We’ve been to some very stimulating and educational talks so far at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s 44th Annual Scientific Meeting at Darling Harbour in Sydney – or COSA 2017. The topic this year is immunotherapy with particular focus on quality and safety in cancer care.
Immunotherapy is a relatively new treatment that holds promise for some cancers, like melanoma and lung cancer. At a basic level, it helps activate your immune system to fight the cancer cells. With any new therapy comes many new considerations such as cost, value, quality and safety. We’re looking forward to delving deeper into these and more topics this week.
A number of our specialists are delivering presentations and posters.
Supportive care specialist and integrative oncologist Dr Judith Lacey ran a pre-conference workshop on enhanced supportive cancer care. Supportive care, also known as palliative care and symptom management, is about improving the quality of life of patients with serious or terminal illnesses.
The workshop was about how to develop comprehensive cancer services that include evidence-based complementary therapies and highlights their role in supportive care.
This is the first time the conference has hosted a workshop on this topic and it had the highest attendance ever of COSA pre-conference workshops, which is an encouraging sign of the importance being placed on a holistic and integrative approach to cancer care.
Dr Lacey is also presenting on the fact that people are living longer with so-called ‘incurable’ cancers thanks to immunotherapy. With this comes a need for a model of supportive care that will enable them to live well with their illness. And lastly, she will discuss the role of medicinal cannabis in supportive care for cancer patients to help with nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
The longer term
Medical oncologist Catriona McNeil investigates the changed treatment landscape brought about by these new therapies. The sometimes dramatic and sometimes disappointing results that immunotherapies give can produce a large amount of uncertainty about how long the treatment should go on for and what the long-term effects might be. Dr McNeil will look at the ethical issues for patient care in this era of rapid drug development.
The role of exercise
Exercise plays an important role in cancer treatment. It’s proven to be effective in reducing side effects of treatment, speed up return to activity and improve quality of life. It can improve mental wellbeing and help ease feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.
Exercise physiologist Michael Marthick explores the benefits of exercise for patients receiving immunotherapy, particularly in improving quality of life and reducing side effects like fatigue.
Nurse practitioner Keith Cox is presenting a poster on using online education to help with the challenges of nausea and vomiting brought on by chemotherapy. The goal is to work towards preventing these side effects through education.
Caring for patients at end of life
Professor Martin Tattersall, medical oncologist, will present research on how advanced care planning allows terminal cancer patients to receive the care they desire at the end of their life.
These are just a few of the presentations and topics at this multidisciplinary event that brings together doctors, nurses, allied health, supportive care professionals and scientists working in cancer care. It’s exciting to be exposed to so much latest research and thinking around immunotherapy and its role in cancer care.