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ASCO Annual Meeting Prepares for Virtual Format During the COVID-19 Crisis

Danielle Ternyila
Published Online:1:26 PM, Wed March 25, 2020
Due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) concerns, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Board has made the decision to deliver the latest science virtually during the timeframe of the scheduled Annual Meeting, which would have been held in Chicago, IL, May 29 to June 2, 2020, according to a press release from ASCO.

The primary concern of ASCO is the health and safety of the global oncology community, as well as the patients these physicians serve, and their Annual Meeting poses threat to these individuals.

The ASCO Annual Meeting is attended by thousands of oncologists and oncology care team members every year. The purpose of this meeting is to provide the latest research across all cancer types and is joined by oncologists from around the globe. Many oncology meetings, such as the 2020 National Comprehensive Cancer Network Annual Conference and the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting, have been postponed due to the growth of COVID-19.

Many physicians who attend oncology meetings, such as the ASCO Annual Meeting, attend to obtain information firsthand, meet with fellow experts in their field, then bring back the knowledge to others at their practice. When meetings like these are cancelled, there is a disruption in the distribution of imperative knowledge.

ASCO intends to deliver the latest abstracts and presentations using a virtual format that respects the contributions of the authors and the work of the Scientific Program Committee. Abstracts will be available online, as well as in the Journal of Clinical Oncology on the usual schedule. However, ASCO’s educational program will not happen at this time, and the board is exploring potential opportunities for the future.

While the face to face format of the ASCO Annual Meeting is the most ideal for sharing best science and optimal treatment approaches for patients with cancer, the organization aims to unite the global community despite the unprecedented challenges physicians and professionals now face due to COVID-19.

The virtual format will enable ASCO to deliver the latest research in the oncology space to the global community without delay. Further details of the scientific program will become available in the coming weeks.

ASCO is committed to providing the most current information and resources to members of its community and the larger oncology community to ensure optimal care of patients with cancer. A range of resources has also been compiled to help support clinicians, the cancer care delivery team, and patients with cancer during the COVID-19 crisis. As the situation continues to evolve, ASCO will update their resources to best support the community.

Further information on the meeting format, dates, specific content, registration, and refunds, among other details, will become available in the coming weeks and posted to the ASCO website. Some initial Frequently Asked Questions are already being addressed as well.

For those inquiring about refunds, ASCO kindly asks for patience from the community as they determine their new meeting format. However, attendees will have be able to apply their current registration fees to a future ASCO meeting or as a donation to Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation. All registrants are eligible to receive a full refund of their registration fees; more information on this can be found on the ASCO website. Registrants can expect more information via email in the coming weeks.

In addition, ASCO also addressed initial concerns regarding hotel room reservations for their annual meeting, as many expected attendees have already made these reservations prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. All reservations made through ASCO’s official housing bureau will be cancelled automatically without penalty, but reservations made through other sources or directly with hotels are to the responsibility of the registrant to cancel. In addition, participants who have booked flights as well are responsible for cancelling airline tickets, and ASCO notes that each airline has its own policies regarding refunds.

For those individuals with an expected scientific presentation for the 2020 ASCO Annual Meeting, the organization recommends they continue to prepare for presentation via the virtual format. However, those individuals who were expected to share educational presentations should halt their preparations as ASCO explores options for future educational events.

Although the 2020 ASCO Annual Meeting will not have the same face-to-face capabilities of prior meetings, the virtual format will help in spreading knowledge to the global oncology community of the latest research and best practices.

<< View more resources regarding COVID-19
ASCO Statement on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) [news release]. ASCO; March 24, 2020. https://bit.ly/3drB6Et. Accessed March 24, 2020. 

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