Developing curative regimens and other advances in pediatric oncology have demonstrated "what can be accomplished through collaboration, through the understanding of multidisciplinary care," said Michael P. Link, MD, ASCO President. Dr. Link commented to The ASCO Post about the theme for this year's ASCO Annual Meeting "Collaborating to Conquer Cancer."
Dr. Link said "We learned long ago in pediatric leukemia that this is really a complex heterogeneous collection of diseases, all of which are different and with different responses to therapy. The implications are that we can't just treat leukemia; we have to treat it depending on the specific molecular abnormality that puts you in a favorable-risk group or a high-risk group and ultimately will put you in a group that will be amenable to a targeted therapy."
With smaller subgroups of cancer patients, conducting robust clinical trials becomes more challenging. "So you have to collaborate very broadly," Dr. Link said. "Single institutions aren't going to be able to do the kinds of studies that we used to do, even in common cancers, because it turns out that what we thought were common cancers really are a series of relatively rare cancers under one rubric, like lung cancer."
Physicians and others involved in conducting clinical trials in pediatric oncology, Dr. Link said, 'learned to collaborate a long time ago, in part because we had no choice. None of us had enough patients, so we had to pool our efforts in order to do this." "Collaborating to Conquer Cancer," the theme of the 2012 ASCO Annual Meeting, is basically "the model of what has been done in pediatric oncology, and now those lessons are relevant to medical oncology generally as well," Dr. Link said. ■