Despite being a Melburnian, I must admit that Sydney really is an irresistibly beautiful city when the sun comes out, especially by the water. The 44th Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) Annual Scientific Meeting was held in the newly renovated International Convention Centre in Sydney between 12-15th November 2017. With the sunlight streaming in through its many windows, reflecting off the waters of Darling Harbour, it really was the perfect place to be at the beginning of summer.
I attended the pre-conference workshop on cancer supportive care, which was organised by Judith Lacey, a palliative medicine specialist at Chris O’Brien LIfehouse. The whole-day workshop featured an interesting mixture of passionate speakers promoting a range of complementary treatments including medicinal cannabis, massage and probiotics; alongside others examining the evidence base for acupuncture, reviewing current clinical trials and prescribing pathways, and comparing different funding models for supportive care. It was a long but worthwhile day that set the mood for the rest of the conference.
“Cancer immunotherapy” was the theme of the meeting, and I came away from the plenaries with a sense that we’re all still trying to come to terms with these new treatments – even the experts are struggling to tell the difference between hope and hype! I particularly enjoyed the presentation by Prof Ian Kerridge on the power of the media to shape patient expectations, during which he asked the audience to reflect on where the media obtained its information? The uncomfortable truth is that our conference abstracts and media releases are often filled with hyperboles and may in fact be contributing to the hype surrounding new treatments.
“Implementing quality and safety” was the sub-theme of the conference, with several sessions devoted to exploring various aspects of this important aspect of healthcare. Highlights for me included the presentation by Prof Adam Elshaug on the emerging focus on identifying and disinvesting from low-value interventions, which may free up funding for new treatments such as immunotherapy; Carrie Marr reframing health quality as a cultural issue rather than a technical one, shifting emphasis from improving processes to inspiring people; Dana Rollison and others characterising clinical data as a key asset in the provision of healthcare and redefining data management as a healthcare service’s core business; plus Monika Krzyzanowska and others sharing their experiences with integrating patient-reported outcome measures into routine clinical practice.
One of the most wonderful elements of this conference was its inclusion of consumers in meaningful ways. For example, during the plenary session on the topic of “uncertainty”, Ian Cant and his daughter described their experience with his melanoma treatment, then participated in a multi-disciplinary panel discussion alongside a medical oncologist, nurse, psychologist, and general practitioner. Just brilliant!
More information from the conference sessions can be found on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #COSA17. The next COSA Annual Scientific Meeting in November 2018 will be held in Perth.
[This article was first published in the December issue of ANZSPM Newsletter www.anzspm.org.au]