The Lebanese Society of Medical Oncology organized its 13th annual Best Of ASCO® Meeting at the Phoenicia Hotel conference center in Beirut, Lebanon. The conference is licensed by ASCO and was attended by more than 350 physicians, pharmacists, and nurses who are involved in the care of patients with cancer. Attendees came from all over Lebanon as well as from Syria, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States. In addition to Lebanese faculty, Guest speakers included Dr. Etienne Brain from Paris, France; Dr. Ahmad Awada from Brussels, Belgium; Dr. Ghassan Abou-Alfa and Dr. Eileen O’Reilly from New York, NY, USA; Dr. Carlos Barrios from Rio de Janiero, Brazil; and Dr. Fadlo Khuri, President of the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
It was a great pleasure and rewarding for us to see that the attendees were listening to the original presentations very attentively and were very intensely involved in discussions, particularly when it came to practice-changing and Plenary Session abstracts, whether they had attended the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago or not. The happiest group of attendees were our oncology fellows and residents, whom we gave two days off to attend Best of ASCO Lebanon. They learned how clinical research is conducted, and how conclusions and recommendations are made and discussed.
Attendees practicing in both low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries were all concerned with discussions related to the application of expensive diagnostics and new targeted and immunotherapies. Balancing costs and reducing disparities are high priorities. Discussions were very stimulating and provocative:
- When discussing the TailorX study, several oncologists from Europe said Oncotype DX and other genomic profiling tests are not widely covered, that they still are very selective in ordering them, and that they rely on expert pathologists to determine grading and adjuvant chemotherapy decisions. Most oncologists from the Middle Eastern limited-resource countries have limited access to the tests. Genomic profiling has become relatively widely available in Lebanon but only partially covered by insurance for some patients. Oncotype DX is an important test, particularly for oncologists who have a low threshold to prescribe adjuvant chemotherapy because it would save 50% of early breast cancer patients from being given adjuvant chemotherapy. In addition to patients with low recurrence scores, now we know that the majority of patients with intermediate scores have excellent survival rates with adjuvant hormonal therapy alone.
- There was widespread agreement among discussants and participants on avoiding nephrectomy for patients with metastatic renal cancer, a practice that is very common among urologists up until now.
- As for immunotherapy for lung cancer, discussants and attendees shared enthusiasm but warned of high costs and financial toxicities. We also brought up the issue of tobacco control, which remains a high priority not only in low- and middle-income countries but also for young generations in Europe and America as well.
Best of ASCO Lebanon also served as a nice forum for networking. Physicians from various countries met and agreed on collaboration for research on many great topics discussed at the 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting and Best of ASCO Lebanon.
The ASCO Annual Meeting and Best of ASCO Scientific Program Committees, ASCO staff, and international Best of ASCO organizers do wonderful jobs and deserve great recognition. Best of ASCO is for everyone who takes care of patients with cancer, anywhere in the world. Best of ASCO is a great post-ASCO meeting and should be organized in many more cities and countries because of the extraordinary benefits and opportunities for dissemination of oncology knowledge and research that it offers to physicians and patients with cancer worldwide.