IASLC CEO Karen Kelly, MD, is an internationally recognized lung cancer expert. Her research spans the spectrum of this disease from prevention to treatment. Recently, ILCN had the opportunity to ask Dr. Kelly about the upcoming World Conference on Lung Cancer. In the following Q&A, get some behind-the-scenes insights, hear her tips for making the most of WCLC 2022, and find out what she’s looking forward to in Vienna.
ILCN: Beyond its devastating consequences to life and health, the COVID-19 pandemic has also made planning ahead extraordinarily challenging. As the world slowly returns to traveling and in-person events, how was IASLC able to plan WCLC 2022 during this time of such uncertainty? What were some of the unique challenges you and your staff faced planning the conference?
Dr. Kelly: Because of COVID, we are now experts in both fully in-person meetings and fully virtual meetings. The challenge has been to try to marry those two platforms to ensure an engaging experience for all our attendees, whether in-person or virtual. This does take extra planning, but our teams have been diligently working to find the right balance.
As we thought about how the virtual program would function, one of our concerns was timing. We’re a global association and accommodating time zones around the world is a challenge when it comes to streaming live events. We will be streaming some sessions, including the plenary sessions and award lectures, however I think the flexibility of the on-demand content will be highly popular with attendees. All presentations will be available for on-demand viewing via the virtual platform or meeting app within 24 hours.
ILCN: What are you most excited about with the return of an in-person WCLC? What does it mean for the profession to be able to get together face-to-face?
Dr. Kelly: I’m so eager to see all my colleagues from around the world. I always look forward to having intellectual conversations during conferences, but this year, it’s about much more. Being able to converse with our peers about the challenges we’ve faced the past two years and catching up with each other’s personal milestones will be equally important.
Having the opportunity to reconnect is priceless. These personal encounters help us get our creativity flowing and that generates new ideas and projects. In turn, this leads to better brainstorming and real-time peer review throughout the conference.
ILCN: Unfortunately, not everyone in the lung cancer community will be able to be in Vienna. What advice or tips do you have for virtual attendees to help them stay engaged and get the most out of their WCLC experience?
Dr. Kelly: First of all, I’d encourage everyone—but especially our virtual attendees—to download the meeting app and get familiar with it before the meeting begins. The app has many helpful tools to help make navigating the conference and planning a schedule easier. Attendees using a desktop computer instead of a mobile device to attend live sessions or watch on-demand presentations will want to log into the virtual platform and be familiar with how it works as well.
The other important point is engagement. Beyond virtual access to educational content, we want our virtual attendees to have opportunities for interaction with their colleagues as well. Our live-streamed sessions will include a live chat feature for discussion and questions, so I hope our virtual attendees make use of that.
I encourage all attendees to join our first-ever walkathon Step It Up for Research, which is a virtual fundraiser to support early-career researchers. The event is open to anyone, anywhere. I hope our attendees get involved and bring their friends, families, and colleagues along. It’s going to be fun. I know I am going to be doing a lot of walking and probably some running during the meeting.
ILCN: What sessions or events are you most looking forward to during WCLC?
Dr. Kelly: Top on my list is our Presidential Symposium, which highlights this year’s top-rated abstracts. The past year-and-a-half has really been about early-stage disease. It’s been great to see the therapeutic advances in advanced disease move to the early-stage setting. Now, we have two immune checkpoint inhibitors approved in early-stage disease, but they were approved based on the disease-free survival endpoint, so we are anxious to hear the data on overall survival (OS) from the Impower010 trial, which will be presented.
We’re also anxious to hear about the progression-free survival (PFS) and OS from the NADIM II study. In June, we saw the impressive major pathological response rate with the combination of chemotherapy and an immune checkpoint inhibitor, but we need to translate that into PFS and OS, so it will be interesting to hear the data during the Presidential Symposium.
We’re still trying to determine the best surgical resection approach for patients with small tumors. We learned many years ago—before CT screening was available—that a limited resection was not recommended because the local recurrence rate was high. Now we’ll see data from the Alliance trial comparing lobar and sub-lobar resection in smaller tumors of 2 centimeters or less. These are important results because now with CT screening, and the possibility of finding multiple nodules, preservation of lung tissue is critical to our patient population.
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The fourth abstract featuring smoking cessation is key to decreasing the mortality of lung cancer, so the data from the Yorkshire Enhanced Stop Smoking Study (YESS), which examined personalized smoking cessation support as part of a lung cancer screening program, will be very valuable.
Second on my list is not one session but three. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, we’ll have a Lectureship Awards session. Each session will include three presentations by our lectureship awardees.
I always want to hear from our award winners. They have made such a valuable contribution to the field and to IASLC. They are leaders. They are mentors. They are scientific icons. It’s always wonderful to hear their stories and their cutting-edge research.
ILCN: Have you been to Vienna previously? If yes, what are you most excited about seeing or doing again?
Dr. Kelly: I was in Vienna for WCLC in December 2016, so what I’m really looking forward to seeing the city in the summertime. There’s not a specific place I want to see. I just want to enjoy the beautiful and historic backdrop of Vienna while having conversations and a glass of wine with my colleagues.