ASCO

What are we doing at this conference?

I’ve just returned from the 2012 ASCO Annual Meeting – one of the largest cancer-related conferences organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  It is my second ASCO Meeting and my fourth conference this year.  It had me thinking about the sheer number of cancer-related conferences I have attended as a cancer patient, survivor, advocate, and Sharsheret staff member since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago.  Let’s just say: I’ve collected (and donated!) more canvas bags and pens than I will ever be able to use.

In 2012 alone, Sharsheret staff members have attended or presented at more than 13 conferences nationwide – gatherings that have addressed cancer genetics, young women facing breast cancer, women living with ovarian cancer, cancer and culture, and survivorship.

Why do we do it?  Because the information we learn and the connections we make all benefit you - the women and families of Sharsheret.  Whether we hear about new research in cancer care or find an organization that can provide you with a resource you may need over time, every conference offers us new “nuggets” to improve the services and care we provide our Sharsheret community.

Below, I’ve answered some of the questions you may have about cancer conferences.  If you’ve got any others, please feel free to contact me directly at rshoretz@sharsheret.org.   And if you decide to join us on the road, rest assured you’ll leave with “nuggets” of your own . . . and, at the very least, a new canvas bag.

What do we do at the conferences we attend?

Sharsheret staff members attend conferences as students, presenters, and exhibitors.  Our clinical staff members bring back new research, resources, and services that can benefit the families we serve.  As presenters, we share Sharsheret’s best practices with the national cancer and Jewish communities.  At exhibit halls, we connect with other advocacy organizations, health care providers, and Jewish community liaisons to broaden Sharsheret’s reach.

How can I access information and research that is presented at a conference?

In addition to connecting with our staff, many major conference organizers share slides, presentations, or videos with the public after a conference.  Visit the conference website to see if materials will be available to you.  For example, if you want to learn more about the breast cancer or ovarian research presented at the ASCO meeting this year, visit www.cancer.net for short summaries.  Always contact your health care provider with any questions you may have about your own health.

How can I determine if a cancer conference is right for me?

We let you know about upcoming conferences that might be of interest to you on our website and in our bi-monthly e-updates.  Feel free to call us for more information and to discuss whether a particular conference may be of interest to you. 

Can I afford to attend a conference?

Many conferences offer scholarships or travel waivers and some conferences are even free of charge. You can find more information by going to the conference website, or speaking directly to the person organizing the event who may be able to accommodate your financial circumstances. 

Know of a conference we should attend?

Share it with us!  We appreciate learning about important conferences in your community.  Many of our volunteers help us distribute materials at conferences nationwide.  Contact Rebecca Schwartz, Director of Community Engagement, at rschwartz@sharsheret.org with conference details.

From the Cab to the Conference: ASCO's Annual Meeting From a Patient's Perspective

By: Rochelle Shoretz, Founder and Executive Director

Each year, thousands of clinicians and researchers convene at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Sprinkled among them are patient advocates and patients, like me, who attend sessions so that they can share the latest research with others. This year, I was fortunate to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago with a patient advocate scholarship from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO, and I’m delighted to be able to share research in both breast cancer and ovarian cancer with you.

But first, I need to share a conversation I had with a cab driver on my way to a local outreach event we coordinated for cancer survivors and professionals.

“Let me ask you a question,” the driver began. “There are thousands of researchers and doctors attending this cancer conference, but there is still no cure for cancer. Isn’t this a waste of time and money?”

I’ve heard this question many times before, and I’ve answered it many times before. But this time, I was en route to meet some of our Sharsheret callers living in Chicago, and survivors interested in learning more about our national programs – and the answer seemed more urgent. As I explained to the driver, the research presented at ASCO may not, itself, be the cure for the cancer, but it certainly includes critical pieces to the larger puzzle. And even though that research may not offer the cure today, it is giving most of us living with cancer better quality of life and, some of us, longer lives to live.

I hopped out of the cab and headed into “Cocktails and Conversation”, an opportunity for me to meet with our Sharsheret callers and new women welcomed by our partner organizations in Chicago – Bright Pink, Cancer Legal Resource Center, FORCE, Gilda’s Club Chicago, MyLifeLine.org, and Y-Me. Everyone was buzzing about the conference and the research to be presented that weekend.

For those of us facing breast cancer, the big ASCO news stemmed from a study that showed that post-menopausal women who have a high risk of breast cancer were less likely to develop the disease when they received an aromatase inhibitor called exemestane (Aromasin). That news is important for many of our Sharsheret callers, as 1 in 40 Jews of Ashkenazi descent is at high risk of developing breast cancer (and ovarian cancer) because of a mutation they carry in what is commonly referred to as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. You can read more about the study at http://bit.ly/iLSZuj.

For those of us facing ovarian cancer, scientists at ASCO presented promising research findings from two studies that examined the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) to treat recurrent and newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer. You can read more about those studies at http://bit.ly/iqlc4a.

You can call Sharsheret to speak with a genetic counselor or one of our clinical staff with any questions about these research studies.

As we exhibit and attend breast cancer and ovarian cancer conferences across the country, all of the staff at Sharsheret look forward to sharing our findings with you. Whether our perspectives are gleaned in the cab or the conference hall, we’re proud to be your source of support and information on this journey.