What was the main agenda of this year’s SIOG meeting and what topics were discussed?
HH: Well, the main agenda was to give updates from the COVID-19 working group from SIOG to showcase research abstracts that were selected by the committee and to give updates in geriatrics, haematology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgery. It was also important for us to have a brief celebration for SIOG’s 20th anniversary. So it was quite important to hold the meeting so that we could celebrate the 20th anniversary of SIOG.
What has the take home message been this year from the meeting?
HH: There were a few messages, I think the biggest thing was for the COVID-19 working group to give their recommendations of how to treat older adults with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The biggest message, of course, is the continued purpose of all of the SIOG meetings is to exchange knowledge with our colleagues, to share our expertise, to continue to work together. I think a big focus of the meeting was to really encourage everyone to stay engaged and stay the course and to come back next year for an in-person meeting. So we really wanted to keep people as engaged as possible but then to look forward, again, to next year.
What problems has geriatric oncology faced with the current pandemic?
KLC: Even before the pandemic we know that age, or older age, and cancer are risk factors for COVID-19 which is part of the pandemic now. So therefore older patients, or older adults with cancer, do suffer and they suffer twice – because of their old age and also because of cancer. So, as we know and we knew before the pandemic, disparity already existed in cancer care for older adults. The pandemic actually has intensified all this and this is a global issue and it is important that we address them.
How can these be resolved?
HH: Just the awareness and continued effort to address the problems and also collaboration amongst our colleagues internationally is key. So the SIOG meeting really helped us to do that. The SIOG COVID-19 working group recommendations were published in The Journal of Geriatric Oncology and were presented at the SIOG meeting. They addressed some of those practical issues. It’s also important for us to collaborate with international agencies, to continue to collaborate with each other. An example of that was there was a World Health Organisation/SIOG joint meeting the day before our virtual meeting to discuss some of those issues related to COVID. So that’s a perfect example of how to continue to move forward and collaborate with each other to address this problem most effectively.
What is the agenda for next year’s SIOG meeting?
KLC: Actually, we have now decided to keep the same theme because the theme that we decided for SIOG 2020 did not actually get completely elaborated. So we have decided to keep the same theme, which is geriatric oncology past, present and future, for SIOG 2021. So the framework of this will be like any physical conference that we used to hold. We’ll have abstract sessions, we’ll have MDT sessions, we’ll have some updates on geriatric oncology and this time we will have a few more joint sessions with other societies, for instance with ESMO, ESSO etc. So we have also got some special themed sessions like technology, which might become an interesting one this year given the widespread use of telehealth or telemedicine, whatever you call it, with the pandemic.
So we’ll also involve some of our special groups within SIOG like the nursing and other health groups, the young SIOG group and also this year specifically patient advocacy groups. We will have some special highlights for this year and, because we didn’t get a chance, we only did it briefly, as Holly mentioned, about the celebration of the 20th anniversary of SIOG. So we’ll do a proper session on that looking at the history of geriatric oncology in the last two decades. I think we will also have a session on COVID-19 because by that time we will have learned a lot more about this.
So we are hoping that this will be a physical meeting in Geneva. Geneva is a symbolic location because that’s where the head office of SIOG is. Also some important agencies are located, like the WHO and the UN, the importance of which has already been mentioned by Holly.
Wonderful, thank you so much for that answer, Dr Cheung. In the end, is there anything else that you’d like to add, both of you, because I am done with the questions?
KLC: I’ll leave it with Holly to say the final words.
HH: We should co-ordinate and say it together and be like, ‘See you next year.’
KLC: We could do that.
HH: What’s that?
KLC: We could do that. ‘See you…’ not next year. It is next year, actually.
HH: It is next year. Well, okay, I’ll first say something. Finally, we are really, really looking forward to having an in-person meeting in Geneva, the 4th through 6th November 2021. Of course we all remain hopeful that that will be possible and we are greatly looking forward to seeing our colleagues. We are going to make sure that this is as accessible to everyone in the SIOG community and we are working hard to make this meeting a fantastic experience for everyone.
KLC: Stay safe and healthy and see you next year.
HH: See you next year.