The 23rd Annual Scientific Meeting boasted a record number of attendees, held virtually over four days, on 12-15 October. Over 545 delegates joined the many workshops, presentations, panel discussions, award presentations and Q&A sessions. This ASM also marked a special occasion, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the AGITG, by recognising pioneers, and looking to future leaders.
Study Coordinator and Consumer Forum
The four-day event kicked off on Tuesday 12 October, with the Combined Study Coordinator and Consumer Forum, bringing together study coordinators and the AGITG Consumer Advisory Panel (CAP). The opening forum was co-chaired by Jan Mumford and Roslynn Murphy. The group heard from Dr Rachel Cameron presenting on Health Literacy of Cancer Patients, Kylie Shackleton on Adaptive Trial Design, and Sarah Benge on New Zealand GI Oncology Trials. Delegates also heard a touching presentation from CAP member Gillian Worden and study coordinator Searalen Chinnathumby on Learnings & Adaptations from COVID-19. Study coordinators then joined together for two meetings, with a range of topics and Q&A sessions.
The first day of the main program commenced on Wednesday 13 October. ABC radio broadcaster, journalist and cancer survivor Julie McCrossin acted as MC over the next three days. Julie kicked off the meeting by co-chairing the Opening Plenary Session, ‘Back the Future: using the retrospectoscope’ with ASM Convenor Professor Stephen Ackland. This session brought together AGITG pioneers – Associate Professor Haryana Dhillon, Professor Trevor Leong, Professor Eva Segelov, Professor John Simes, Professor Mark Smithers and Professor John Zalcberg OAM to discuss communication, collaboration, inclusivity and multidisciplinary strengths of the AGITG over 30 years. Some thought provoking topics were discussed including how to make space for future female leaders, increasing involvement of up-and-coming researchers and how the AGITG established itself as the premier GI oncology group in Australasia.
The Opening Plenary served as the perfect backdrop to get straight into the progress updates of AGITG trials over the past year. Delegates heard from seven trial investigators of early colorectal cancer trials and eight advanced colorectal cancer trial investigators. Despite the pandemic, much had been achieved. The presentations also highlighted what the next year holds. The final Keynote Session on day one, sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb, was on the ‘Evolution and revolution of clinical trials in GI cancer: endpoints and magnitude of clinical benefits’. Presented by Professor Alberto Sobrero, head of the Head of the Medical Oncology Unit at Ospedale San Martino in Genova, Italy. The session outlined the importance of regulatory bodies carefully considering which treatments will offer the largest clinical benefit within a sustainable health care system.
Running concurrently, a Radiation Oncology Workshop was held with a focus on oesophageal and Gastro oesophageal junction (GOJ) cancer. Using case studies, co-chairs Dr Meredith Johnston and Dr Dominique Lee, along with expert panel including Professor Karin Haustermans from the Leuven Cancer Institute, University Hospital Leuven Belgium and Professor Trevor Leong from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, discussed the complexities of oesophageal and GOJ cancer radiotherapy.
The second day started bright and early with Julie McCrossin welcoming delegates. The first Keynote Session of the day was sponsored by Servier Oncology, on Practical Genomics in GI Cancer. Presentations from Professor Julien Taieb from Georges Pompidou European Hospital, Université de Paris and Dr Kortnye Smith from Ballarat Cancer Care and Haematology Services, explored and reflected how to exploit subsequent genomics knowledge into practice. It was especially gratifying to hear from Kortnye how this might occur for regional and rural patients with GI cancer.
Next up was the New Concepts Symposium, proudly sponsored by Amgen Oncology. This session provided an opportunity for delegates to present embryonic new concepts. Lively discussion and feedback followed thanks to audience participation. Hot topics included terms of perspective, international interest and relevance. Following the discussion, concepts were then judged.
The three concept presentations and faculty reviewers included:
- A phase 1 study of a novel drug-eluting polymer implant for intra-tumoural delivery of 5FU, Folinic Acid, Irinotecan and Oxaliplatin (FOLFIRINOX) in combination with systemic chemotherapy for inoperable locally advanced pancreatic cancer (ILAPC), presented by Professor Morteza Aghmesheh from Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and reviewed by Dr Yu Jo Chua.
- BIOMARCER1 (Biomarker informed optimal management of advanced RAS wild type colorectal cancer), presented by Dr Shehara Mendis from the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and reviewed by Dr Sina Vatandoust.
- Amivantamab activity in Colorectal carcinoma previously treated with an EGFR monoclonal antibody – The ACE study, presented by Associate Professor Tim Clay from the Icon Cancer Centre Midland and reviewed by Dr Connie Diakos.
Concept presenters interacted with delegates who asked questions on each idea and probed the presenters to reflect on their concepts.
The Best of New Concepts Award, announced in the Awards Session later in the program, and the runner up, each receive a cash prize and kudos within the group.
Continuing on with the presentation component of the meeting, the New Concepts Symposium was followed by the Best of the Best Poster Session, sponsored by Servier Oncology. Four of the posters displayed in the virtual platform were chosen for presentation, with the winner and runner up also announced in the Awards Session.
- Long term survival and toxicity in patients with progressive advanced neuroendocrine tumours treated with Lutetium-177-Octreotate Peptide Receptor Radionuclide Therapy: A Western Australian long term follow-up study, presented by Dr Kim Kennedy from Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth.
- Real-world characteristics and outcomes of potentially resectable oligometastatic colorectal cancer, presented by Dr Andrew Parsonson from Nepean Cancer Care Centre.
- Health economic evidence for circulating tumour DNA guided adjuvant chemotherapy in stage II colorectal cancer, presented by Dr Yat Hang To from Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.
- Comprehensive genomic profiling reveals novel opportunities for treatment-refractory gastrointest
inal cancers, presented by Dr Wei Yen Chan from The Kinghorn Cancer Centre.
The second half of the day was dedicated to translational research with the Translational Science Symposium. The first part of the symposium was sponsored by MSD, and co-chaired by Associate Professor Vicki Whitehall and Professor John Mariadason. This quick-fire session saw seven experts each present for 15 minutes on a topic of their choice, followed by a 10-minute panel discussion. The sessions ranged from Early Onset Colorectal Cancer to Metabolic Reprogramming in Pancreatic Tumours, STAT Pathway Activation in Colorectal Cancer, and much more.
Part two of the Translational Science Symposium, sponsored by Bayer, focused on the Determinants of Patient Outcome, Therapy Response and New Targets of Colorectal Cancer. Faculty included Professor Jonothan Loree from BC Cancer, Vancouver; Professor Jerome Galon from Integrative Cancer Immunology, Paris; and Associate Professor Jayesh Desai from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne. Each speaker stimulated lots of questions and a view to how their areas of research will enter the clinical arena.
The final day was opened again by the warmth and humour of MC and cancer survivor Julie McCrossin, as she took attendees into the first Keynote Session for the day on Current and Emerging Multimodality Treatment Options for Hepatocellular Carcinoma. This session delved into the critical need for individual patients to undergo multidisciplinary evaluation and planning to generate an optimal management plan. This session was not only multidisciplinary, but global as well. Professor Ghassan Abou-Alfa joined from New York, Associate Professor Simone Strasser from Sydney, Dr Dominique Lee from Brisbane and Professor Pierce Chow from Singapore.
Next up was the eagerly anticipated AGITG Awards, presented by AGITG Chair Dr Lorraine Chantrill. Congratulations to the following recipients:
- Professor Mark Smithers: John Zalcberg OAM Award for Excellence in AGITG Research
- Professor Nick Pavlakis: AGITG Member Fundraiser of the Year
- Professor Eva Segelov: Innovation Grant
- Dr Shehara Mendis: Innovation Grant
- Professor Niall Tebbutt: Gastric Cancer Research Grant (including Linitis Plastica)
- Joanne Parr: Christine Aiken Memorial Award for Excellence in AGITG Study Coordination
- Western Health: AGITG Outstanding Site Award
- Dr Kim Kennedy: Best of the Best Poster Award (Winner)
- Dr Andrew Parsonson: Best of the Best Poster Award (Runner Up)
- Associate Professor Tim Clay: Best of New Concepts (Winner)
- Dr Shehara Mendis: Best of New Concepts (Runner Up)
Highlighting the developments and progress of AGITG trials over the past year continued during the day, as delegates heard from trial investigators on 12 AGITG Upper GI Cancer trials. The sessions were split up into two groups, which were followed by Q&A sessions, led by co-chairs Professor Andrew Barbour, Dr Bryan Chan, Associate Professor Lara Lipton and Dr Mandi Maundura.
Last, but certainly not least, the Closing Plenary was a projection into the future of AGITG. Chaired by Julie McCrossin and Professor Stephen Akland, and led by a panel of next-generation leaders, this session invited all members to ponder and discuss the future of the AGITG: What trial designs will AGITG undertake in the next 5-10 years? How can AGITG position itself to deliver trials in the best possible way? How does AGITG engage new talent to join the Group? Prior to the panel discussion, Professor John Zalcberg OAM from the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance presented, followed by the Merck-AGITG Clinical Research Fellow in London, Dr David Lau. The panel included early career researchers and future AGITG leaders, Dr Belinda Lee, Jan Mumford, Roslynn Murphy, Dr Sweet Ping Ng, Dr Oliver Piercey, Belinda Steer, Catherine Trevakis, and Dr Deborah Wright to discuss the future of AGITG trial design.
With all the positive feedback received, it’s safe to say this year’s virtual ASM was a successful one. It also served as the perfect platform to be able to recognise achievements over the past 30 years and look towards a bright future. The AGITG thanks the meeting Organising Committee, sponsors, chairs, speakers, delegates, and to MC Julie McCrossin along with ASM Convenor Professor Stephen Ackland, for making the meeting such an insightful event.