The 28th Annual Scientific Meeting of COSA, held at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre from 28-30 November 2001, addressed broad issues in cancer care policy as well as the traditional break-out sessions focused on cancer site specific and craft groups. The theme of the meeting, From Global to Local, looked at health care issues from the perspective of globalisation. In particular, international speakers were asked to address their topics from this global perspective. The result was a mix of presentations evaluating the themes of quality and access in cancer care, the use of the electronic super-highway as a means of professional and patient support and education, funding of cancer care in the US and Australia, examples of the new molecular biology, and finally an assessment of the future of cancer care.
COSA 2001 was opened by Paul de Jersey, Chief Justice of Queensland and past President of The Cancer Council Australia. Chief Justice de Jersey addressed the opportunities and challenges of globalisation, and provided a brief summary of issues that would be addressed over the next three days. The first session set the theme of Access and Quality of Cancer Care in a Globalised World. Professor Tom Reeve was this year’s recipient of the MSD Cancer Achievement Award and his lecture during the first plenary session on the development of clinical practice guidelines for best practice summarised the achievements of the evidence-based movement in Australia to date. The increasing importance of electronic communication in patient counselling and professional education were elegantly portrayed by Diane Blum, Director of Cancer Care Incorporated, and Michael Glode, the Editor-in-Chief of ASCO on-line during the second and third sessions on the first day. As a result of the tragedies of September 11, Diane Blum was unable to attend, but a last minute video of her presentation illustrated how high quality lectures can be delivered (at significant expense) through this medium.
The most sobering plenary session, and perhaps the most important for the COSA community, addressed the crisis of funding of cancer care in Australia. By comparison with the US, Australia fares poorly in funding of cytotoxic drugs and there is an urgent need for the medical oncology community to address this issue. Professor Lloyd Sansom, Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, provided an important historical perspective of the PBAC and an overview of the principles by which the PBAC conducts its business. He flagged that dialogue with relevant organisations will be an important future initiative, and both MOG and the pharmaceutical industry need to develop an open working relationship with the PBAC. The crisis in radiation oncology funding was addressed from both US and Australian perspectives. Manpower deficiencies are critical in both countries and it would appear that the US is moving along the same pathway as Australia towards crisis. Funding of palliative care appears to be, at best chaotic and rudimentary, while there is no funding for psychosocial care whatsoever.
In response to the dramatic advances in cancer research technology in recent years, COSA held a Cancer Research Symposium to address the new technologies underpinning fundamental biomedical cancer research. The translational potential of these technologies is an important issue for the medical oncology community to strategically target since future opportunities for participation in high quality cancer research will require collaboration with laboratory scientists. The natural partner of these initiatives is clinical trials and, on the last day of COSA, a “nuts and bolts” symposium addressed the methodologies and roles of the various contributors to the clinical trials process.
Breakout sessions once again evaluated practice and research at a number of cancer sites by different craft groups. This year’s recipient of the Neupogen Young Investigators Award was Dr Crystal Laurvick, who presented a population based study of the clinical epidemiology, treatment and outcomes of women in Western Australia with ovarian cancer (see below).
Medical oncologists continue to be the strongest medical supporters of COSA. Medical oncology sessions were well attended and were characterised by presentations of high quality data. The continuing contribution by medical oncologists to COSA should not be underestimated and MOG needs to continue its leadership role to create viable annual scientific meetings. Next year’s annual scientific meeting, convened by David Goldstein, requires vigorous support by the medical oncology community and I encourage members to start evaluating data for presentation.
Registration for the 28th COSA meeting was disappointing, given the diversity of speakers at this meeting. From the outset of planning, the Program and Organising Committee set the goal of inviting speakers representing different craft interests and, despite the late withdrawals as a result of the events of September 11, the programming was still diverse. To that extent, the Program and Organising Committee largely achieved its goals for the meeting