2020 Cancer Cachexia Society Conference
On September 10-11, 2020, the Cancer Cachexia Society held a virtual conference in lieu of the 5th cancer cachexia conference which was set to take place in Montreal, Canada, but due to COVID-19 was rescheduled for 2021. The program was abbreviated from three days to two, but many of the key features of our regular conferences were maintained, such as discussions on the first day focused on clinical trials, while day two concentrated on the molecular mechanisms underlying tissue wasting in cancer. We also repeated a virtual version of the most popular session from our 2018 conference, highlighting the next generation of cancer cachexia researchers.
Although there were certainly technical challenges involved in having to make the switch from a regular in person meeting to a virtual format, we experienced several unanticipated successes. The first surprise was the number of registrants. Whereas our past conferences have drawn on average 150 participants, this 2020 virtual conference had 300 registered participants representing 22 countries. Our registrants also submitted 77 abstracts and a third of our presenters submitted video recordings highlighting their posters, which was an element we had not considered doing until moving to a virtual format.
Probably our biggest unexpected success from this meeting came from a panel discussion we held at the end of the first day to summarize the progress the field made in the designing of proper cancer cachexia clinical trials. Although such panel discussions had been organized in our 2016 and 2018 conferences, they didn’t have the same impact as the focus that was generated by viewing the discussion on screen with the moderators and panelists present at the same time. It was a flowing discussion with active participation from attendees submitting their questions virtually. The discussions engaged both clinicians and basic scientists at a more meaningful level, a success that could be attributed to one of the advantages of the virtual format. In that 45 min discussion, consensus regarding several key points began to emerge such as the proper endpoints that should be chosen for clinical trials based on the intervention being utilized, and the general agreement was that such choices could have an impact on how future cancer cachexia trials are designed.
Below are abstracts submitted by our participants who either presented their research by
posters or oral presentations. They represent basic science, pre-clinical, and clinical studies reflecting the current advances in the field. From our post-conference survey, it was clear that graduate students and other trainees who do not have the same flexibility in traveling to international conferences prefer that our future meetings include a virtual platform. We agree that COVID has shown us a new way of exchanging science, one that the organizers of our 2021 conference on August 27-29 in Gainesville, Florida has already approved in implementing.