Isn’t it great to organize a Best of ASCO (BOA) meeting for 17 consecutive years?! The American University of Beirut Medical Center, in collaboration with the Lebanese Society of Medical Oncology (LSMO), Arab Medical Association Against Cancer (AMAAC), and Emirates Oncology Society (EOS), organized the 17th annual BOA Lebanon 4 weeks after the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago.
During my first term on ASCO’s International Affairs Committee in 2002-2005, ASCO decided to start offering licensed BOA meetings outside the United States. Lebanon, Japan, and Mexico were the first three countries to organize a local BOA. Licensing by ASCO provides a great stimulus for people to organize, participate as faculty, and attend. The selection of abstracts by ASCO eliminates the introduction of bias in abstract selections.
The ASCO Annual Meeting has become so large that it is impossible for anyone to attend all the sessions they might wish. Similar to the Highlights of the Day Sessions during the Annual Meeting in Chicago, which offer an overview of the most significant presentations, BOA meetings allow physicians to attend and learn about major advances in all fields of oncology. They also offer physicians who stayed home from the ASCO Annual Meeting to cover their colleagues and see patients an opportunity to hear the original presentations exactly as they were presented at ASCO. Early-career oncologists and fellows-in-training get to learn how advances in oncology are made, including the background of research issues, unmet needs, trial designs, methods used, results, author conclusions, and discussant views putting new findings in perspective.
We have a tradition at BOA Lebanon of including most of ASCO’s selected abstracts. We assign a speaker for every abstract and hold a discussion at the end of each session. This year we had nine speakers from the United States, six from the United Arab Emirates, three from France, two from Egypt, two from Jordan, two from Saudi Arabia, one from Belgium, and 26 from Lebanon. It adds a great value when we get ASCO meeting speakers themselves to present and discuss their own abstracts: Dr. Etienne Brain (Institut Curie, France) presented the ASTER 70s trial highlighting the importance of including older patients in clinical trials and Dr. Jennifer Bellon (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute [DFCI], U.S.) discussed the LUMINA trial omitting radiation therapy for patients with low-grade T1 N0 breast cancer. We were also delighted to have our own Beirut graduates Dr. Hussein Tawbi (MD Anderson Cancer Center, U.S.) discuss immunotherapy in melanoma, Dr. Imane El Dika (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center [MSKCC], U.S.) discuss immunotherapy in locally advanced rectal cancer, Dr. Toni Choueiri (DFCI, U.S.) discuss renal cancers, and Dr. Ghassan Abou-Alfa (MSKCC, U.S.) discuss advances in colorectal cancer. Dr. Mohamad Mohty (Sorbonne, France), Dr. Ahmad Awada (Institut Jules Bordet, Belgium) Dr. Eileen O’Reilly (MSKCC, U.S.), Dr. Philip Philip (Henry Ford Cancer Institute, U.S.), and colleagues from neighboring Arab countries and Lebanon, including AUB president Dr. Fadlo Khuri, gave superb presentations and discussions. We had a total of 309 attendees, 251 on the attendee electronic platform and 58 on the speakers and chairs platform. It may worth noting that because registration was free, 456 people registered online. Out of the 251 actual meeting attendees, 119 were from Lebanon, 44 from Saudi Arabia, 28 from Iraq, 12 from Syria, 10 from the United Arab Emirates, and the rest from Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Qatar, the United States, Bahrain, France, Greece, Ireland, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom.
We expressed sadness for the fact that many of the targeted and immunotherapies that were the highlights of the ASCO22 Plenary Session are not available nor accessible to patients outside high-income countries, and that even high-income countries have disparities and suffer from the economic burden and high costs of drugs. Lobbying for price reductions, discounts, and negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to make drugs accessible, while keeping incentives for profit and supporting cancer research, were discussed.
I have been personally honored to chair or co-chair BOA Lebanon for the last 17 years; the meeting has persisted in times of peace, troubles, and Covid. This year, our small planning committee included myself, Dr. Arafat Tfayli, Dr. Hiba Moukadem, LSMO president Dr. Roger Khater, and AMAAC secretary general Dr. Sami Khatib. We persevered and took BOA to Cairo, Egypt, in times of troubles, and virtually in times of pandemic. In 2022, we planned a hybrid meeting but with the resurgence of Covid and limited sponsorships from pharmaceutical companies (related to the economic crisis in Lebanon) we had to resort to a virtual meeting. Advances in technology and growing expertise in the virtual world has confirmed that online virtual participation and attendance is certainly here to stay. I am very thankful to Infomed International for Events for their great support in handling the logistics of the online platform, including recording talks, responding to speakers and attendees, running the virtual show, and especially responding to my nonstop perfectionist requests!