Bridging the medical gap in thoracic oncology – Prof Solange Peters and Dr Alfredo Addeo on the 4th International Lung Cancer Summit

Lung cancer, photomicrograph of small cell carcinoma

As the scientific landscape across the field of oncology is constantly evolving, discussion around the latest treatment options in Thoracic Oncology is vital to help align on a common approach to the treatment of lung cancer - the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Prof Solange Peters and Dr Alfredo Addeo are this year’s chairs of the 4th International Lung Cancer Summit (ILCS) held in Lausanne, Switzerland. Frontiers in Oncology has an ongoing relationship with the summit and are proud to be involved in supporting a platform for sharing the latest discoveries and advances towards the treatment of lung cancer.

Prof Peters is the chair of Medical Oncology in the department of oncology at Lausanne University Hospital. She is also the chair of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Women for Oncology Committee and the youngest ever ESMO president. Dr Addeo  is a consultant medical oncologist at the University Hospital of Geneva, Switzerland. He is also an active ESMO member and one of our Associate Editors in Frontiers in Oncology. Dr Addeo has been involved in leading multiple successful collections in our Thoracic Oncology section including 'New Insights Into Targeting ALK in Patients With Lung Cancer' and 'Real-World Evidence in Lung Cancer' .

In this interview Prof Peters and Dr Addeo discuss the importance of connecting thoracic experts across the world to exchange successes and challenges in treatment, the focus of this years ILCS and their experience in hosting the summit.

What is the International Lung Cancer Summit and why is it so important?

Solange Peters: The ILCS is a forum for everyone in the field of lung cancer from all over the world to connect, discuss and exchange the latest and personal challenges in the management and current treatment. The landscape for the treatment of lung cancer has evolved dramatically in the past years thanks to enormous efforts from scientists and researchers worldwide. The medical gap in thoracic oncology, however, remains incredibly large and the potential for novel treatment methods is enormous. Our goal is to find a way through the jungle of available scientific evidence and data to reach a consensus on the optimal treatment approach and to share these results with all stakeholders, ultimately benefiting all of us: the organizers, the participants, but most importantly our patients.

The ILCS is also a pioneering platform because, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it set a milestone as an educational hybrid event with the possibility to participate both online as well as on-site, thereby enabling a virtual, independent outreach to many people from all over the world without traveling to Geneva or Lausanne. As a result, we now have participants joining us from more than 50 countries and we hope to reach even more people this year, who can make use of this format which is indeed more sustainable and environment-friendly.

How does the ILCS distinguish from other lung cancer conferences?

Alfredo Addeo: I can think of several things. First and foremost, this conference brings together both young and established experts from around the globe to put the most relevant studies of the past year into the clinical context in an attempt to align on a common approach. This increases the variety of different experiences that the speakers as well as the audience bring with them and makes a valuable exchange, as everyone has a different background.

What makes this conference so unique is its atmosphere, which is very different from other meetings. It was born from the collaboration between Lausanne University Hospital and The Geneva University Hospitals to bring together leading key opinion leaders from various countries who bring their own challenges and perspectives. As a faculty, we support the attitude to ask any questions and speak up and express own experiences from the daily clinics, while discussing thought-provoking aspects within an open forum. We take advantage of this to discuss the difficulties among healthcare professionals that we face and struggle with every day. Another point that makes the ILCS a special event is the reproduction of knowledge and data. We do not only try to communicate or present the latest data, but we want to analyze and interpret them, and then translate them so that we can translate them into our own practice.

On the other hand, we have world-renowned specialists in the field of lung cancer on site in Geneva or Lausanne, which puts the lectures and discussions on a level of highest quality. And still, it feels like being in a small group among friends, where you can ask all your questions at any time and without fear, and you meet each other with the highest level of respect and helpfulness. So come and ask all your questions, share your concerns and discuss the latest therapy approach with all of us, but most importantly – join us!

What are the reasons for healthcare professionals to participate in this year’s lung cancer summit?

Peters: There are many reasons why healthcare professionals should attend the ILCS. First of all, you have to realize how difficult it is for healthcare professionals to keep up with the bulk of trial data and filter out the most suitable therapy options, especially when we consider available biomarkers, toxicities, co-morbidities and access to drugs. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, and it is for this reason that we need to openly discuss these challenges to find a consensus from the complexity of the data and share it with everyone.

In addition, this event is meant to be very interactive for all attendees. This means that anyone online or on-site can speak up, add comments, ask questions, and also share patient cases. We appreciate it when viewers behind the screen can also submit live video messages which we can then show during the conference and discuss in the panel. And should you not be able to join us live on 7th of October – whether virtually or in person at the event – you can watch all the lectures and discussions afterwards or even watch them a second or third time, as all discussions and presentations will be available on the online platform the next day.

What will be the focus of this year's ILCS?

Addeo: Our focus will essentially be the clinical picture of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer at different stages of the diseases. An important question will also be whether immunotherapy is really the most appropriate therapy in some of these indications and what alternatives we have available. We will certainly also discuss the use of targeted therapies and oncogenic driver mutations, which are taking on an ever-increasing role in therapeutic options. And what about the patients for whom there is no suitable therapy due to co-morbidities? I am sure that many will be glad to be able to discuss this with others and get an idea about available options.

And of course, there is still chemotherapy and radiation, which continue to play an essential role, as well as surgery. Combining these therapy options, or selecting the most proven and helpful ones for the patient, will continue to play a central role in the future and challenge us with multimodal approaches. As you can see, we all feel that this is an extremely complex field and therefore it is all the more important that specialists continue to find a common approach. Therefore, it is important for the future that we continue to develop the common consensus to ensure all possible treatment strategies. And that's exactly what the ILCS is designed to help with.

Who should attend the International Lung Cancer Summit?

Peters: The target audience for the ILCS is broad and comprises any stakeholder who wants to follow the scientific landscape in thoracic oncology with its hundreds of new studies and trial data being published every year. Apart from oncologists, we wish to invite radio-oncologists, surgeons, pneumologists, and pathologists to join us and ask all their questions. We are obviously also happy to welcome general practitioners and nurses, who take key roles and responsibilities for our patients. These are in direct contact with patients, which makes it even more important that the knowledge shared at the ILCS is conveyed to them and made accessible for their everyday practice. And importantly, we also welcome patient representatives as well as all those who are generally interested in and concerned with the field of lung cancer in order to take this knowledge to the patients on the next day.

What are you most proud of when it comes to the ILCS?

Addeo: I must admit that I am proud that we are holding the ILCS this year for the 4th time in a row, Covid-19 pandemic notwithstanding. For the last four years, it has always been about the joint collaboration between two major academic centers in Switzerland. On the one hand, this is my hospital, the University Hospital of Geneva. On the other hand, there is the Lausanne University Hospital, where Prof Peters works. This collaboration between Prof Peters and myself shows even more clearly how important collaboration, cooperation among us physicians is in order to find the best therapeutic options for our patients.

Another point that makes me proud is that we are meeting with so many important professionals from all over the world from different continents, who are very eager to participate with their expertise and knowledge. And the last aspect is that we can share all this important information in a single day with everybody else and make it accessible for free until we meet again next year.

We look forward to hearing the discourse at this year’s ILCS and learning more about the future for thoracic oncology. Frontiers in Oncology aims to be at the forefront of publishing new advances in oncology and we are continually inspired and led by these expert discussions.

As mentioned by Prof Peters and Dr Addeo, new targeted therapies, immunotherapy and combination therapies are providing new treatment options for lung cancer patients. Further research into these therapeutic options is critical to improve outcomes for patients. For further reading, Dr Addeo has recently published within Frontiers in Oncology on these therapies:

This interview was conducted by Dr. Mehrpouya Mobin.