My Experience Attending IASLC WCLC 2019

I attended the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer's 2019 World Conference on Lung Cancer (IASLC WCLC) last month in Barcelona, Spain with a Patient Advocate Travel Award (PATA). PATA’s purpose is to increase links to patient advocates and advocacy organizations around the world. I’ve attended various academic conferences in my profession, but have never been so excited, so productive and have so much fun as I did at the IASLC WCLC 2019.

What is the World Conference on Lung Cancer?

IASLC WCLC 2019 is the premier conference for lung cancer. There were about 7,500 doctors and scientists that attended this year. Among them, about 20-30 people were patients and caregivers, like me. Usually, the keynote speeches are a “must” for me to attend. On the 1st day, the keynote speeches consisted of 4 topics that covered targeted therapy, tissue testing, immunotherapy, and artificial intelligence. On the 2nd day, the keynote speeches had 7 top-rated abstracts. The first 3 covered the topics of the lung cancer screen, the 4th one was about the hospital clinical efficacy, safety, and oncologic outcomes, the next group was about different trial results and the last one was about the small cell lung cancer. These keynote speeches highlighted the state of the art research on lung cancer.

A place where patients and researchers meet

After the keynote lectures, I attended as many presentations related to targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and biomarkers testing, especially those talks given by Dr. Shaw, Dr. Camidge, Dr. Doebele, Dr. Ou, and Dr. Drilon, who are experts in targeted therapy. I asked questions after their presentations. I noticed that they are extremely well mannered to handle the patients’ questions. As a matter of fact, Drs. Camidge and Doebele thanked us, the ROS1ders patient groups, for being so involved and enthusiastic for lung cancer research.

In my opinion, the patients should be more involved in lung cancer research and conference. This is not only because our feedback is important, and we get the first hand information, but also, more importantly, like my friend Ivy wrote: “...there is no replacement for the visibility that comes with a significant advocate presence. We need to be there in person -- presenting, networking, and telling our stories...”1

Patients and caregivers coming together

There were around 25 patients and caregivers at the conference. Before the conference, I “chatted” with several doctors online on various topics. At the conference, it was so natural to meet with these doctors and discuss medical issues. It felt so nice. I also noticed that patients and caregivers were like “old friends” that hadn’t see each other for long time although we had talked to each other through FB. Even we hadn’t talked on the internet, we immediately became friends all because of lung cancer. The distance between us, the cancer patients and doctors, was rapidly shortened. I’ve never felt this way with healthy people. One thing interesting that my husband noticed was that the patients and doctors were in huge contrast. Patients were happy and full of hope, and doctors looked serious. I could not help smiling because it reminded me of when I had my professional conferences.

One good thing the conference did was to set up the Advocate Lounge at the center of the meeting area. So when we were not at the sessions, there was an area to stay and socialize with other patients, caregivers, and doctors. There were always meetings that happened between patients or patients and doctors. We talked about the new development of the treatment and the collaborations. I talked to several doctors and scientists in this area.

Exploring to Barcelona

As we always did, before and after the conference, my husband and I explored Barcelona. Barcelona is a beautiful city with a lot of churches, museums, and my favorite Street Food. We visited the famous Gagrada Familia, which is a large unfinished Roman Catholic minor basilica in Barcelona. We also visited Picasso’s Museum. Who doesn’t know Picasso? But though his childhood and family influence, it truly gave me a comprehensive view of Picasso’s life and helped me to understand this artistic giant.

Street Food is my favorite and it was fascinating. Spanish Street Food is served in a bar, which often is narrow and long. There are 2 seating areas, 1 inside and 1 outside. We tried seafood paella, which is called the Spanish national dish. We also tried tapas, a finger food alike with bread and a variety of meat or fish and vegetable held by wood sandwich picks. Finally, we had some Spanish fusion food, the combination of Morocco, Turkish and Persian food of kabab, rice and salad. It’s pleasant and relaxing to eat in Barcelona.

An incredible conference

It was an excellent conference this year from all aspects. The new developments from biomarker testing, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy are very impressive. It’s unique that the conference invited the patients and caregivers to participate, which I believe to bring another important dimension to the conference.

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