This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG) conducting and promoting clinical trials and related biological research in gastro-intestinal (GI) cancer. Looking back over 25 years and moving forward, the meeting presented information on the latest cutting edge research and evidence based treatments from leading national and international medical professionals.
Under the guidance of Associate Professor Eva Segelov, Meeting Convenor, and the Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) Executive Organising Committee, the AGITG ASM continues to provide a forum for mutual exchange of knowledge to improve the treatment of patients with GI cancer.
Our invited speakers from across the globe represented a distinguished plethora of experts from multi-disciplinary fields. We were privileged to host: Professor Alan Venook (University of California, USA); Professor Phil Quirke (University of Leeds, UK); Associate Professor Jeffrey Meyerhardt (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, USA); Professor Edgar Ben-Josef (University of Pennsylvania, USA); Dr Simron Singh (University of Toronto, Canada), Dr Rebecca Wong (University of Toronto, Canada); Associate Professor Magnus Nilsson (Karolinska Institute, Sweden).
From L to R: Professor Edgar Ben-Josef; Associate Professor Magnus Nilsson; Professor Alan Venook
The opening day plenary session included presentations from our international faculty with a focus on ‘Colorectal cancer and optimising outcomes in quality, lifestyle and patient centred care.
Following the plenary session on Day One was the Trial Session: Colorectal & Anal Cancer Trials with highlights including: The ICECREAM trial and its success of running a trial on a population selected based on molecularly defined mutation status. The ASCOLT trial and the combination of simple aspirin therapy to improve survival providing great opportunities on a translation research front to identify possible markers and sub populations who will benefit. The InterAACT trial and the challenges of setting up a international multi – centre trial on a relatively rare cancer and the overview from Professor Venook on where the future of CRC trials may be heading in the age of biomarkers and how to utilise the new therapies to gain the most benefit for our patients.
Radiation Oncologists gathered later in the day for an inspired workshop led by Professor Edgar Ben-Josef and Dr Rebecca Wong, who addressed current indicators and state of the art radiotherapy practice for treatment of pancreatic cancer, as well as the potential for stereotactic body radiotherapy and novel systemic combinations. Another breakfast session addressed the use of stereotactic body radiotherapy for treatment of primary liver cancer and liver metastases. These sessions were well attended by medical and trial staff. The sessions were interactive and had significant contribution from the guest speakers as well as the guests at the conference. Novel combinations of chemotherapy as well as challenges for starting biomarker-based trials in pancreatic cancer were covered and included a talk and discussion on the current evidence for combination chemo-radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer.
A full day was had by all on the second day of the conference. A/Prof Eva Segelov chaired the Meeting’s 25 Years — Looking back Moving Forward — 25 years of GI clinical trials, where-in three of our international faculty, Alan Venook, Magnus Nilsson and Edgar Ben-Josef presented outstanding and detailed information on clinical trials — looking back moving forward in their areas of specialty — molecular, surgical and radiation oncology trials.
In its second year the popular Study Co-ordinator/Consumer session gained significant momentum with a focus on quality of life issues and the role of the AGITG Consumer Advisory Panel. The topics presented on the CAP Role, QoL Surveys, Trial Quality Questionnaires, Diet and Exercise, Diet and Cancer, and Exercise Physiology were topical and of interest to all attendees.
In 2016, the New Concepts Symposium featured four excellent presentations of embryonic research concepts. This year the Best of New Concepts Award was given to A/Professor Eva Segelov for her concept in rectal cancer. The AGITG thanks Specialised Therapeutics Australia for their continued support of the Best of New Concepts Symposium.
The Posters Session continued to grow in 2016. This year four posters were selected for the Best of Posters session covering rectal, gastric and colorectal cancer. The winning poster was awarded to Dr Sharon Pattison for her poster with a focus on gastric cancer. The AGITG is grateful for sponsorship from Ipsen for the Best of Posters Award.
In addition to the Best of Posters and Best of New Concepts Awards, several awards were presented at the ever lively and social Annual Dinner, including the John Zalcberg OAM Award for Excellence in AGITG Research, presented to Conjoint Professor David Goldstein, for his tireless service in AGITG clinical research since the 1990’s and contributions to the leadership of AGITG; the AGITG Innovation Fund awarded to Dr Matthew Burge for his pilot study in metastatic colorectal cancer; and the AGITG Outstanding Site Award to Royal Hobart Hospital for their support and recruitment for AGITG clinical trials.
A first for the ASM this year was a special session for trainees. In this intimate session, current and prospective trainees met with a panel of cancer specialists who shared their own stories of career development, training choices, and views for the future. This interactive event was very well received and will undoubtedly be a staple of future meetings.
On the final day the Meeting the focus moved to Oesophago-Gastric trials and began with a breakfast keynote by Magnus Nilsson on the multi-disciplinary management of Oesophago-Gastric cancer. This session was followed by a close look at a number of clinical trials in this area, including the newly established INTEGRATE II, TOP GEAR, DOCTOR Translational Project, and Magnus Nilsson and Rebecca Wong discussing the surgical perspective and integrating RT in Upper GI cancer trials.
Rounding out the three days of ideas and exchange of information was the final session — a light hearted debate with Hot Topics including That Canada “trumps” the US in cancer care; That SBRT stands for Surgical Brothers Retirement Taskforce: surgeons are on the dinosaur path to extinction; and finally that quirks cannot be tolerated.
While light hearted, this session touched on very serious and confronting issues facing modern oncology practice such as sustainability of health care, and the strengths and weaknesses of different funding options for cancer care internationally. The international faculty and audience debated the role of novel technologies and the controls around introduction of new treatments into health care settings, particularly where some of these new technologies have intuitive appeal but limited evidence. The final debate addressed the tensions that exist between individual clinical freedoms, personalised medicine, and quality control and outcome measures. This final session in many ways captures the very soul of the AGITG meeting — collaborative, thought provoking, forward looking, innovative, and fun.