2020-2021 ASCO president Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO, asks attendees to identify ways to ensure that all patients can access and benefit from the latest cancer advances and high-quality cancer care. “Equity: Every Patient. Every Day. Everywhere” highlights the importance for oncology professionals to use this moment of cancer progress to make certain that health equity in cancer care becomes a reality for all patients. 
“Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has re-illuminated pervasive and unjust health inequities that exist all over the globe. Whether barriers result from our geography, race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and gender identity, health insurance, culture, or trust—or all of these—we have a responsibility to meet them head on,” Dr. Pierce said. 
Attendees will see the theme reflected in sessions throughout the meeting, and during Dr. Pierce’s Presidential Address at the Opening Session.
“Health equity is at the very heart of what ASCO does. To do right by the patients we serve, let us use the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting as our opportunity to confront and address the complex forces and systems that have created disparities in disease prevention, treatment, and research participation,” Dr. Pierce said. 
While we long for the next time we can gather in person with thousands of our friends and colleagues in the oncology community, ASCO is honored that so many oncology professionals will be united for the 2021 Annual Meeting in an online format. Read on for highlights of the can’t-miss events, tips for connecting with colleagues, and new features for 2021 in order to personalize your meeting experience and make the most of every session you attend.


Program information in this story is current as of March 30, 2021.
As an online-only experience, the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting will have two ways to engage with the meeting’s content:
  • Scheduled broadcasts: These sessions are first available on June 4-8 at the time specified in the program, allowing you to watch and simultaneously chat with other meeting attendees, and participate in live Q&A with the speakers.
  • On-demand videos: These sessions will be available anytime for you to watch at your convenience beginning on Friday, June 4, at 9 AM (ET).
View the most current calendar of scheduled broadcast sessions, which will include Opening Session, Plenary Session, ASCO Voices, Case-Based Panel Sessions, ASCO Book Club, Special Clinical Science Symposia, 19 Oral Abstract Sessions, and more. On-demand sessions will include eight inspiring lectures from recipients of 2021 ASCO Special Awards. 
This year, 5,410 abstracts were submitted for consideration by the Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee. Approximately 2,500 abstracts were selected for presentation in Oral Abstract Sessions, Clinical Science Symposia, and Poster Sessions, plus more than 2,400 for online publication.
“Consistent with Dr. Pierce’s theme, we were particularly interested in receiving abstracts that examined and addressed disparities in all aspects of cancer care and research, including diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship,” said Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee chair N. Lynn Henry, MD, PhD, FACP, FASCO. “We are planning a Scientific Program for ASCO 2021 that will highlight novel findings that will improve the lives of every patient with cancer, every day, everywhere.”
Opening Session will include three Guest Speaker Addresses and the Presidential Address. Dr. Pierce will deliver the Presidential Address on her theme and its message of ensuring that all patients have access to the highest quality, equitable cancer care. (Following the presentation, the full transcript and video of the Presidential Address will be available online).
ASCO is delighted to welcome Julio Frenk, MD, PhD, MPH, as one of the meeting’s guest speakers. A fourth-generation physician whose paternal grandparents fled Germany in the early 1930s to build a new life in Mexico, Dr. Frenk catalyzed his deep gratitude for the kindness of strangers into a lifelong mission to improve the health, education, and well-being of people around the world. Dr. Frenk is president of the University of Miami, former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and served as Minister of Health of Mexico from 2000-2006.

Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH, will also be joining Opening Session as a guest speaker. Dr. Boyd is a pediatrician, public health advocate, and scholar who writes and teaches on the relationship between structural racism, inequity, and health. She has a particular focus on the child and public health impacts of harmful policing practices and policies. Dr. Boyd serves as the chief medical officer of San Diego 211 and the director of equity and justice for The California Children’s Trust.

Opening Session participants will also hear from Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD. Dr. Sharpless is the 15th director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Prior to his appointment, Dr. Sharpless served as the director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina (UNC), a position he held since 2014. Dr. Sharpless will reflect on the progress in cancer care in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act.

The Plenary Session showcases abstract presentations of the top practice-changing science, with commentary from expert discussants. This is the must-see session of the meeting, highlighting the most clinically relevant science that will change current cancer care. Plan to join the live Plenary Session presentation on Sunday, June 6, at 1 PM ET and participate in Q&A with the speakers and discussants.
A perennially popular session offering in the Scientific Program, Clinical Science Symposia are designed to address a cross-cutting theme or hot topic in oncology while integrating abstracts with expert discussion. The following Special Clinical Science Symposia have been planned this year by Scientific Program Committee leadership:
  • Novel Initiatives to Address Disparities in Cancer
  • Artificial Intelligence: Optimizing Cancer Care Using Imaging and Pathology
  • Virally Induced Cancers: Epidemiology and Biomarker-Guided Care

In addition, 10 Clinical Science Symposia have been planned in specific disease sites. View the most up-to-date date program information for 2021 Clinical Science Symposia as the meeting approaches.

The Annual Meeting Education Program offers a robust portfolio of sessions that address the concerns and priorities of everyone in the cancer care space. These sessions are designed to teach and engage participants across disciplines, as well as impart practical, take-home knowledge that can be applied to any cancer care setting. 
When curating the 2021 Education Program, the Annual Meeting Education Committee used the meeting’s theme to address the many factors that lead to disparities in cancer care and how the oncology community is working together to ensure that all patients receive the highest quality of care.
“That we have been able to put together a stellar program for the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting is a testament to our individual and collective resilience in the face of the raging pandemic. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all societies around the world, cancer has been and remains a global problem,” said Annual Meeting Education Committee chair Taofeek K. Owonikoko, MD, PhD. “The Education Program was designed by our volunteer members to highlight and address the multifaceted challenges that we face as patients, caregivers, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other care delivery team professionals, and, indeed, as researchers seeking to advance our understanding and treatment of cancer.” 
Sessions of particular interest this year include:
  • FDA Approvals and Their Incorporation Into Clinical Practice
  • Equality in Care for All Women: Addressing Disparities in Gynecologic Malignancies
  • So Your Patient With Kidney or Bladder Cancer Responded to Immunotherapy: What’s Next?
  • Checkpoint Inhibitor–Based Therapies: New Immuno-Oncology Targets and Resistance Mechanisms
  • How to Treat High-Risk Myeloma at Diagnosis and Relapse
  • Expanding the Druggable Universe
  • Social Determinants, Not Biology: Time to Reappraise Genetics-Based Theories of Racial/Ethnic Cancer Outcome Disparities
  • Current Issues With CAR T-Cells for Hematologic Malignancies
  • A Case-Based Approach to Understanding Complex Genetic Information in an Evolving Landscape
  • Can You Hear Me Now: Barriers and Facilitators to Telemedicine
Six Case-Based Panel Sessions will feature expert faculty discussing timely and challenging real-world clinical scenarios. The scheduled broadcast of these sessions will be highly interactive, offering both Q&A and participant polling:
  • Team Players: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Treatment of Oligometastatic Breast Cancer
  • Oligometastases in Prostate Cancer: How to Rationally Incorporate Metastasis-Directed Therapy Into Your Practice
  • Navigating the Maze of Systemic Therapies for Metastatic Hepatocellular Carcinoma
  • Locally Advanced Rectal Cancer: So Many Options, What to Do?
  • Making Heads or Tails Out of Checkpoint Inhibitor Combination Therapy for First-Line Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
  • BRAF, MET, H-RAS, PD-1, and Other Targets You Do Not Want to Miss in Head and Neck Cancers
Now in its fourth year, the ASCO Voices session is an opportunity to explore different perspectives in oncology, medicine, and the world. The following speakers were selected to share their passions, stories, and perspectives—without notes or slides:
  • “Check Your Assumptions at the Door” by Jacqueline D. Smith
  • “Surviving vs. Thriving: The Cost of Comprehensive Cancer Care” by Christian Miller
  • “My White Coat Doesn’t Fit” by Narjust Duma, MD
  • “Aiming for Equity in Precision Medicine” by Hala Borno, MD
  • “Becoming Equalizers” by Aakash Desai, MBBS, MPH
At the Annual Meeting, ASCO partners with like-minded organizations to host joint sessions on pertinent topics in oncology. Two joint sessions will be offered this year:
  • ASCO/European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Joint Session: Pancreatic Cancer—Challenges and Future Directions
  • ASCO/American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Joint Session: HER-2/Neu Alterations—Using Biology to Drive Therapeutic Options in Cancers of the Breast, Gut, and Beyond
ASCO Book Club brings together meeting attendees to explore the human side of medicine. This year’s session will feature Mary Elizabeth Williams, a cancer survivor and patient advocate, and her book, A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles: A True Story of Love, Science, and Cancer. The event will be moderated by Ann H. Partridge, MD, MPH, FASCO, and will feature Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, FASCO, the managing immunologist for Ms. Williams’ advanced cancer. Everyone is welcome to attend (even if you haven’t read the book) as Ms. Williams shares her experience with metastatic melanoma, and the groundbreaking immunotherapy clinical trial that saved her life. 


ASCO is committed to presenting a robust educational program in the area of global health, and interested participants should review the panels and sessions in the Global Health Track:
  • Treatment Conundrums in the Global Setting: The Critical Contribution of Molecular Testing to Cost-Effective Targeted Therapies
  • Globalizing Cancer Care: Opportunities and Challenges
  • Improving Oncology-Pathology Collaboration in Resource-Limited Settings: An ASCO/CAP Initiative in Honduras as a Model for Other Countries
  • Low Cost, High Value: Key Supportive Care Skills to Improve the Lives of Patients With Cancer Across the Globe
Although the Annual Meeting will once again be held online, the essence of an in-person meeting with cutting-edge research, collegiality, and intellectual rigor will remain the same. The online meeting will remove any travel barriers, drawing in participants from across the oncology community and around the world.
An online meeting experience “allow[s] the science to get to places where it wouldn't,” said Sheheryar K. Kabraji, BM Bch,  a participant in the 2020 ASCO Annual Meeting, which also took place online. “That's the sort of thing that I think is really amazing about virtual meetings, the power to bring people who would never otherwise have the opportunity to get there.” 
ASCO is excited to feature a new and improved online meeting platform with interactive features. These updates will allow you to participate in live Q&A opportunities and customize your meeting experience to your interests. These features include: 
  • New Program Guide: Serves as the attendee navigational tool for the meeting.
  • Enhanced Session Viewing Interaction: Live and on-demand note taking, downloadable abstracts and slides for all presentations in a single session, and live tracking of presenter details during a session.
  • Meeting Dashboard: Track and organize saved sessions for later reference.
  • Enhanced Posters: Authors can record audio/video presentations to accompany their posters. 
  • Engage in Panels: Participate in live Case-Based Panel Sessions by submitting questions and take part in live polling. 
  • Live Q&A: Participate in live Q&A with speakers and presenters in every scheduled broadcast session. Vote up the questions you want to hear answered. 
  • Find a Colleague: Connect and collaborate with oncology professionals from around the world using the Find a Colleague directory, available before, during, and after the meeting.  
  • Exhibits: Visit the online exhibits to connect with industry leaders, learn about the latest drug developments, and discover advanced technology. 

More Meeting Features and Career Development 

The ASCO Annual Meeting provides career development opportunities for all levels of oncology—take your career to the next level and build your professional legacy.  
  • Continuing Education: Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits for physicians, ANCC credit for nurses, and ACPE credit for pharmacists, and Maintenance of Certification (MOC) points from the ABIM, ABP, and ABR.
  • Career Center: View the ASCO Career Center and browse open positions by location, category, or position title or search by keyword.
Follow #ASCO21 on Social Media
Connect with ASCO on social media to keep up with the latest information from the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting. You don’t want to miss the lively and substantive conversation—ASCO20 Virtual generated the highest social media engagement of any ASCO Annual Meeting to date: 
  • ASCO20 Virtual Scientific Program: 8,887 Twitter users sent 45,061 tweets using the #ASCO20 hashtag, with approximately 627 tweets an hour. 
  • ASCO20 Virtual Education Program: 1,619 Twitter users sent 8,554 tweets using the #ASCO20 hashtag, with approximately 119 tweets an hour.

Follow along on Twitter and Instagram and share your own meeting experience using the hashtag #ASCO21. You can also follow ASCO’s Featured Voices, ASCO volunteers who have committed to leading a robust conversation throughout the meeting on Twitter and Instagram. The list of Featured Voices will be announced later this month.

ASCO Daily News: Your Daily Conference Reporter 
Read ASCO Daily News for up-to-the-minute coverage of ASCO Annual Meeting scientific and educational sessions, expert commentary on clinical issues from trusted ASCO members, updates on ASCO guidelines, clinical takeaways from key sessions, and other Society and Association news. ASCO Daily News content is available online all year. 
ASCO members and meeting participants will receive two special issues by mail in the weeks following the meeting: ASCO Daily News: ASCO Annual Meeting Wrap Up and ASCO Daily News: ASCO Annual Meeting Analysis, highlighting the most practice-changing science presented, with commentary from ASCO Daily News Editorial Board members on its clinical significance. 
You can also subscribe to the ASCO Daily News Podcast to listen to oncologists discussing the latest research and therapies in their areas of expertise.
ASCO Educational Book
Articles in the ASCO Educational Book are authored by the ASCO Annual Meeting Education Program faculty and other invited experts. Topics cover the most compelling research and newest standards of care in the field, with the goal of improving patient care and value. 
Each year, the best minds in oncology come together to author the peer-reviewed and MEDLINE-indexed ASCO Educational Book. Preview education session content and catch up on what you missed
Abstracts will be released on May 19, 2021, at 5 PM ET. 
Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, is proud to support the 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting. Find out how you can support innovative research for every cancer, every patient, everywhere

Are You Ready for #ASCO21? 

The 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting is just a few weeks away, but you still have time to prepare.
May 2021: 1 month out
Week of May 31: 1 week out
June 4 through June 8: 
  • Read ASCO Daily News for session coverage and more.
  • Claim Continuing Education credits and rate sessions. 
  • Engage in Live Q&A with faculty during sessions.
  • Participate in the #ASCOiSpy scavenger hunt on Twitter.
  • Explore the online Exhibits and participate in an Industry Expert Theater. 
  • New this year! Search the Pharmaceutical Pipelines and Clinical Trials Directories for current information on pharmaceuticals in development and ongoing clinical trials.
  • Refresh your brain and stretch your muscles with a “Coffee Break” video, found on the Exhibits site.
After the Annual Meeting:
  • Watch on-demand videos of sessions you missed or want to review again.
  • Share what you learned with your colleagues and patients. 
  • Access Meeting Videos and Slides, an online library of abstracts, slides, posters, and recorded presentations from most sessions. Use them to make your own presentations, review sessions you enjoyed, or catch up on sessions you missed. Access is included in your meeting registration.
  • Submit your Meeting Feedback Form. Tell us how we can make the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting even more valuable for you.
  • Exhibits are open until July 6: Go back and make contact with those you missed during the meeting days.
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