Thursday, June 16, 2011

Data Drop

 The 47th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASC0) I attended last week in Chicago is bigger than the town in Iowa where I grew up.
       Some 32,000 of your nearest and dearest in all things oncology gather in McCormack Place, a sprawling, four-building complex that has a walkway over Lake Shore Drive and boasts its own restaurant directory. McCormack Place makes an airplane hanger seem positively cozy by comparison.
       To this add: a data drop the likes of which are impossible to fathom. There's the abstracts alone for starters (some 4,000); a five-day program with sessions running from 7:30 am until around 6 p.m., and an exhibit hall with everything from big pharma's comfy barcelona chairs, to small booths for advocacy groups and miles of poster exhibits for every known cancer and many you've never heard of before.
The "Hangar" - Exhibit Hall "B" 16 total screens
       "Melanoma stole the show," ASCO past president George Sledge, MD, wrote in his blog. By now I'm sure you've seen some of the coverage (NY Times write up here by Andrew Pollock) describing the 'notable progress' two new drugs have shown in prolonging disease progression in patients 
with metastatic melanoma, a disease 
notoriously difficult to treat.  
        It was a case of metatstatic melanoma and the death of a friend's sister (she was 46) that was the impetus for starting this blog two years ago. These developments may have provided Denell with the commodity in short supply: time. Time simply to be together with her loved ones. Are these perfect treatments? No. Are they curative?  No, but none of us can place a value on another year of life, either. 
        I'll be writing in depth for OncologyTimes next week on notable sessions in survivorship, screening and breast cancer, from prevention to triple-negative bc and a few things in between. It was stunning to sit in on these sessions.  All night long I'd think about cells and try to rephrase what I'd learned, the clack of the train across the tracks echoing in my ears.
        What did I see at ASCO?  We take our cancer seriously; so do the oncologists and professionals I met. You could hear it.  You could see it on the faces of one presenter to the next, as each one personally thanked their patients for participating in the clinical trial they were discussing. There were times when the pauses between questions from the audience, or between slides, said much more than the scientific language could convey. Language is sometimes limited, but 32,000 people, from 121 countries, in one place for five days trying to hash out the next best plan for cancer? That's a lot.
         It was inspirational.  Enough so that when I developed blisters the last day I just kept walking. 
         A few convention notes:

        1)  Biggest game in town: the Starbucks line.
        2)  Second biggest game in town:  taxi line.
        3)  Third biggest game in town: Cell phone charging stations; and not enough of them.
        4)  If you have to ask: you've waited too long.  Map restroom locations in advance.
        5)  Understand that the things you really, really want to visit are on the opposite side of  the center.
        6)  Smoking. You don't but you'll be shocked to see how many still do. Go figure.
        7)  High heels. My feet are shaped like feet, not hooves.  Many women were stylin' in sky-high heels while I was longing for shoes with the word  "Easy" in the name. Repeat slogan from above.
        8)  Daily Newspaper:  that's how much data drops daily. Every morning there was a 12 - 16 page newsletter covering sessions, with links to photos and video.
        9)  Sleep.  Who needs it?  The sun rise begins around 5 am.  You might as well stay up.
        10) Best thing to carry?  As little as possible.  Hotel key card, a pen & small tablet.  You're good to go.


Advances in Women's Cancers - Interview with Andrew Seidman, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Video by American Society of Clinical Oncology, Alexandria, Virginia.
Coverage on Colorrectal Cancer -  by Kate Murphy, Fight Colorectal Cancer Coalition


katie ford hall said...

Sounds awesome. I can't wait to read more.

Thanks Jody.

Jody said...

It was awesome! Now I need to do justice to all I learned. It was a crash course in science, statistics and meeting planning all in one:)

The Accidental Amazon said...

I am sooooo proud of you having this gig with Oncology Times. It must have been amazing to go to ASCO. I know you'll do justice to the experience. You rock, Jody!!!

Jody said...

Both of you rock, Kath.

I'm thrilled for the assignment w/OncologyTimes.

There was so much for all of us to benefit from. I continue to read through all the abstracts, poster sessions, and scientific addresses.

It matters so much to me that all of you benefit from what I've learned. You deserve to know.

Love to you,

elizabeth said...

We call it a "brain drop" after ASCO. I'm still trying to organize all my notes, thoughts and papers!
It was great to finally meet you in person, and I can't wait for our next meeting together. I would love for more advocates to attend ASCO. Keep up the good work!

carmen2u said...

Keep your insights coming.

But for Pete's Sake, wear sneakers at the conference! No need for blisters.

Elaine Schattner, M.D. said...

Jody, Thanks for this; your perspective is so refreshing! The ASCO meeting is important; as much as there's a lot of hype, it's one of few opportunities for oncologists from so many places to discuss (or battle) directly their competing strategies and, ultimately, sort out what's best for patients.

Annemieke said...

Dear Jody,

I can't wait to read all about it. I am so proud of you for getting this assignment from Oncology Times and I know they will get more than they bargained for. Big hug, Annemieke said...

I'm so glad you're writing for Oncology Times because they need your patient advocate perspective. ASCO sounds a lot like the last 32nd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, the premier scientific breast cancer event with the same barcelona chairs (I had to smile at this line), exhibit booths, poster exhibits and research presentations that made my head spin. You have the passion in this area to absorb and disseminate the info for us.


Stacey said...

How did you manage to make an oncology conference sound like a fun time? I'm looking forward to reading more. Thanks, Jody.

Hatiheri said...

I'm looking forward to reading more too! This looks fabulous. Love your work!

Jody said...

Carmen, Elizabeth:

Next year: better shoes, smaller computer. Or no computer. I actually ditched my laptop after the first day and used the ones ASCO provided. That was awesome.

Great meeting both of you. Here's to more great conferences!

Jody said...


You're so right. SABCS is exactly the same: just smaller. Take SABCS and add all the other cancers..lung, colon, melanoma, lymphomas, brain, etc., plus throw in survivorship, prevention, and professional development and you have ASCO.

Will you attend SABCS this year?


Jody said...

Thanks Stacy & Hatiheri for stopping by.

Elaine - hope to meet you at one of these in the future.

Unknown said...

You have a very inspiring way of exploring and sharing your thoughts.