The recognition that cancer is a ‘spectrum’ of diseases, and that medical oncologists should achieve ‘convergence’ from ‘divergence’ to treat cancer patients was the main theme of the 2014 European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress. The meeting assembled 19,859 participants from nearly 134 countries worldwide. The educational content was centered on precision medicine in cancer care, from mutational burden to the immunome, through the epigenome and the proteome. Precision medicine has been defined as the tailoring of medical treatment to the characteristics of an individual patient. Knowing an individual’s genomics has created a remarkable and unprecedented opportunity to improve medical treatment and develop preventative strategies to preserve health. Clinical oncologists across the range of diseases recognise that for precision medicine to take hold, it will require intensive, rigorous validation that these new approaches do indeed improve patient outcomes. Not all molecular alterations are predictive of response to a specific targeted treatment nor are they all druggable, raising issues of cost–benefit, validation of specific biomarkers, and of managing patient expectations. Addressing all these issues will be essential for the medical community to embrace any given opportunities. Along with it, it will also require educational programmes that squarely address the knowledge chasm that currently exists for practicing physicians. The promise of genomic and precision medicine has created greater demands for both those providing the scientific expertise—bioinformatics, statisticians, molecular biologists—and those delivering clinical care—physicians, nurses, psychologists—to the patients. This ESMO 2014 report will highlight the major findings of this outstanding meeting.
Watch expert videos from ESMO 2014 here.