Sarcomas and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) are uncommon malignancies that pose specific difficulties for oncologists, but recent advances are raising hopes that new approaches to therapy might be possible. "Our knowledge about the cellular and molecular biology of the tumors is increasing tremendously," says ESMO President Håkan Mellstedt, Sweden.
At the two-day ESMO International Symposium (EIS) on Sarcoma and GIST, held 17-18 May in Milan, Italy, experts from around the world will gather to help translate this knowledge into better diagnostic and prognostic procedures for patients, and to discuss potential new targets for treatment.
The latest research suggests that sarcomas may be particularly vulnerable to the kind of 'magic bullet' targeted therapies that are currently in development for cancer.
"These tumors are potentially amenable to new anti-cancer drugs that are currently being developed," says Paolo G. Casali, co-chair of the meeting. "The so-called molecular targeted agents are revolutionizing medical oncology. In principle, sarcoma tumors may be among the most treatable with these agents. This has already been the case, indeed, for a subgroup of sarcomas: gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). Now, other adult soft tissue sarcomas might follow in the near future."
This possibility is of key interest for pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis Oncology and Pharma Mar, which are now working on new treatments.
The organizers of the symposium hope to accelerate that process by bringing together biologists, pathologists and clinicians to provide a multidisciplinary overview on treatment. "The new molecular targeted therapies for cancer have made it more important also for the practicing clinician to understand the biology of the cancer," Casali says. "This makes it increasingly relevant for clinicians and biologists to get together and discuss the disease."
At a two-day pre-meeting, the faculty of the Symposium will be sitting to brainstorm new ideas for treating sarcomas. "In some ways, occasions like this can considerably complement this kind of symposia," says pathologist A. Paolo Dei Tos from Treviso, Italy, co-chair of the event.
Hundreds of international specialists are expected to attend the Milan meeting, which is being held jointly with the Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milano, a leading oncology institute in Italy as well as major reference center for sarcomas.
The symposium has been greatly enhanced also by the input and participation of the Community of European Sarcoma Groups, a growing effort put in place by the collaborative research groups on sarcomas in Europe, in an attempt to further develop international collaboration on research and treatment of soft tissue sarcomas.
Unlike most other clinical conferences, where presentations are based on the different clinical aspects of a disease, the ESMO International Symposia are specifically designed to ensure that all the latest developments are presented in a program that strictly follows the biology of the disease.
For journalists, the symposium offers an ideal opportunity to meet and talk to some of the world's most eminent specialists in the treatment of this cancer type. A press room will be functioning on-site to facilitate interviews and briefings on the topic.
The meeting on sarcoma and GIST is the second EIS Symposium ESMO has held this year. In March, the first symposium on prostate cancer was a success. Other meetings are planned on the same model, including an EIS on Supportive Care later in 2006.
About the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)
ESMO is Europe's leading professional society providing education and clinical guidelines for medical oncologists and other healthcare professionals, working to ensure optimal care for cancer patients. With approximately 4,500 members, ESMO is represented in every European country and the major geographical areas of the world. Since its inception in 1975, ESMO has consistently promoted its belief that every cancer patient is entitled to the best possible treatment available. The use of medicine is now a fundamental aspect of cancer therapy and, consequently, cancer patients need to be treated by qualified medical oncologists. ESMO supports multidisciplinary oncology and through its flagship scientific journal, Annals of Oncology, publishes research results on all aspects of clinical oncology. Donations to the ESMO Foundation help support ESMO activities as well as cancer research. More information on the Society and its activities can be found at www.esmo.org.
About the Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milano
The Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milano, is the largest cancer clinical research institute in Italy, with more than 400 beds in service and 250 staff clinicians, as well as over 300 experimental oncology personnel. While its history dates back to 1928, more than 13,000 in-patients are currently admitted each year, and more than 800,000 out-patient visits are carried out. Forty percent of patients come from outside the Lombardy region. All the more, the institute serves as a national referral center for adult soft tissue sarcomas, with more than one thousand patients seen for consultation each year, and 250 undergoing surgery of localized sarcomas. It coordinates the 'Italian Network on Rare Tumors,' a national effort aimed at improving quality of care on rare adult solid tumors in Italy, through distant patient-sharing on a nationwide basis. Mainly through its active links with the Italian Sarcoma Group and the EORTC Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group, the Istituto Nazionale Tumori has been involved in most of the major clinical studies performed on adult soft tissue sarcomas and GIST in Europe over the last decades, and also provided several original contributions to basic and translational research as well. More information can be found at www.istitutotumori.mi.it.
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