European Breast Cancer Conference, Vienna, March 2012
Highlights from EBCC 8 and looking to EBCC 9
Professor David Cameron – University of Edinburgh, UK
I think the main thing that makes EBCC 8 special, which is in the same tradition as the previous EBCCs, is that this conference is not just organised by the doctors or the scientists, that we include in the organising structure the voice of the patients. And why is that special? Because it’s not something that’s traditional in medical conferences but ultimately the whole purpose of a breast cancer conference, or any other medical conference, is for the sake of the patients, so to give them a voice and a role in organising and contributing and working out what the findings mean for patients, I think it’s a special, unique aspect of this conference.
What were some of the highlights from EBCC 8?
I think the opening session was fantastic, we had four very interesting presentations, two invited plenaries, one, Richard Peto who summed up the data from many, many tens of thousands of women who had volunteered to go into trials and how, using a meta-analytical approach, one can learn lessons across different chemotherapy trials and different hormone therapy trials and seeing that what might seem a frustratingly modest benefit from each additional intervention, actually adds up into a huge impact for women, a halving of the risk of dying of breast cancer not achieved by one intervention on its own but a whole series of different things that we now do to improve the outcome for breast cancer patients. That was followed by Chuck Perou talking about where we’re going in the future; more deeper biological and genetic analysis of breast cancer, recognising it’s not one single disease but looking to see how that can teach us about future treatment targets and different ways of developing the way we manage patients with breast cancer.
Prior to that, we had two award-winning talks which were very different: Alberto Costa summarising what he’s learned from 30-35 years of pioneering work in breast cancer. He’s self-deprecating, he plays down his role but he’s had a huge role in contributing to the whole conceptual development of how we teach and how we implement breast cancer care, as well as of course doing research. And then, again, the patients’ voice, an award for humanities and arts to a group of women all faced with the challenge of a personal diagnosis of breast cancer when they’ve got young children, and actually how they addressed that and how they can communicate that to their kids and other kids. It was a very salutary reminder that this is all about people getting a life-threatening diagnosis.
So a fantastic way to start a conference and I sense this morning that it’s carrying on in the same direction. The halls are full, people are learning new things, learning how to manage the disease and looking for ways in which we will improve care in the future.
What are your hopes for EBCC in the future?
I think we’re looking for two things about EBCC as it moves forward. The first is to continue this tradition of a genuinely multi-disciplinary interaction between all the different groups of people involved in breast cancer – the patients, the doctors the scientists, the nurses, everybody whose role it is to have to manage this disease, and that’s a growing and strong tradition. But what we’re also looking for, and I think we’re beginning to see that over this conference, the previous conference, is that the reputation of this conference means that people will now choose to present brand new data here and that’s something which is a challenge. The world is not short of places to present new data and people have to think where is the best opportunity for it to get to the right audience. I’m very pleased, for example, that in our late breaking session on Friday afternoon we will have three presentations of data that have never been shown anywhere else before. I would expect and hope that as we move into EBCC 9, EBCC 10, that gradually people out there will realise this is a great place to present new data and get it out to an audience so that it can change care sooner, rather than waiting for another conference.