EBCC is a meeting with a long tradition. This year was EBCC-12 with the biannual meeting and it addresses the topic of breast cancer. In contrast to other meetings it’s by design a completely multidisciplinary meeting, also inter-professional. So the meeting addresses physicians, scientists, physicians of all different specialities but also nurses and patients. So I was the Chair of this year’s meeting together with Tanja Spanic from EUROPA DONNA.
Why was it important for the meeting to go ahead virtually this year? What were the challenges and benefits?
We had planned EBCC-12 for March of 2020 and when the data about the pandemic came out in early March then we decided to postpone the meeting. So we postponed it to this fall and then we decided to take it completely online sometime in the summer. So it was a big stress for the organising workers at the EORTC conference organising subunit but I think it was worth it because we were able to hold the meeting, we had all the content. We were able by postponing it and then taking it virtual we had the opportunity to update it and we added a COVID session which we probably can talk a little bit later on. So we reached the audience that we were aiming to reach and all the speakers who were very dedicated and went with us from the original date to postponing and then to doing it online. They were there, they were very motivated and engaged and so we were able to have a really good meeting which showed the state of the art of multidisciplinary breast cancer treatment in 2020.
What were some of the highlights from the meeting?
For me, key highlights were next to the EBCC award speech given by Dr Fatima Cardoso on the importance of education and research. She called it two sides of the same coin – so the importance that if we do research we also have to educate the public, patients, physicians and also politicians in order to take the research further into clinical practice. That was one of the highlights in the first session already. Then we had two very interesting keynotes, one on patient reported outcomes by Amylou Dueck and the closing keynote by Nick Turner from London on endocrine resistance.
Then we had the opportunity next of numerous really, really interesting sessions, debates. The debates were really fun because people were really arguing hard back and forth. We had the opportunity to include some very updated sessions with very recent topics like we took one session and discussed the ESMO Presidential Lecture and the importance of CDK4/6 inhibitors in adjuvant breast cancer treatment. That was one of the sessions we added at the last moment. We talked about ADCs, antibody-drug conjugates, because there is very good data and now also new registrations.
Lastly we had a whole COVID session which we also did live where we saw a really, really great picture of how engaged European researchers are already in COVID-19 research with regard to cancer and how we have adapted our research priorities in order to also look at breast cancer and COVID-19 in particular. I think that was a very, very good session which featured an international registry that Dr Gennari talked about. Then a Dutch colleague talked about the impact of postponing screening and treatment, what that is going to mean for the oncological community and for patients and how we’re going to deal with postponed diagnostic procedures in the future when we have the ongoing diagnostic procedures and also those that were postponed. Lastly we presented an algorithm that we’ve done with colleagues from the UK in order to determine in which patients with hormone sensitive breast cancer it is safe to postpone surgery if you don’t have any surgical capacity and also then do, instead, endocrine therapy before surgery.
So very interesting topics and very up to date research. We can be proud of what the oncological community has accomplished during the last half year next to their regular work treating patients.
What are the strengths of EBCC? Why should people attend?
As I said before, EBCC is a truly multidisciplinary conference, it also makes sure that the patients’ voices are heard in the individual sessions. It’s a very good conference, also, now to watch the on-demand materials because we looked at urgent clinical problems, we looked at solutions for hard to treat clinical cases. So it’s something that you can look every once in a while and do this also while you are at work or on the weekend, just to see some sessions and get yourself updated but also to see the arguments from both sides. As I mentioned before, the debates are really great because we try to look at the things from both sides and we have really, really engaging speakers. They sometimes were even a bit mean to each other but I think that’s what the fun of debates is all about.
What are your hopes for the future of EBCC?
I certainly hope that EBCC-13, two years down the road, will be again a meeting in presence. I think that the location we picked is Barcelona, again because that is a very nice conference location, very convenient to reach and also the halls are very convenient to get from one session to the other.
I certainly hope it’s going to be a live conference again, that we will all see each other there healthy. But I think we will still keep a part of this hybrid virtual component because there are always colleagues who cannot travel, particular colleagues from further away – from Asia, from African countries, from Latin America, for example, from the US. So it’s important to have the materials online as well. We have learned due to this COVID-19 situation to quickly adapt and I think we will have more hybrid conferences in the future. This is the best for making use of travel and educate physicians and patients and other healthcare workers around the world.
So I hope that for the next EBCC meeting, and maybe even for this one on the on-demand materials which are going to be available until the end of the year, I hope that people from all over the world will find this interesting. It’s not a particular European focussed meeting, we have speakers from around the world, over 130 invited speakers and abstract presenters from around the world. So I think that these issues in breast cancer care are global ones and I hope that EBCC can provide some of the solutions for everyday clinical practice.
How is the meeting important for patients as well as clinicians?
EBCC traditionally is co-chaired by EUROPA DONNA, so EUROPA DONNA representatives, patient advocates, are present in the planning of each individual session. They also have their own session where they deal with patient related topics from a patient point of view. But the co-chairs of several sessions are also patient advocates so there is this whole spirit of we are in this together and we are going to solve it together. I think that’s what makes the meeting interesting for patients as well as for healthcare professionals.