Incoming IASLC President Paul Van Schil, MD, PhD, recently spoke to ILCN about his upcoming presidential term, which officially begins during the 2023 World Conference on Lung Cancer. Dr. Van Schil, who is 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, focuses his research on thoracic and vascular surgery with an emphasis on lung cancer staging and therapy, lung metastases, and mesothelioma. Read on for insights from Dr. Van Schil, who joined the IASLC Board of Directors in 2017.
ILCN: As you step into the role of IASLC President, what goals do you have for your term? Are there particular issues or accomplishments you hope to work toward as president?
Dr. Van Shil: As for many other scientific societies, the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound influence on the functioning of our organization. Moreover, several internal rearrangements had to be made, which fortunately had an overall positive impact. Luckily, at the present time, we are witnessing a strong upward trend with a rapidly increasing membership, especially from Asia. All IASLC collaborators including the office personnel, are very pleased that we are able to organize live meetings again.
My main goal is to further strengthen the international character of IASLC with participation on all continents. Secondly, I would like to realize an even stronger scientific input in the society with special emphasis on the contributions of smaller specialties such as mine to obtain a balanced, multidisciplinary approach to thoracic oncology and build a strong prospective database.
ILCN: Conversely, reflecting on the past couple of years as president-elect of the association, what will you take away from that experience? Has your outlook on the prevention, screening, or treatment of thoracic cancers evolved since joining the IASLC board of directors?
Dr. Van Shil: As president-elect I was involved in managing difficult situations as the pandemic suddenly had to be addressed. The pandemic had major consequences relating to how we stay in close contact with our membership and how we organize our meetings. Many meetings had to be replaced by virtual alternatives. This required a lot of adaptation, especially for younger colleagues and fellows.
On the other hand, thanks to the great team we have at the office, we learned that virtual meetings can be efficient and may provide additional value if they are organized well. We all now know what a chat box means, how to raise our hands virtually, and to remember to unmute when speaking…
In terms of the science of our profession, with the advent of screening trials on one hand and immunotherapy for metastatic disease on the other hand, major changes have occurred in the way we approach lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies. Also, these are fascinating times for thoracic surgeons. Sublobar resections for the smallest lung cancers and neoadjuvant treatment including immunotherapy have almost become part of our daily practice although many questions remain to be answered.
ILCN: Several new members are joining the IASLC board of directors this week, including the new president-elect Caicun Zhou, MD, PhD. What advice do you have for Dr. Zhou and the other new members as they take on new leadership roles at IASLC.
Dr. Van Shil: Indeed, there are many new board members and Dr. Zhou will take over as president-elect here in Singapore. The main advice I would like to give them is to be open-minded. Try to get involved as much as possible in all activities—and there are many! IASLC is organizing. Become member of a subcommittee that has a special interest to you. Foster open communication and open your mind for new and great experiences. The other board members who return for another term are there to further introduce you, and an onboarding session will soon be organized. Our CEO, Dr. Karen Kelly, provides excellent leadership and the Denver central office is extremely well organized with great people to guide you through your different tasks as board member and through “everything you wanted to know about IASLC, but were afraid to ask!”
ILCN: Regarding WCLC 23, what sessions, events, or sites are you most excited about seeing during your time in Singapore and why?
Dr. Van Shil: I am certainly looking forward to the Presidential Symposium with the presentation of landmark studies that will profoundly influence our daily practice. As a thoracic surgeon, my special interest goes to early-stage lung cancer and multimodality treatment of thoracic cancers in general, for which the role of surgery becomes increasingly important. I excited to have the opportunity to present the surgical results of our EORTC 1205 study, which is a randomized phase II study in patients with resectable pleural mesothelioma treated by surgery and neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy. Singapore is a great place to meet and interact with colleagues all over the world. Also, the social events look fabulous. Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes with you!