ASTRO Annual MeetingASTRO annual meeting

The American Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) just wrapped up its annual meeting in beautiful Boston, Massachusetts. The theme of this year’s 58th annual event was “Enhancing Value, Improving Outcomes,” and did it ever ring true.

 Before the scientific program began, the Association of Residents in Radiation Oncology (ARRO) hosted its annual seminar focusing on matters important to us, the trainees. We heard a fantastic talk by Benjamin P. Falit, MD, about the financial elements of the specialty with topics ranging from reimbursement to how to calculate one’s time-worth while deciding on a job offer. A career panel was also held by the some of the preeminent physicians in the field, and of course, resident wellness was a hot topic. Anthony V. D’Amico, MD, PhD, gave the ARRO Keynote Address, sharing the story of his career path and how his rise through academia was founded upon relationships developed and nurtured with colleagues, collaborators, and most importantly, his wife.

Sunday was a picturesque, early fall day in New England, and the perfect backdrop to the opening of the scientific session. ASTRO president, David C. Beyer, MD, FACR, commenced with the Presidential Symposium, which highlighted the value radiation therapy provides in the treatment of prostate cancer. This value was punctuated with the results of three trials (RTOG 0415, OCOG/TROG PROFIT, and CHHiP) showcasing the non-inferiority of moderately hypo-fractionated regimens for low risk prostate cancer. The studies demonstrated shorter and less expensive overall cancer treatment, where radiotherapy can be shortened from 8 weeks to 4-5 weeks. This theme of value carried throughout the meeting. Similar to the last two ACR meetings, the sense at this year’s ASTRO was that radiation oncology is coming upon its own crossroads.

A hot topic of the meeting (not to mention all of medicine!) was immunotherapy. As a comparison, last year’s ASTRO meeting held one session on immunotherapy. This year, there were three. Likely most of us have heard the benefits found in the OPDIVO trial, or at least have seen the television ads. Well, let’s just say… immunotherapy is on the march! There was an ASTRO-SITC (Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer) joint session highlighting radiation as an adjuvant to immunotherapy. A key lecture by James S. Welsh, MD, provided an encouraging view of how immunotherapy and radiation can be applied to the metastatic patient and, of course, improve outcomes.

The above highlights give only a small fraction of all the happenings at this year’s ASTRO meeting. To say there was variety of content does not give justice to the veritable smorgasbord that could feed the “inner geek” in all of us. Even if you’re only involved in the diagnostic “side of the house,” the annual meeting provides plenty of insights in physics, biology, health policy, patient safety and outcomes, and general medicine to make it a worthwhile experience. And just one last comment… next year’s meeting is in San Diego.

By Bryan M. Rabatic, PhD, MD, ACR RFS Executive Committee Radiation Oncology Chief Resident, Department of Radiation Oncology, Medical College of Georgia (MCG)

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