Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, COSA

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Executive Officer, COSA


COSA Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM)

The 42nd COSA ASM was held in Hobart, from 17-19 November, at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

The ASM week began with the COSA Public Forum. Each year COSA hosts this free information forum for people who have been affected by cancer on the Sunday prior to the ASM. Seventy five members of the general public attended the forum at the Hotel Grand Chancellor. Guest speakers included: Poulam Patel on new cancer therapies; Prue Cormie on the role of exercise in the management of cancer; Jeremy Couper on using mindfulness during cancer treatment; Angelica Pearce talking about oral chemotherapy medication safety; and Christine Edwards discussing communication between GPs and oncologists. Feedback from the day was excellent. It’s not often that the public have an opportunity like this to hear from leading cancer experts.

On the Monday, COSA hosted a number of pre-conference workshops. All had great feedback from delegates and most were sold out.

  • ‘Multi-disciplinary Supportive and Survivorship Care: models, methods and more’ workshop, attended by 100 delegates, was co-hosted by five COSA Groups – Complementary and Integrative Therapies, Exercise and Cancer, Nutrition, Psycho-oncology and Survivorship. This workshop provided a unique opportunity for members to develop practical skills, debate clinical scenarios and hear in depth discussion of current research.
  • Molecular biology workshop, ‘Precision medicine starts here’, discussed new approaches to tumour classification, with a focus on genetic reclassification. Delegates explored what this means for those diagnosing and treating cancer patients, with an overview of the principles of molecular diagnostics including next generation sequencing (the practicalities of testing – which tests for which cancers, what they mean, their limitations, FISH diagnostics, multigene tests in breast cancer), as well as how these may be used in the clinic.
  • COSA Cancer Pharmacists Clinical Development Workshop, as always was sold out, and provided relevant and high-level advanced educational and development opportunities to cancer pharmacists. The program included sessions on: medication safety; the pros and cons of electronic chemo prescribing software; antibody-conjugates and other new drug delivery systems for chemotherapy; and the management of neuroendocrine tumours, including carcinoid crisis.
  • COSA Clinical Trials Research Professionals Group Clinical Development Workshop focused on risk-based monitoring and GCP coordinators training. The workshop was highly interactive with case studies to support the theory covered.

The conference proper commenced on Tuesday 17 November. The COSA ASM had not been hosted in Hobart for 18 years, and with over 760 registrations was considered a very successful meeting. The opening ceremony, officiated by the Governor of Tasmania, the Honourable Professor Kate Warner AM, set the scene and reminded all delegates that the cancer patient and survivor is at the heart of our work.

The opening plenary ‘What are rare cancers?’ chaired by prominent COSA member Ray Lowenthal, cemented the importance of the rare cancers theme. Two of the invited international speakers, Paolo Dei Tos and Derek Raghavan, presented on classifying, diagnosing and managing rare tumours. Hugh Dawkins spoke about how other rare diseases can learn from rare cancers and David Kissane brought the psycho-oncology perspective to the fore.

The Tuesday program focused on some of the common rare cancers – melanoma, NETs and sarcoma. In addition to the various health professional experts, the patient’s viewpoint was also heard. Luke Ryan – comedian, author and two-time sarcoma survivor – was honoured to share the stage with his surgeon and oncologist, and Simone Leyden from the Unicorn Foundation spoke about the patient and carer perspective of NETs.

The diverse Wednesday program included sessions on rare presentations and sub types, genetics, imaging, trial design and supportive care. One of the program highlights was a session on ‘Pregnancy and cancer’. Expertly chaired by Rosemary Harrup, speakers included: Elizabeth Sullivan who spoke on her population study on gestational breast cancers; Kim Hobbs who dealt with the emotionally charged topic of termination decision making; Kelly Phillips who gave an informative update on fertility preservation; and Sally Brooks who presented on the safety of cancer therapies during pregnancy. COSA was delighted to include the personal perspectives of Rebecca O’Donnell and Pamela Cinquini, both diagnosed with, and treated for breast cancer, during their pregnancies. Both are doing very well now and continue to undergo surveillance.

All the sessions held in the plenary hall were recorded and will be made available exclusively to COSA members on a secure area of the COSA website.

2016 COSA ASM – Gold Coast

As previously reported, COSA is partnering with the ANZ Breast Cancer Trials Group to host a joint breast cancer focused conference, 15-17 November 2016 at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. At the time of writing this report, the Program Committee had held its first meeting and developed a first draft of the program. We plan to publish the draft program by March 2016.

Progress in regional and rural oncology

The COSA Regional and Rural Group has been very busy in the last few months with a number of their projects completed and endorsed COSA Council.

Teleoncology is becoming part of the core business of many cancer clinicians to enable them to provide care closer to home for rural and remote patients. In 2014, the Regional and Rural Group identified the need to pool together the evidence and make recommendations for use of teleoncology models. After a year of work, the draft COSA Clinical Practice Guidelines for Teleoncology were launched at the COSA ASM in Hobart. The guidelines were developed by a multidisciplinary working group led by Sabe Sabesan and assisted by COSA Project Manager Jessica Harris. The guidelines will continue to be updated on the Cancer Guidelines Wiki and can be found at: wiki.cancer.org.au/australia/COSA:Teleoncology

Development of an ANZ Teletrial Model is underway to enable the conduct of clinical trials closer to home for regional and rural patients. The model allows clinicians from larger centres (primary sites) to enrol, consent and treat patients on clinical trials at regional and rural centres (satellite sites) using teleoncology in collaboration with clinicians from satellite centres. This is a joint collaboration between COSA and the Cancer Institute NSW, with the model being endorsed by COSA Council at their August 2015 meeting. The next steps will be to seek feedback and endorsement from our affiliated organisations, especially the cooperative trials groups on the guide for implementation.

At the August 2015 meeting, Council also approved the Regional and Rural Group’s proposal for COSA to endorse the Queensland Remote Chemotherapy Supervision Model (QReCS), so that this can be adopted Australia-wide by centres willing to embark on this model. Although teleoncology models have enabled the access to various chemotherapy regimens closer to home for patients from larger rural centres, patients from many small rural towns with low patient numbers continue to travel to larger centres for their chemotherapy. This is mainly due to limited availability and access to chemotherapy trained nurses in those towns. A teleoncology model incorporating telemedicine, telenursing and telepharmacy can enable selected chemotherapy delivery at rural centres. In Queensland, this model has been established under the title of ‘QReCS’ and as a result of this many rural and remote centres have begun administering chemotherapy. A recent study published in the European Journal of Cancer Care showed that this model is welcomed by nursing, medical and allied health staff in North Queensland. COSA will now advocate to the Queensland Government to approve COSA sharing the QReCS.

Working with Cancer Council Australia

In COSA’s role as medical and scientific advisors to Cancer Council Australia, we often collaborate on submissions to government. Since the last report we have submitted the following joint submissions from CCA and COSA:

  1. Chemotherapy Compounding Payments Scheme, Draft Operational Guidelines (August 2015), led by the COSA Cancer Pharmacists Group.
  2. Primary Health Care Advisory Group consultation (September 2015), also in partnership with PC4.
  3. Australian Commission on Safety & Quality in Health Care discussion paper on establishing national priorities in clinical practice guidelines (September 2015).
  4. Biosimilar Awareness Implementation Framework (October 2015).
  5. IP Australia’s proposed change in patent examination practice (November 2015).

For more information about COSA activities please visit www.cosa.org.au

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