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Event coverage: ESMO Asia Congress returns to Singapore

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The second ESMO Asia 2016 Congress, led by an international committee to promote the sharing of expertise and interaction between regional and international experts in oncology, returned for a second appearance at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore recently. Organized by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), the Asian leg of the annual scientific and educational congress was held from December 16–19th, 2016 and attended by over 2,000 healthcare professionals and exhibitors, including representatives from AMOR who were also present to cover the event. 

ESMO Asia 2016 brought together oncologists from the Asian region and beyond to discuss important discoveries in oncology and to update delegates on the latest standards of care, the organizer noted in its media release. More specifically, delegates attending the meeting took the opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas on current clinical challenges and novel treatment strategies for a variety of tumor subtypes, as well as to highlight emerging cancer therapeutics that are rapidly gaining attention in clinical settings. In addition to highlighting the latest in cancer research, the congress also sought to underscore bioethical, economic, and social challenges posed by cancer by addressing crucial issues such as the rising costs of treatments, the need for psychological support for patients, the need for better palliative care, and the vital importance of improving access to innovative drugs. 

In this edition of the ESMO Asia congress, the keynote lectures consisted of two topics: how the differences between tumors can impact the design of effective treatments, and the link between common Epstein-Barr virus and nasopharyngeal cancer. With these two keynote lectures setting the tone for the congress, delegates saw a wide range of key discussions pertaining to the clinical relevance of molecular advances and innovative treatment approaches. Moreover, sessions that focus on improving current clinical understanding of various tumor types and novel treatment strategies for different tumor subtypes were also prominently featured. 

In his opening remarks, ESMO President Prof. Fortunato Ciardiello said, “We are glad to be returning to Singapore for the second ESMO Asia Congress. Consolidating activities in Asia underlines the importance ESMO places on collaboration with partners in this region. The program this year will have a strong emphasis on state-of-the-art education and on the current standard of care across all major tumor types.” He continued, “In addition to practical seminars and wide-ranging discussions about how oncologists and other stakeholders can best collaborate for greater treatment results for cancer patients, delegates can look forward to opportunities for interaction with both local experts and key opinion leaders from the international oncology community.” 

The opening ceremony was graced by the Guest-of-Honor – Dr. Amy Khor, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Health. In her speech, Dr. Khor laid emphasis on how events such as the ESMO Asia Congress are essential in providing an open platform to facilitate research collaboration. “To address the challenges presented by the complexity of cancer, the development of regional and international research networks is increasingly important to catalyze scientific communication and collaboration,” she said. To this end, Dr. Khor lauded the partnership between ESMO and the Singapore Society of Oncology in setting up a new office for cancer research aimed at facilitating collaborations between researchers in Europe and Asia — ESMO’s first footprint in Asia. “By building capabilities and strengthening our partnerships, we can do much more to improve patient care and treatment, especially for the Asian population,” she said. 

Dr. Ravindran Kanesvaran, President of the host organization – Singapore Society of Oncology, echoed the sentiment. “Oncology is a rapidly evolving field that requires a multi-disciplinary approach between various healthcare professionals from different backgrounds and experience extending across all areas of cancer care trying their best to bring an end to this growing scourge. This collaborative endeavor is key to improve access, raise the quality of treatment delivery, and standard of cancer care in Singapore and Asia in general,” he stated. The cancer research office, which is yet to be officially named and launched, will open in the first quarter of 2017 at the National Cancer Centre Singapore and will administer educational grants, workshops, and conferences between Europe and Asia, Dr. Ravindran added. 

The ESMO Asia 2016 Congress was supported by 20 of the most important and influential oncology associations in the region, including the Singapore Society of Oncology and the oncology societies from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Uzbekistan. 

During the congress, AMOR spoke to Dr. Susanna Hilda Hutajulu, a representative of the Indonesian Society of Hematology and Medical Oncology (ISHMO). Dr. Hutajulu is a practising medical oncologist in Indonesia who is actively involved in clinical research work and she is a regular participant of ESMO meetings, having recently attended ESMO 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Dr. Susanna had also attended the inaugural ESMO Asia congress in 2015 and is an avid supporter of the congress’s multi-faceted agenda. On the development of cancer research in South East Asia, she told AMOR, “I agree that there should be a dedicated platform to showcase and promote the research work of oncology specialists and organizations in South East Asia.” 

Dr. Hutajulu added, “Researchers in Indonesia place great importance in Scopus indexing when it comes to choosing the right journals to publish their research work in.” Meanwhile, the Myanmar Oncology Society (MOS) was represented by Dr. Shu Mon, who is based at the Thurein Mon Clinic in Yangon, Myanmar. During the congress, she gave a presentation on breast cancer management that is specific to the Myanmar experience. According to Dr. Shu Mon, there are only 30 qualified medical oncologists serving the whole of Myanmar, a country with a population of about 51 million people. On establishing collaborations with an academic journal, she said, “MOS is willing to work with a journal such as AMOR to promote the oncology research in Myanmar provided that there are suitable opportunities that both sides could agree on.”


During the congress, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ho Gwo Fuang, the guest managing editor for AMOR’s upcoming special issue and a representative of the Malaysian Oncological Society (MOS) at ESMO Asia 2016, was featured as one of the panelists of the ESMO-COS-MOS-NZSO Joint Symposium on ‘New insights into gastrointestinal cancers’. Dr. Ho, who is a medical oncologist at Malaysia’s University Malaya Medical Centre, delivered a talk entitled ‘Adjuvant aspirin for colorectal cancer? A cross-Asia collaborative effort’, a multi-nation initiative involving Singapore, Malaysia, and other Asia Pacific countries. His presentation offered strong scientific and observational data to support the adjuvant use of aspirin in reducing the formation of polyps and metastases after colorectal cancer diagnosis. Towards the end of his presentation, Dr. Ho highlighted the ongoing curation of AMOR’s Special Issue and invited his peers to submit papers to the journal for consideration.

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