ASCO: What to expect at the annual meeting

What is the ASCO annual meeting?

If you’re an Oncologist or part of your job relates to oncology, you likely know the annual ASCO event. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) holds a meeting annually for oncology professionals, industry representatives, cancer researchers and patient advocates to share latest clinical and scientific advances in oncology treatments. The gathering of medical professionals for this purpose began as far back as 1965 with its first meeting of 60 doctors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since its inception, the attendance at ASCO annual meetings have increased and today it stands as one of the largest gatherings of oncology professionals globally. According to a poll, 76% of Sermo physicians indicated they would attend the ASCO conference 2022 either in person, or virtually.

Each year, ASCO conferences have a theme and the week-long conference will deliver scientific presentations on promising therapeutics and results of clinical studies to a wide audience.  Other aspects of oncology including cancer-focused quality improvement methods, diagnosis, surveillance, cancer equity and health policy are also discussed. The ASCO annual meeting is a fully packed learning pool for medical professionals with a keen interest in oncology. 

In 2021, the ASCO annual meeting was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme of the 2021 ASCO virtual meeting was “Equity: Every Patient. Every Day. Everywhere” and attendees had access to thousands of abstracts, presentations and discussions focused on improving patient access to high quality cancer treatments. Some of the ASCO 2021 highlights include the oral ASCO abstract sessions with Q&A, plenary session, ASCO book club, case-based panels and ASCO voices. To learn more about the recently concluded ASCO 2022 Annual Meeting, we have summarized some of the highlights of the conference.

What were the ASCO 2022 highlights?

Continuous learning is important for healthcare providers especially for those in oncology and the ASCO conference serves this purpose. A survey of Sermo physicians reported that 56% of Sermo physicians had a goal of learning about new cancer research and innovations from the conference. The ASCO 2022 Annual Meeting was held June 3-7, 2022 and it gathered a global cancer community in Chicago to discuss and explore the latest advancement in cancer research, care and treatment. With over 85 livestream sessions and interactive media platforms for live Q&A sessions and connection with other attendees, this year’s conference was well powered to cater to a wider global audience. The theme of the ASCO 2022 annual meeting was “Advancing Equitable Care Through Innovation” and featured over 200 sessions centered on the theme. 

Attendees of the ASCO 2022 Meeting had the choice of attending in person or online. This year’s conference introduced more virtual presence and interactive media platforms. Live sessions, on-demand capabilities—including poster and poster discussion sessions, clinical science symposia, and educational sessions that can be accessed anywhere in the world are part of the interesting features of the conference that facilitated a deeper networking and learning experience for the attendees. 

Other Key highlights from the conference include:

  • Over 2,000 ASCO abstracts and more than 2,500 poster presentations
  • Opening Session included a Presidential Address from Everett Vokes, MD, FASCO, as well as guest speakers André Michel Ilbawi, MD, from the World Health Organization, and Douglas R. Lowy, MD, at the National Cancer Institute.
  • ASCO Plenary Series–Rapid Abstract Update: Research presented throughout the 2021-2022 virtual Plenary Series showcased during a special session at the ASCO Annual Meeting
  • Mentorship and Career Development Roundtable Discussions: A Discussion with ASCO’s Special Award Recipients
  • Film Screening: Can You Hear My Voice? by Bill Brummel, an award-winning documentary producer/director. The film highlights the work of London’s Shout at Cancer choir, whose singers are also living without voice boxes.
  • ASCO Awards Recognition
  • Industry Expert Theater featuring industry-sponsored educational presentations on the latest in oncology practices, products, services, and technologies. Topic presented include “A Legacy of Innovation in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer” by Bristol Myers Squibb, “Gemma Secretase Inhibition in Desmoid Tumors and Multiple Myeloma” by SpringWorks Therapeutics, “Study Results from a Randomized Pivotal Trial in R/R DLBCL” by Genentech amongst others.

In line with the year’s theme of equity and innovation, key ASCO abstracts and presentations focused on innovative treatments and novel ways of using existing treatments.  Some of the key topics discussed include:

  • Panitumumab (PAN) plus mFOLFOX6 versus bevacizumab (BEV) plus mFOLFOX6 as first-line treatment in patients with RAS wild-type (WT) metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC): Results from the phase 3 PARADIGM trial. (Abstract LBA1, Plenary)
  • Phase III assessment of topotecan and cyclophosphamide and high-dose ifosfamide in rEECur: An international randomized controlled trial of chemotherapy for the treatment of recurrent and primary refractory Ewing sarcoma (RR-ES). (Abstract LBA2, Plenary)
  • Trastuzumab deruxtecan (T-DXd) versus treatment of physician’s choice (TPC) in patients (pts) with HER2-low unresectable and/or metastatic breast cancer (mBC): Results of DESTINY-Breast04, a randomized, phase 3 study. (Abstract LBA3, Plenary)
  • Lenalidomide, bortezomib, and dexamethasone (RVd) ± autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) and R maintenance to progression for newly diagnosed multiple myeloma (NDMM): The phase 3 DETERMINATION trial. (Abstract LBA4, Plenary)

Why you should attend ASCO

The ASCO conference is an innovative, unique experience that allows all physicians globally caring for oncology patients to come together and learn of the latest treatments, and trends, share ideas, research results, collaborate, and network in one location. 

A poll of Sermo physicians who attended the 2022 ASCO conference, reported that 70% reported that the opportunity to learn about new cancer research and innovations, was the biggest benefit of attending ASCO, with 82% expressing strong interest in learning about adoptive new cell therapies, such as CAR T cells, CAR NK cells, and T cell receptors.  

Attending the ASCO conference gives you the opportunity to learn and explore the latest advancements in cancer research and treatment from other professionals around the world without borders. Some notable work that Sermo physicians found insightful included health equity research, on the need for diversity in clinical trials as well as a revolutionary case for the treatment of advanced breast cancer. As much as 58% of Sermo physicians indicated that breast cancer tracks at ASCO 2022 were the most practice changing. Yet, as many as 34% also found lung cancer tracks revolutionary, as well as 32% with developmental therapeutics. At ASCO, every cancer track is covered, and one has access to information in their own niche. 

Networking with other medical professionals is also one of the major pros of attending the ASCO annual meeting. As many as 42% of Sermo physicians who attended ASCO 2022 reported this as one of their top two reasons for attending the conference. Connect with other physicians and investigators from academia and industry to learn and discuss ideas on clinical research methods and findings. The ASCO conference also provides an excellent opportunity to connect with business leaders in biopharma who may be interested in funding novel clinical research. One-on-one interactions with such people may take you a step closer to getting your industry-sponsored trial underway. 

The new ASCO interactive platform that supports a Live Q&A session, polling sessions and “Find Your Colleague” feature are some of the tools you can utilize to find and connect with other professionals to have even more enlightening conversations. 

Whether you attend in person or virtually, you can access thousands of educational sessions and materials and also connect and interact with both attendees and presenters.

How to make the most out of the next ASCO Conference

Whether you plan to attend the next conference in person or online, here are some tips to help you make the most out of your time at the conference

  • Attend the conference prepared. We strongly advise you to take some time to review the program and plan your agenda. Look out for topics that interest you and mark your calendars. You don’t want to miss out on the conversations you are most interested in. While the theme may be helpful, it is important to have your own agenda. ASCO 2022 was on health equity, yet only 20% of polled Sermo physicians rated that as their top reason for attending. Instead they focused more on new research, innovations, and networking.
  • Draw up your schedule and set your Out of Office. The 5-day conference is fully packed with presentations and educational sessions. You will barely have time for other day to day activities. To maximize your time, plan your out of office and prioritize the sessions you are interested in. Don’t forget to add these sessions to your calendar and tone down on other activities or meetings during this period.
  • Interact with other attendees and presenters. The conference is powered with loads of tools and features to boost interactivity with other professionals. Take advantage of these tools at your disposal to build networks and continue the conversation. 42% of Sermo physicians attended the poster sessions, which offered the opportunity to have one-on-one discussions with researchers, and interact.
  • Keep record of major lessons learnt. The overarching aim of the ASCO conference is to improve cancer outcomes by sharing lessons and research with the global cancer care community. The better understanding of cancer care and treatment acquired at the conference is only valuable when fed back to your practice. You should take the lessons learnt at the conference to your practice, discuss with your colleagues and implement them for the betterment of cancer outcomes.
  • Download Sermo’s Guide to ASCO. Our easy-to-use guide brings together insights from hundreds of Oncologists about the most sought after sessions, tips for attending and what to do outside the conference in Chicago. We’ll post it within the community and email members in advance of the conference.
  • Engage with other physicians before, during and after the event on Sermo. Before the event, participate in paid surveys and community polls to prepare for ASCO with your peers. During the event, engage with posts from other members who are attending and sharing their takeaways. After it’s all over, join the live event Sermo Rounds: Oncologists Present: ASCO22 in 30 Minutes. You can now watch it on demand.
Sermo Rounds: Oncologists Present: ASCO22 in 30 Minutes

The next ASCO conference is set to hold June 2-6, 2023. Sermo stays up to date on ASCO annual meetings and news related to ASCO conferences. To keep up with ASCO news, sign up here today.