Feature | ASTRO | August 30, 2019 | By Greg Freiherr

How ASTRO 2019 Will Be Different From Past ASTRO Meetings

First of three-meeting transformation

Beginning with the 2019 meeting, the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) will begin transforming its annual meeting in several key ways

Expect changes at ASTRO 2019 and at ASTRO annual meetings to come over the next two years. Photo courtesy of ASTRO

Greg Freiherr

Greg Freiherr

Beginning with the 2019 meeting, the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) will begin transforming its annual meeting in several key ways — some obvious, others subtle.

The meeting will emphasize debate, discussion and collaboration, as ASTRO continues to showcase research, offer panel discussions and display new technologies for cancer care. The goal behind this newfound emphasis is to increase the impact and value of the meeting, according to the ASTRO website. Toward this goal, ASTRO 2019 will debut an interactive format for the Presidential Symposium, “Curing Metastatic Disease with Radiotherapy — Myth or Reality?” and a closing session that highlights some of the big takeaway points of the meeting. Included will be discussions about trends, advances and what might be coming. Critical to this transformation is the society’s redesign of the Presidential Symposium, a redesign meant to build the ASTRO community through an interactive learning experience, according to Laura Thevenot, CEO of ASTRO.

This redesign sets the stage for attendees to learn “in a new and different way,” said Thevenot. “There will be more discussion between attendees and speakers.” This will be facilitated partly by breakout sessions.

“We're transforming traditional learning with this meeting, and the Presidential Symposium sets the stage for this change,” Thevenot said.

Curated digital poster stations with interrelated topics are expected to generate discussion and collaboration. These stations, however, won’t be markedly different from those of the annual meeting last year, when ASTRO introduced the digital poster format. This digital poster format is continuing, according to an ASTRO spokesperson. Similarly, Industry Expert Theaters in the Exhibit Hall will undergo no major changes. (These are sponsored presentations by ASTRO’s industry partners that complement the science and educational programming at the meeting.)

The Exhibit Hall/Innovation Hub will be enhanced in the coming years but not at this year’s meeting. “In the future, we will be expanding these areas to be a space where big ideas and innovative concepts are catalyzed,” said the ASTRO spokesperson.

Those attending the meeting will find what the society describes as a “reimagined curriculum.” At the end of their talks, speakers will provide key takeaways to be drawn from their presentations or research. Talks will be shorter than at previous ASTRO annual meetings with sessions running between 60 and 75 minutes versus the 90-minute sessions of past meetings.

In addition to being shorter, sessions will include more integrated audience polling, a focus on experiential learning, mixed seating in session rooms — with a mix of roundtables, pod seating, classroom and theater-style seating to foster collaboration and engagement — and new formats such as breakouts and debates. The goal behind presentations will be to highlight top science including new reports and long-term updates of clinical trials and other high-impact studies in prostate, breast, lung and other major cancers.

Among the important new features will be “journey maps” that highlight key sessions for various types of attendees. Also included will be enhancements to the mobile app; these enhancements will create a true “second-screen experience for attendees,” Thevenot said. And there will be special wellness events such as sunrise yoga sessions; a special luncheon; healthy food options; and more free time to relax and network.

Future ASTRO annual meetings will see further expansion of interactive learning formats; a focus on physician wellness and well-being; an emphasis on the intersection of entrepreneurship and research; a more global focus; and a reimagined meeting experience, including new concepts of how we use the space outside of session rooms Thevenot said, “We also anticipate seeing more multi-disciplinary research that looks at radiation in combination with immunotherapies and other emerging treatments.”

The ASTRO chief executive wants to encourage attendees, as well as “those who can't join us in Chicago,” to follow meeting developments using #ASTRO19.

Greg Freiherr is a contributing editor to Imaging Technology News. Over the past three decades, he has served as business and technology editor for publications in medical imaging, as well as consulted for vendors, professional organizations, academia, and financial institutions.

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