Shirley Mertz, Ginny Knackmuhs and I are am among the 25,000 attendees at the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting this weekend at McCormick Place in Chicago. We are there as a patient advocates with the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.
ASCO isn’t just about breast cancer. There are sessions on gastrointestinal cancer, genitourinary cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, melanoma and more. If oncologists put together Lolapalooza, this is what it would look like.
Prior to attending ASCO, I never gave any thought to the group’s name. I thought it was something between a service-type organization (like the American Legion) or an elite group of super smart people (like the National Honor Society). But in learning more about ASCO’s 50-year history, I have come to appreciate just how important the “Clinical” part of its name is. As the the ASCO Daily News explains, prior to ASCO’s formation, “professional medical organizations dealing with cancer were primarily focused on laboratory research, not on the urgent clinical needs and concerns of patients.”
In 1964, seven physicians (Ansfield, Bisel, Freckman, Goudsmit, Talley, Wilson and Wright) had a luncheon meeting at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel. As noted here, the minutes from this first meeting indicate they were united by “their common concern for the patient with cancer.” At a time when most cancer-focused organizations concentrated resources on pathology and research, the seven founding members became early and at times singular champions for the need to place more emphasis on clinical considerations and the care of patients with cancer.
Given ASCO’s patient-centric roots, it stands to reason the group would have a strong commitment to patient advocacy and it certainly does. There are special advocate review sessions on key presentations and opportunities to meet ASCO officers. ASCO Connection, the society’s networking site, welcomes patient advocate comments/participation, too.
Shirley Mertz, one of my role models, often talks about the power of patient advocacy. She says that metastatic breast cancer patients who join together together with a focused message can improve outcomes in the clinic. At ASCO, we patients are right there with our clinicians.
Note that on Thursday, June 12, SHARE will offer a free ASCO highlights webinar on key metastatic breast cancer developments with Dr. Don Dizon.
Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/regi…/4695204179612817921