An Advocate's View of ASCO GI Symposium 2015

Last week, I walked the massive halls of Moscone West in San Francisco and attended the ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, better known as ASCOGI . It is a meeting I always feel quite privileged to attend; it offers a glimpse into the work, passion and expertise that goes into the many aspects of being able to live with metastatic colon cancer.

The meeting brings together an elite group of expert, specialized oncology professionals to update and highlight the latest research and science in cancers of the pancreas, small bowel, hepatobiliary tract; colon and rectum; esophagus and stomach. There is a great deal of information to absorb for anyone. This year YES! Beat Liver Tumors launched our new awareness campaign, "Gonna Beat This Thing" and readily learned of the new tools at our fingertips and treatments on the horizon that will help do just that.
As our team, (Jean DiCarlo Wagner and John Brune) interviewed medical, surgical, interventional and radiation oncologists, it became readily apparent how important it is to have a team approach in treating advanced cancer. My absolute favorite quote of the entire meeting came from Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, "The field is currently in the midst of a molecular revolution and over time, more will be learned about patent selection for targeted treatments." How exciting it is to be living this medical revolution!
We talked with Dr. Eric Mellon about the use of SBRT in combination with chemotherapy for treating tumors and the promise that it offers. Dr. Steven Trocha discussed the incredible advances that have been made in liver resection from the early days and the inability to perform surgery on particular patients to the techniques that are now available for patients today. I'm very excited to soon share these interviews on video!
Dr. Peter Gibbs, principle investigator and medical oncologist, shared information about the SIRFLOX study. This research study is the first and largest device trial that included 532 patients that were randomized to FOLFOX 6 plus or minus Avastin (bevacizumab) vs FOLFOX 6 with or without Avastin + SIR-Spheres microspheres. The study examined the use of selective internal radiation/SIRT or radioembolization in first-line treatment for colorectal cancer patients with unresectable liver-only or liver dominant metastases. Results from the study are expected mid-year in 2015.   
Dr. Johanna Bendel talked about the many agents in development for metastatic colorectal cancer and the importance of patient participation in clinical trials.I found the synergy between physicians to be encouraging and loved that Dr. Alan Venook spoke of the importance of a multidisciplinary approach and how important that approach can be in creating a treatment plan for patients.  
Suzanne Lindley gives a strong arm selfie at ASCO GI 2015.
In addition to networking with physicians, I enjoyed meeting, reconnecting and talking to the other advocacy groups who attended. I posed for a #StrongArmSelfie with my friends at Fight Colorectal Cancer and talked about Call on Congress, which is just around the corner. I met with Dawn Eicher, fellow stage 4 colon cancer survivor, at the Chris 4 Life booth and am inspired by her amazing petition to help lower the screening age for colorectal cancer from age 50. You can sign the petition here: 

I also enjoyed catching up with and seeing the strides that they are making. I especially enjoyed visiting with my energizer bunny friend and 13-year carcinoid cancer survivor, Maryann Wahmann and her husband Bob. Maryann is the president of Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Network and she has been a huge mentor for me.
Jean DiCarlo Wagner, Yoga Being and Yoga for Cancer Survivors instructor, helped me to start the hectic event with 20 minutes of gentle breathing and relaxation yoga. It was a wonderful way to start three days of intense knowledge and learning. Even better was watching her do yoga with Dr. Andrew Kennedy! Then moments later demonstrating a yoga technique on the red carpet at ASCO GI.
To wrap up, I loved the words of Dr. John Marshall who mentioned advocacy groups and the impact that we are helping to make. It's a refreshing validation that the voices of patients are being heard. Thanks, ASCO GI for another incredible meeting!
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