I will be reporting from this year’s annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meetings Chicago June 4th – 8th. This is America’s largest gathering of clinical oncologists and researchers.

My goal is to cover the event from a patient’s perspective. I will be conducting interviews with a number of drug company and independent researchers about promising therapies in the pipeline. Another objective is to help all of us better understand the mysterious business models drug companies use to finance their research. Keeping this in mind, I also want to talk with some pharmaceutical company officials.

Here are examples of questions I hope to ask: What determines the price of a cancer drug? What percentage of your company’s profits are devoted to research? Which experimental drugs excite you the most?

I will be watching for industry trends. Are researchers and drug companies considering patient quality of life issues? Anything new on that front?

These conventions/meetings can be broken down into two major components—research and commercial. The most important purpose for the meetings are to allow researchers and oncologists to get together and share the latest anti-cancer data. Just as interesting to me is the commercial side of the event—pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies trying to sell their drugs, equipment or concepts to anyone who will listen.

I think you can learn a lot by reading business reports and speaking with drug reps. Let’s face it—if it doesn’t sell, we patients won’t see it! I’m fascinated by the incestuous dance between docs and drug companies… I won’t go into that now. There will be plenty of time for that before, during and after ASCO.

Here is some more info about ASCO. Let’s start with the organization’s mission statement:

As a nonprofit organization, ASCO is dedicated to achieving its charitable mission outlined by the organization’s founders in 1964. ASCO strongly supports all types of cancer research, but in particular, patient-oriented clinical research.

ASCO is committed to:
IMPROVING cancer care and prevention;
ADVANCING the education of physicians and other professionals in the care of patients with cancer and supporting research and the development of clinical cancer researchers;
FOSTERING communication among cancer-related medical subspecialties and the exchange of a wide range of ideas related to cancer, including its biology, prevention, diagnosis, staging, treatment, and psychosocial impact;
ADVOCATING public policy that ensures patient access to high-quality cancer care and that supports increased clinical cancer research; and
ASSISTING oncologists in addressing the challenges of the modern-day practice of oncology.

Over 100,000 researchers and oncologists are expected to attend the five day event. That number doesn’t include drug reps, support staff or the members of the media. Just think of me as number 100,001!

Better run—I still need to book my room, flight and rental car. Bet prices will be sky high—what with over 100,000 of my closest friends all trying to get to and stay in Chicago for the same five days. Wish me luck!
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat

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