IASLC President-elect Paul Van Schil, MD, PhD, is a professor of thoracic and vascular surgery at the Antwerp Surgical Training and Research Center and consultant in the Department of Thoracic and Vascular Surgery of Antwerp University Hospital. His research focuses on thoracic and vascular surgery with an emphasis on lung cancer staging and therapy, lung metastases, and mesothelioma. Dr. Van Schil joined the IASLC Board of Directors in 2017.
Recently, ILCN had the opportunity to ask Dr. Van Schil about this year’s World Conference on Lung Cancer and his upcoming stint as president of IASLC. In the following Q&A, learn what Dr. Van Schil is looking forward to as the conference continues and learn about his plans to further strengthen the multidisciplinary character of the association.
ILCN: As WCLC gets under way, what sessions or events are you looking forward to most and why?
Dr. Van Schil: Considering my background, my main interest is thoracic surgery and multimodality therapy. I am mainly looking forward to the sessions dealing with the current role of immunotherapy as induction and adjuvant therapy, and the contribution thoracic surgeons may provide. Lung cancer screening and detection of incidental pulmonary nodules are areas where multidisciplinary management is of utmost importance.
Also, the presidential symposium looks exciting with many new data that will be presented and which will have an impact on our daily clinical practice.
The most important event for me is tonight’s International Lung Cancer Foundation benefit, which supports early career researchers. This will be a great evening, and I encourage every participant to quickly register for this event. Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes. This is an excellent networking opportunity raising money for further research in lung cancer by young investigators.
Benefit to Support Early Career Researchers
Tonight, the International Lung Cancer Foundation will play host to an evening of food, fun, and entertainment to raise money for its research grant program.
- Time: 19:30 – 24:00 CEST
- Date: Sunday, August 7
- Location: Palais Ferstel
- Dress: Cocktail Attire
ILCN: As you look ahead at becoming IASLC President, have you thought about goals you have for your time leading the society? Are there particular issues or accomplishments you hope to work on as president?
Dr. Van Schil: One of my goals is to further strengthen the multidisciplinary character of IASLC with better integration of smaller specialties and disciplines such as mine—but also radiology, pathology, radiation oncology, and more. International collaboration and exchange has to be stimulated as there are still large differences, not only between countries but also on a continental scale. In addition, emphasis must be put on the increasing role of patient advocates and the specific role of nurses and allied health professionals, for which IASLC has a specific committee.
There is a growing tendency to put the patient in the center and adapt diagnostic and therapeutic algorithms to the specific disease entity that must be treated—what we like to call personalized medicine. By further integrating its core values and goals, IASLC will retain its global position as the leading world society of thoracic oncology.
Presidential Plenary—Top Rated Abstracts
- Time: 8:30-10:20 CEST
- Date: Monday, August 8
- Location: Hall C1
ILCN: During your time on the IASLC Board and as chair of the Lung Cancer Domain of the Staging and Prognostic Factors Committee, what questions, concerns, or ideas have you heard from members? Have these discussions changed your outlook about efforts to treat—or cure—thoracic malignancies?
Dr. Van Schil: Regarding staging of lung cancer, major advances have been made during recent years incorporating new diagnostic and therapeutic techniques that allow for further refinement of the different staging categories. Also, biomarkers will be incorporated in the staging system as they will determine further treatment and prognosis.
For this reason, a new system will be created, called TNM-X, which will incorporate anatomical TNM data with histology and relevant biomarkers. However, a real concern is that the staging system is becoming more complex and difficult to apply, especially for low-income countries. To address this, an “essential TNM system” will be proposed with essential data fields that can be collected worldwide.
In this way, data on lung cancer patients will be obtained in every continent, which will allow us to identify specific problems and specify solutions for each region. Many colleagues have also asked me to expand the fellowships program allowing for increased interchange between different countries and specialties, which provides an enrichment for both sides. With the introduction of immunotherapy, our therapeutic choices have increased tremendously leading to better survival, even in metastatic disease. Unfortunately, the cost of these new treatments is high and not every country can afford to prescribe them. Solutions must be found and IASLC is ideally placed to participate in ongoing negotiations. The Lung Ambition Alliance program aiming to reduce lung cancer mortality in the near future is quite ambitious, but it is certainly feasible with global collaboration.
ILCN: Have you been to Vienna previously? If yes, what are you most excited about seeing or doing again?
Dr. Van Schil: Yes. Many times, in fact, as a lot of international conferences take place in Vienna, and it is not that far from Belgium. The center of Vienna contains magnificent buildings with beautiful and rich museums, incorporating many different art periods including Flemish art.
As I am a tour guide at our local zoo in Antwerp, I like to visit other zoos when I have some spare time. The Tiergarten in Schloss Schönbrunn is the oldest zoo in Europe and certainly worth a visit.
Another very interesting place is the Museum for Pathology at Vienna University in the Narrenturm, which is an old psychiatric institute. This museum has an exceptional collection of old pathological specimens of high educational value. Attending a nice Wiener concert is also a superb experience and certainly on my list.
With everything I currently have scheduled for WCLC, my agenda seems to be quite full already…