Nov 20, 2023
On January 25-27, genitourinary (GU) cancer specialists from around the world will gather for the 20th year of the ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium, where they will engage with the latest high-impact science, multidisciplinary expertise, and evidence-based practices in GU cancer treatment, research, and care.
Whether you are participating in person or online, follow #GU24 on social media to keep up with the practice-changing presentations and join the robust discussions about innovations in GU cancer care. Visit the ASCO Daily News to read ASCO’s official news source from the symposium.
The GU Cancers Symposium first took place in 2005, building from and significantly expanding upon an annual event called the Prostate Cancer Symposium. The symposium’s longevity speaks to its value in the GU cancers community, with many attendees joining year after year.
In the reflections that follow, past symposium leaders and frequent attendees look back and share their memories as the meeting celebrates its 20th anniversary.
Reflections on 20 Years of GU Science and Collaboration
“I have not missed a single ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium since 2010. What draws me back more than anything is the chance to see all my friends and colleagues [from] whom I learn so much every year, and sit in these sessions with the latest-breaking, cutting-edge science in our field that has a direct and immediate impact for our patients. It is not impacting patients 5 or 10 years from now, but the moment that we get back to our own medical centers and see our next patients. It's those two things that always makes [the ASCO GU Cancers Symposium] such a highlight for me in any year.
“I'm absolutely ecstatic that I have the chance to chair this meeting along with an amazing committee. We're working hard to put together a phenomenal program. I'm confident that it will be really one of the best ASCO GU Cancers Symposiums that we've ever held.”
—Todd M. Morgan, MD, Michigan Medicine, 2024 ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium Chair
“In 2008 or so I came to the ASCO GU Cancers Symposium, and I've attended pretty much every year since. I have watched the meeting [become] one of the premier meetings on this planet for GU oncology. Last year, I was the program chair for the meeting—an incredible experience.
“I come every year for the cutting-edge science and the new data. But equally important, this is a global, truly multidisciplinary meeting that brings together specialists from all disciplines involved in the GU cancer field. It is an absolutely unique opportunity to catch up with your friends, to make new friends, to network, and to build cooperations to discuss research projects.”
—Christian Kollmannsberger, MD, FRCPC, Vancouver Cancer Centre, University of British Columbia, 2024 ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium Immediate Past Chair
“I started attending the ASCO GU Cancers Symposium at the first meeting that occurred in 2005. That was really a great meeting. I was a speaker and chaired a session. When I began attending, I was relatively senior in my career, but it has helped with my practice significantly. The sessions, the interactions, the posters, the educational programs, all these things are fantastic. What's very exciting right now is we're seeing literally practice-changing data from randomized large-scale trials being presented at ASCO GU. I think that's phenomenal.
“One of the major advantages of the symposium is the focus on the field of GU oncology across the spectrum of multidisciplinary practice. The other [advantage] is interacting with colleagues and meeting new colleagues. It's a great opportunity for trainees, fellows, and junior faculty to meet and interact with the leaders in the field and with one another.”
—Maha Hussain, MD, FACP, FASCO, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
“When I first heard that we were going to have disease-specific ASCO meetings, I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be a great opportunity for me.’ I went to the very first ASCO GU Cancers Symposium and I've been going ever since.
“One of my favorite memories was the 2019 symposium. I was invited to be the keynote speaker talking about immunotherapy for GU cancers; this was the first time that a keynote would combine all three big cancers: prostate, bladder, and kidney. We had audience interactive tools there, and it was very fun. I had the audience do a cloud and they came up with multiple different words they used to describe the potential impact for immunotherapy and cancer—it was very interesting to see how it turned out.
“I take time to attend the symposium every year because it is a great opportunity to network with people that are involved in the same field, to plan collaborations and grants, and to [connect] with colleagues. It is a fantastic meeting where virtually everybody who is anybody in the field comes. I love the symposium because I can meet my friends from all over the world. It also offers opportunities to hear the very latest and best in GU cancer research.”
—James L. Gulley, MD, PhD, FACP, National Cancer Institute
“I started attending the ASCO GU Cancers Symposium when it first started 20 years ago. I've been almost every year.
“The 2023 symposium [was quite memorable], because it was the first in-person meeting I attended after the COVID pandemic measures had settled down. For me, it was the first time coming back to a conference and mingling and talking to people. It was refreshing to be back and interacting with my colleagues.
“There are a lot of reasons why the symposium is a can't-miss meeting. Number one is the content. It presents late-breaking and practice-changing trials with excellent speakers and lots of time for discussion. It [also provides] the opportunity to network with a whole host of multidisciplinary researchers in the field [including] surgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologists, scientists, and industry. I find it to be a great opportunity to have it all in a concise manner, but also within a relatively intimate atmosphere.”
—Kim Nguyen Chi, MD, FRCPC, Vancouver Cancer Centre and Vancouver Prostate Centre, BC Cancer, University of British Columbia
“The ASCO GU Cancers Symposium has been a highlight of each year in terms of looking for new data and connecting with colleagues. Our field has just exploded with new data and new treatments. The feeling of seeing the audience, watching practice-changing data read out—it can't be replicated.
“I've been going to the symposium for most of my 15-year career. I make the trip every year because there is nothing like seeing people in person, and I don't want to ever take that for granted. One of the most valuable parts of the symposium is being able to connect with colleagues across disciplines, countries, and continents, and certainly across diseases. I learned so much from connecting with my colleagues, personally and professionally. I'm fortunate to truly count them among my friends. The folks that I've built collaborations and friendships with are one of the main reasons I love going to this meeting every year.”
—Elizabeth R. Plimack, MD, MS, Fox Chase Cancer Center
“I started attending ASCO GU almost 15 years ago. One of my favorite memories was my first oral presentation [for which] I had won a Merit Award. I was a fellow, I was pregnant with my son, and it was such a terrific experience to be able to participate as a speaker. It really paved my way into being part of ASCO and being part of the [symposium’s] planning committees, just from my participation in that oral session.
“Coming to ASCO GU is so much fun because I get to meet up with colleagues who are doing research in the same area or similar area of research that I am interested in, or even collaborators that I have not met yet. I love that it's multidisciplinary—not only do I get to meet up with my medical oncology colleagues, but I also get to meet up with my urology colleagues, and my radiation oncology colleagues. It is a terrific meeting.
“So much practice-changing research is presented at the symposium that clinicians can take back and apply to their day-to-day clinics. When you attend, you learn a lot.”
—Andrea B. Apolo, MD, National Cancer Institute
“One of my favorite memories from ASCO GU was the transformative time when we decided to move from a strategy of multiple keynotes to a single keynote speaker. I happened to be on the program committee that year. We thought long and hard about who was the right person to tie all that binds all the GU cancers together, and we chose Dr. James Gulley of the NCI to give us an update on what worked, what we knew, and where we still had opportunity to learn with regard to immunotherapy for all of the GU cancers. It was an incredible set of discussions that we were able to have as an entire GU community.
“For me, as the CEO of the American Cancer Society, the symposium is critically important. Given the frequency of GU cancers that occur every year in this country, it's a place I go to learn the latest advances in prevention, detection, and management of GU cancers.
“A critical memory that I have from the symposium, while in my previous position as director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health, was the impact that I saw on my GU team. Halfway through the meeting, we would assemble for an afternoon of recounting what we heard and how we thought that needed to change our concepts in clinical practice—that ability to, in real time, meet with my team, absorb the science, and decide collectively how we would translate that into clinical practice for my cancer center.”
—Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, CEO, American Cancer Society and ACS CAN
“My favorite memory [from ASCO GU] is when I gave the keynote address about 4 years ago. It was a big honor for me, and it was one of the biggest rooms I've ever spoken to. I was personally moved by how the topic, financial toxicity, really resonated with the audience. It made me feel good about the specialty and all the different people who are involved in GU oncology.
“You're going to see [presentations] there that are going to really affect your practice, and really give you something to take home to your patients. Next, it's the opportunity to network and see colleagues and friends. You'll learn a lot both in the formal setting and the informal setting, and everyone's going to be there, so you don't want to miss it.
“The symposium is where you're going to find out what's new. I'm a surgeon. I wonder if I'll be doing surgery in 20 years, the way we're advancing with medical management, and that's a good thing. And we're going to learn that at ASCO GU.”
—David F. Penson, MD, MPH, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
“I was one of the three founding chairs of the ASCO GU Cancers Symposium, and we founded it in the hope that it would become a truly multidisciplinary place. It has truly, in every way, fulfilled our expectations for this meeting. When we founded this meeting, we were trying to break out of the silos that we existed in the 1980s and 1990s. We were trying to encourage multidisciplinary and transcontinental cross talk, because everyone comes to this meeting with a different perspective. I think that's exactly what we succeeded in doing. What was originally a maverick way of thinking has become a mainstream way of thinking. You need other voices.
“Most of us live in our bubbles, the bubbles of our specialty, the bubbles of our hospital practices, the bubbles of the regions that we live in. Coming to the ASCO GU Cancers Symposium, you burst your bubble and you hear different voices. You realize that in Britain, they do it differently; in Japan, they do it very differently. Medical oncologists don't think about the disease the way you do as a surgeon. It really expands the mind. It really encourages us in this multidisciplinary participation. It's become very much a part of the way we practice in 2023.”
—Anthony Zietman, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School
“The first Prostate Cancer Symposium laid the groundwork, and it was my honor to chair its successor, which broadened our global impact through an impressive roster of international speakers. This event has blossomed into a leading international GU cancer conference, demonstrating remarkable annual growth. As we mark the 20th anniversary, we not only celebrate our joint dedication and teamwork but also the dynamic exchange of knowledge that spans generations. This landmark occasion is a celebration of unity and progress, where experienced researchers and innovative young minds come together to drive the field forward with their insights and enthusiasm.”
—Cora N. Sternberg, MD, FACP, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York-Presbyterian
“Some of my favorite memories from past symposia are networking and spending time with friends and colleagues, both new and old, and establishing new collaborations that lead to fruitful work.
“The ASCO GU Cancers Symposium is a can't-miss meeting because it brings the international GU community together. It's dynamic and interactive. It really does serve as the premier global event for all those who diagnose, treat, and study GU cancers. The symposium has highlighted novel cutting-edge scientific and clinical findings that have high impact and, in many cases, lead to practice-changing care. This is where the big phase III trials are now being presented. There's also a real focus on diversity, global perspectives, enhanced interactivity, networking, multidisciplinary, and collaborative and evidence-based care. The meeting has it all and has something for everyone.
“I make the trip to ASCO GU every year for a simple reason. It's called FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.”
—Jason A. Efstathiou, MD, DPhil, FASTRO, FACRO, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
“I'm a longtime GU medical oncologist and I began attending the ASCO GU Cancers Symposium as one of the founding chairs. My best memory was, in fact, that first year, in February 2005. In the middle of the meeting, I looked around and realized that there was a critical mass of GU oncologists and that there really was a community that could be brought together. Prior to that meeting, it wasn't necessarily clear that that was the case. It was really exciting to see how engaged people were, and it was very clear from that very first meeting that it was serving an important need.
“This is a can't-miss meeting for two big reasons. [First,] it's one of the few times that, as a community, we can get together and really be focused on this one area across all urologic malignancies—that doesn't really happen any other place in the world at any other time. Second, it's a time to see friends, acquaintances, and bring new people into the fold. It has become a critical venue for the release of new data and for discussing advances in the field.
“[The 20th anniversary] is a big year and it’s important to memorialize that in terms of us coming together as a community and working together. It's a great time for more established and senior investigators to come and excite the next generation. For the early-career investigators and trainees, I would say this is the place where you get to meet all the people that are the movers and the shakers, and [who] want to work together with you, collaboratively. It's an exciting environment to be in.”
—Eric J. Small, MD, FASCO, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco