It is a success because we’ve built it on the concept of spreading internationally, getting involved more people from different parts of the world, and then stressing on education. These two aspects are very important. So education probably is very well highlighted this year because we organised a masterclass in geriatric oncology which is in its fourth edition for 2017 which is held in Venice, very close to Venice in Treviso. Last year, last July, we had 35 students and the second part of the masterclass takes place during the conference so all the students, all these 35 young oncologists and geriatricians, are attending the conference and report also on their progress since last July and report also on their research projects for the future so that’s important for us.
We are able to mentor them and to help them in defining what will be the next steps where they work, so that’s an important part. We initiated, we launched, last year the concept of trying to have a band, a music band, together so that’s the second time that we did it and that was a great pleasure to have this music sharing with one Australian oncologist, one geriatrician from the US and another pianist from Belgium and myself. That’s something which is always very positive in terms of exchanges and cultural aspects so that’s very positive.
What were some of the conference highlights for you?
We had just a debate on the development of clinical research, specifically for the elderly population with cancer. We held this debate with representatives from the patients, patient advocacy, with pharma representatives, with people representing also different specialties – medical oncology as well as pharmaco-economy and supportive care. All that was across the Atlantic as well because we had people from the US and from Europe involved in this field. So all that was quite important to act that as a society, the International Society of Geriatric Oncology, is clearly willing not to make a revolution because we do not need violence like that, but we need to learn how to better collaborate, to move progressively and to anticipate what we are going to face in the next years, which is this epidemic of cancer in the elderly population with a large volume.
In some ways, are all oncologists working in your field?
Yes, exactly, it is right. Certainly that’s something which is faced by Western countries as well as developing countries. But for the clinical research aspect you have co-operative groups which have been working for almost two decades on it and we see that it’s shaping up progressively in that we have more and more specific programmes. It’s sometimes limited but since ten years, because of political commitments, as in France with the plan or Plan Cancer, we can observe some changes - instead of having 500 elderly patients enrolled in trials in France we reached now more than 2,000, 3,000. So the numbers have changed greatly so the philosophy, the way people analyse the situation is changing. So that’s good for the landscape and that’s good for the patients.
Do you see the potential success of immunotherapy here as well?
Yes, it’s probably one of the fields in which it’s very striking to see that for the KEYNOTE trial, for example, presented this morning in the updates in medical oncology, we see that almost 30% of the population was enrolled at an age above 70 and reaching 92 or 93, which is really very unusual compared with the classical picture of the population enrolled in clinical trials. So things are changing, the landscape is moving. I’m very positive with this view and I’m convinced that we cannot stay on the same definitions as before and that’s very encouraging.