General views of the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) - held in the McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. Courtesy: 2019. ASCO/Luke Franke 2019.
General views of the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) - held in the McCormick Place in Chicago, Ill. Courtesy: 2019 ASCO/Luke Franke 2019.

The impact of the COVID19 pandemic has resulted in more major oncology meetings to be presented in a different format or being postponed.

The organizers of ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, announced earlier this week that, for the first time since 2010, their annual meeting, will not take place in Chicago’s McCormick Place. Presented as the “Same Great Science, New Virtual Format,” the ASCO Board announced that with the extension of COVID19 related public health safety measures, they concluded that their annual meeting, scheduled for May 29 -June 2, 2020, in Chicago, could not occur as planned, but will be recreated as a ‘virtual event.’

With a growing number of states asking their residents to shelter in place, borders being closed and the impact and stress the COVID19 pandemic it is putting on the international health care, economic and transportation systems, making national and international travel being more difficult or even impossible, the chances of ASCO holding it’s annual meeting at the end of May and the beginning of June were becoming very remote.

In a statement, the ASCO-board said that while the planned ASCO 2020 cannot occur in person as planned, they still intend to deliver the latest cancer science to the global community during the annual meeting timeframe using a virtual format that respects the contributions of the authors and the work of the Scientific Program Committee.

In addition, ASCO is planning to publish the meeting abstracts online and in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on their usual schedule. However, ASCO’s educational program will be postponed with the ASCO organizers looking for opportunities for the (near) future.

World Conference on Lung Cancer
Another scheduled meeting being canceled – and postponed is the 2020 World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC 2020) organized by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) This meeting, originally scheduled from August 9 – 12, 2020, will now take place January 26-29, 2021.

In a statement, the IASLC-board noted that it was able to retain the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre as the host site for the WCLC 2020.

In this statement, Dave Mesko, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the IASLC, said that the postponement of the WCLC 2020 conference was based on multiple factors, including the current travel restrictions put in place by Singapore, the U.S. and other countries, and, importantly, the toll currently being placed on our health care community. These restrictions significantly affect the ability of delegates, speakers, presenters, and exhibitors to participate fully in the WCLC 2020. This decision also underlines the IASLC’s commitment to containing the virus and preventing further sickness and loss of life, as per the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

“We recognize that many people have already contributed a great deal of time and energy into helping prepare for this event, and we share their sense of disappointment this postponement creates,” Mesko said.

“However, the health, safety, and security of all participants and staff at IASLC events are of the utmost importance to us. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates regarding future IASLC events and activities,” he added.

COVID19, Cancer and WCLC
Another major reason to postpone the meeting is that IASLC represents a large community of medical professionals, many of whom are now working increased hours to support cancer patients and those impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to these individuals, their families, and their patients.

The WCLC has always provided a platform for sharing cutting-edge research and creating space for new collaborations and partnerships. To accommodate and showcase lung cancer research that is slated for presentation in 2020, the IASLC is considering several options, including the possibility of a virtual Presidential Symposium in August in order to engage and bring new, relevant late-breaking science.

For an overview of other meetings being canceled or postponed, click here.