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Summary of the 2019 Society of Interventional Oncology Annual Meeting


The Society of Interventional Oncology (SIO) held its annual scientific meeting at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center June 7 – 11 in beautiful Boston. With nearly 100 plenary sessions, 31 scientific abstracts, and over 35 sponsors/exhibitions, the four and a half-day conference excelled at delivering the latest and greatest research, clinical, and industry updates within the rapidly evolving field of interventional oncology (IO).

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A relatively intimate conference when compared to RSNA, SIO was founded by the board of directors of the World Congress of IO in 2017. Its mission is to advance the field of IO as the fourth pillar of cancer therapy alongside medicine, surgery, and radiation oncology. As part of this endeavor, the SIO has collaborated with several industry sponsors to facilitate a “fellows and residents scholarships” program dedicated to offering future IO professionals, with a unique opportunity to attend and intimately engage with industry experts and IO research and clinical leaders. I, along with other 52 residents and fellows, participated in this program.

Our SIO experience began on Thursday at a dinner hosted by one of the conference sponsors. What set this dinner apart was the opportunity to interact and learn from the many trainees and their experiences. Over 35 programs representing 12 countries were present among the SIO scholars, and, as you can suspect, each of their clinical, research, and life experiences were unique in their own regard and worth learning from.

After an evening well-spent getting to know one another, the real IO experience began early Friday. After multiple didactic lectures covering technical and clinical aspects of microwave ablation (MWA), we were paired into groups and asked to participate in a hands-on session. Simulated by olives hidden within a store-bought beef liver, we were tasked with using an ultrasound and microwave probe to ‘find and ablate the tumor.’  In addition to the comradery enjoyed over seeing your peers striving to ablate a simulated tumor, the new and developing software and hardware demonstrated during these sessions really accentuated the rapid advancements happening within the field of MWA.

Following a succinct break, the well-anticipated “IO Essentials” session kicked off during Friday afternoon. Lead by some of the most well-known leaders in IO, this session was divided into five general sessions. The beginning of the introductory session was brought by Drs. Tam and Solomon, who reminded us of the advances and challenges encountered by the field of IO over recent decades. In a manner not often seen by trainees at international conferences, a family member of a patient who was treated by one of SIO’s clinicians delivered a heartfelt story that reminded us of the humanity and positive impact that IO can provide to patients and their loved ones. Subsequent sessions focused on the more technical aspects of IO clinical preparation, management, and techniques — including real-world career building advice from IO business clinician leaders, such as Dr. Aneesa Majid.

Our Saturday started with an introductory session into the field of immune oncology and the role of IO within it – an endeavor affectionally known as IO2 (pronounced as IO-squared). Personally, one of the most interesting prospects of IO2 was the intratumoral injection of oncolytic immunotherapy agents, which use genetically engineered viruses to selectively replicate and kill tumors. While these upcoming oncologic therapies are very promising, their risks and benefits profile can be complex and thus require a strong multidisciplinary collaboration. To highlight and address this need, SIO invited non-IO clinician experts, such as Drs. Lipika Goyal (medical oncology) and Jennifer Wo (radiation oncology), to discuss non-IO and IO therapies for oncologic disease. I thoroughly enjoyed this session for its ability to highlight the ways in which different subspecialties can complement each other to deliver a more holistic and effective approach for a patient. After this very informative session, SIO organized a fun game night in which well-known IO leaders went on friendly “head-to-head” hands-on IO skills competitions. With Dr. Sarah White as the officiator, laughs were shared among trainees and attendings alike!

Our Sunday was packed with more hands-on experiences with new industry software and hardware. Furthermore, we were able to see more IO talks that discussed challenges and advances in the field — including new therapies, such as the use of nanoparticles for improving the efficacy of drug delivery and targeted ablation techniques. One of my favorite highlights of this day was the SIO boat ride in Boston’s beautiful and historic harbor, which offered a unique opportunity to interact with IO leaders from around the world in a relaxed setting. My fondest memory from this SIO social event was the approachability and relatability of many ‘big name’ individuals. 

The last two days of the conference did not disappoint. My personal highlights during these days included discussions of intratumoral targeted drug therapies, ongoing systemic plus locoregional therapy trials, and a session called “Extreme IO: Great Saves and Poor Outcomes.”

Overall, the SIO meeting and its SIO scholars program were hugely successful in delivering high-impact information to practicing clinicians and trainees alike. What I personally enjoyed the most about this conference was the relatively intimate setting, the approachability of the speakers, and the multidisciplinary focus. If you find yourself interested in IO or IR, I recommend attending the SIO meeting. If you are eligible, consider attending as a scholar (visit http://www.sio-central.org/page/scholarship-2019 for more information).

Don't forget to mark your calendars for the 2020 SIO Annual Scientific Meeting: Jan, 31Feb. 3 in New Orleans! The abstract deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2019, at 11:59 PM ET.


Alex Villalobos, MD, (@Villalobos_MD) is a  radiology resident at Emory University Hospital.

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