Professor Irit Ben-Aharon, director of the Division of Oncology at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, organized a globally-renowned, annual cancer-research conference which took place in Tel Aviv from April 19–21.
The Gastrointestinal Tract Cancer Group of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) is one of the world’s most influential associations in cancer research. They aim to develop protocols concerning different aspects of gastrointestinal (GI) tract malignancy, diagnosis, biology, and therapy. For the first time in over a decade, the GI group of this esteemed European research body, which collaborates with 750 research institutions in 48 countries, held its annual conference outside Europe.
“Frequently in international headlines, Israel is currently facing many challenges. However, the best international researchers believe it is important to strengthen their ties with this country. Their optimism is very encouraging,” comments Ben-Aharon, who also serves as head of EORTC’s Young-onset Cancer Task Force.
Many groundbreaking cancer-studies have been performed at EORTC. They have pioneered multiple aspects of cancer research, its impact, treatment, quality of life, and life expectancy, all of which have led to the development new international protocols and standards for clinical and translational research.
The EORTC task forces investigate various GI-cancers and related topics, also discussed in the 2-day meeting in Israel. Among those is the ‘Cancer in Young Adults’ task force, which examines the disturbing rise of specific cancers, for example, colorectal cancer, in this unique age group. Issues specifically related to colorectal cancer in the young-adult population are adverse effects of treatments including fertility, long-term side effects, prevention, and diagnosis. “These increased figures are particularly worrisome. More research and new therapeutic approaches are needed, which we discussed at the conference,” Ben-Aharon explains.
Physician-scientists at the forefront of clinical trials in the field of GI malignancies, participated in the conference. Many local leaders in the field of GI cancers participated in an open symposium on the third day. Among the prominent conference participants was Professor Florian Lordick, president of the International Gastric Cancer Association, director of the Cancer Center at Leipzig University in Germany, and the author of more than 350 scientific papers and Professor Markus Moehler, the chair of the EORTC GI group and the head of GI Oncology at the Mainz University Clinic in Germany. Moehler has led many clinical trials using advanced therapeutic methods for treating cancer of the digestive system. He is also involved in the development of new and targeted immunotherapies.
The open symposium stressed unsolved dilemmas by multidisciplinary experts in oncology, surgery, and other clinical fields as well as innovative studies and conceptual discussions on future studies in GI oncology. There is an expectation that combining clinical cancer research with advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, will lead to even greater advances in the GI cancer therapies of the future.