IASLC President Heather Wakelee, MD, FASCO, who joined the association’s board of directors in 2015, is a professor of medicine and chief of the Oncology Division at Stanford University, Stanford, California, where she also serves as deputy director of the Stanford Cancer Institute. Her research focuses on many aspects of lung cancer, including specific lung cancer subtypes defined by mutations, the use of peri-operative systemic therapy including checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy, and collaborations with colleagues focused on biomarkers and population science research.
Recently, ILCN had the opportunity to ask Dr. Wakelee about this year’s World Conference on Lung Cancer and her time as president of IASLC. In the following Q&A, learn what Dr. Wakelee is looking forward to as the conference gets under way and find out what fellow association members want to know when they get a chance to ask the IASLC president a question.
ILCN: As the first day of WCLC begins, what sessions or events are you looking forward to most and why?
Dr. Wakelee: I am extremely excited for WCLC 2022 after 2 years of virtual meetings. The opportunity to gather in person is so important for maintaining our community and having the chance to informally discuss the new data, talk about collaborations, and just catch up with friends and colleagues. For that reason, tonight’s Welcome Reception is going to be fantastic! WCLC also gives us a chance to recognize people making a difference in the world of thoracic malignancies and the Awards Ceremony this evening will be a special time for acknowledging some truly exceptional investigators. Last but not least, each year at WCLC we commit to having a plenary every day to highlight really important data, and I always love to attend those.
Opening Plenary Session This Evening
Opening Plenary 1: Immunotherapy & Vaccines
- Time: 18:15-19:45 CEST
- Date: Saturday, August 6
- Location: Hall C1
ILCN: Unfortunately—whether because of travel restrictions or other challenges—not everyone in the lung cancer community is here 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. Wakelee: I strongly encourage virtual attendees to engage with others via the virtual platform’s chat function to ask questions and comments during live sessions. There are also opportunities to engage with oral and poster presenters and with other virtual and in-person attendees. I really believe the meeting is more engaging when the virtual attendees participate in the interactive opportunities.
ILCN: As IASLC president, when you engage with members or others in the field of thoracic oncology, what topics or themes do they ask you about or most want to discuss?
Dr. Wakelee: That is a great question and one without an easy answer. Because of my work in peri-operative immune therapy for lung cancer and the newness of that area, of course I get a lot of questions about that topic. People are really excited to know what IASLC is doing for cancer prevention and screening and staging. Members are also always interested in what the association is doing that is relevant to their specialty. Global awareness of molecular testing is another very important topic, and I frequently am asked what IASLC can do to increase awareness. I also get asked a lot about how people can be more involved, which is always fantastic because we have a lot of opportunities.
Welcome Reception & Exhibit Hall Opening
- Time: 19:30 – 21:00 CEST
- Date: Sunday, August 7
- Location: Exhibit Hall, Hall B
ILCN: Has your time as president changed your outlook on the prevention, screening, or treatment of thoracic cancers?
Dr. Wakelee: I entered my time as IASLC president already very committed to prevention and screening of thoracic cancer, and, of course, to its treatment as a medical oncologist. It is amazing to see how quickly our treatment advances are developing when we look at bringing immune therapy into early stages of lung cancer and figuring out more targeted treatment approaches overall. We always need to focus on what can be done to understand the etiology of thoracic cancers though and how we can impact more lives by preventing cancer in the first place with efforts on tobacco cessation, reduction in air pollution, and other interventions. We also have tremendous opportunities to improve screening for lung cancer, in particular. We know screening can detect lung cancer at earlier stages and thus at a time when more people can be cured. It is by all working together as part of the IASLC community that we can continue to make tremendous strides in our efforts to conquer thoracic malignancies worldwide.
ILCN: Have you been to Vienna previously? If yes, what are you most excited about seeing or doing again? If no, what are you most looking forward to seeing or doing for the first time?
Dr. Wakelee: I was in Vienna for WCLC 2016, which was fantastic! That was in December, so the city was decorated for the holidays, and it was beautiful. I am very excited to return now in the summer to experience the parks and outdoor areas in a new way. The historic buildings and museums are amazing! I have a sweet tooth, so I am looking forward to having some of the famous sachertorte and apfelstrudel again! There is plenty for everyone to enjoy in Vienna in addition to all the amazing science we will be sharing at WCLC.