Clinical Oncology Society of Australia



Executive Officer, COSA

COSA Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM)

The 2016 COSA ASM was another highly successful conference. Our partnership with the Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group helped ensure the program covered all aspects of breast cancer research and treatment. As always, COSA’s emphasis on multidisciplinary care was soundly embodied in the presentations.

The common overarching themes from all presenters in the opening plenary “Global advances in breast cancer” set the scene for three full days of conferencing, recognising the heterogeneous nature of breast cancer, and the importance of tailoring patient management to their tumour biology and individual risks of recurrence.

Our Exercise and Cancer Group was keen to highlight the importance of this emerging area at the ASM by hosting a booth in the exhibition hall and featuring the topic in the program. The interactive booth allowed delegates to participate in exercise challenges, gain insight into what patients referred to an exercise program experience and learn about exercise. We were pleased to include a session on “Exercise and breast cancer” featuring one of the international invited speakers, Melinda Irwin from Yale. This is clearly a very important topic for COSA delegates, as it was standing room only. The impact of exercise on some of the troublesome and difficult to manage side effects of breast cancer and its treatment were discussed in this session. All the speakers endorsed exercise as an important adjunct therapy for patients, even those with high symptomology.

We included a stimulating session on another topic not often presented at cancer conferences: “Male breast cancer”. One of the key challenges faced by men is lack of awareness of male breast cancer, which leads to delayed diagnosis by both patients and doctors. Treatment can impact on self-esteem, sexuality and physical appearance. There is less support for men with breast cancer, but groups such as the Breast Cancer Network Australia are developing male-targeted resources. Survivorship issues are often less well addressed in men, with treatments causing hot flushing, joint pains, lymphoedema and weight gain. The conference heard that treatments that work well in females with breast cancer are less effective in men. Tamoxifen is often the best adjuvant treatment as most male breast cancers are ER-positive. Some studies have found that men are under-treated and chemotherapy should be given to patients with larger or node-positive cancers.

We closed the ASM with the COSA Presidential Lecture and the Hot Topic Debate. Dr Ranjana Srivastava, a medical oncologist in Melbourne and accomplished writer gave a Lecture titled “The Good Doctor – The oncologist as advocate: Making a difference beyond the bedside”. Ranjana spoke of her work with refugees and asylum seekers who struggle to find appropriate healthcare in Australia. She challenged delegates to use their talents to advocate for better care for our patients and those who will need healthcare in the future.

Planning is well underway for the 2017 COSA ASM, to be held at the new International Convention Centre Sydney. We have changed our schedule slightly and will run from Monday 13 to Wednesday 15 November, with pre-conference workshops on Sunday 12 November 2017. The program for COSA’s 44th ASM will focus on immunotherapy with a subtheme of implementing quality and safety in cancer care. These are hot topics in oncology at the moment, so we are confident we can deliver a program with something for everyone.

New immunotherapy treatments have shown great success in melanoma, and more recently in many other difficult to treat cancers. We plan to feature as many as possible in the ASM program. The inclusion of quality and safety will complement the strong molecular and therapeutic theme of immunotherapy. In this subtheme we will focus on the cost and value of cancer care and treatments; the implementation and de-implementation of evidence into practice; preventing errors in cancer care; why quality improvement matters; and discuss tips for choosing wisely.

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 Cancer Council Australia and COSA:

  1. Therapeutic Goods Administration Consultation: Orphan drug Program (November 2016)
  2. Therapeutic Goods Administration consultation: Expedited pathways for prescription medicines (December 2016)
  3. Therapeutic Goods Administration consultation: Criteria for comparable overseas regulators, Enhanced international collaboration in the regulation or prescription medicines (December 2016)

For more information about COSA activities please visit

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