This year’s Veterinary Cancer Society (VCS) annual meeting in Norfolk, VA was wonderful! First of all, seeing many of our friends and colleagues in person for the first time in two years was just amazing! I know that word gets used far too frequently, but in this case, I truly mean AMAZING--which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary “causing astonishment, great wonder, or surprise”. All of these adjectives applied when I saw colleagues of over 30 years or residents from the past 20 years in person. Everyone I spoke with at VCS was so thankful and glad to be able to see so many of their friends in person (thank you Sandi and the rest of the staff at VCS).
The conference was also wonderful in terms of the content and speakers. There are too many to mention all, but I will highlight just a few.
The first Keynote Speaker, Dr. Katherine Warren, delivered one of the best keynotes I have heard in 30 years. Her topic was a rare brain cancer in children, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). This is not a cancer commonly seen in veterinary oncology, yet Dr. Warren presented her research and approach to this disease in a manner that was immediately applicable to veterinary oncologists. She spoke about how to scientifically move forward, when the disease (or diseases) you are studying are rare and there are limited resources available. All veterinary cancers are rare by definition–less than 200,000 cases per year. And as all veterinarians can attest to, there are severe limitations on the resources available to study diseases that affect pets especially as compared to what is available for combating human diseases. Not only did Dr. Warren present this overarching topic in a very straightforward and understandable manner, but she then did something that few speakers do, she laid out precise and discrete steps to overcome the problems. If this talk is available on demand, I do recommend that everyone interested in veterinary or medical research watch it.
The other Keynote Speaker, Dr. Susan Bates discussed epigenetics and how to target epigenetic abnormalities in human cancers. This talk exemplified the direction that medicine is headed, the use of advanced genomic diagnostics and how to target the abnormalities found.
After 30 years I am still impressed with Dr. Cheryl London (who is also a member of the FidoCure® Scientific Advisory Board). She teaches me something every time I hear her lecture. Her two presentations focusing on lymphoma, the genomic landscape of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and enhancing the efficacy of immunotherapy in canine diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, were both riveting. Cheryl has a fantastic way of presenting complex material in a manner that is understandable and makes the material relevant for the practicing clinician and researcher alike.
Two rising stars of the veterinary oncologic community, Drs. Kate Megquier and Heather Gardner both gave fantastic presentations as well. Kate gave a great overview of using blood biopsy (circulating tumor DNA or ctDNA) as a diagnostic and monitoring tool in canine cancers. This important technology so be a product offering from FidoCure. Heather spoke about the genomic landscape of metastatic osteosarcoma. Her results, that the DNA structural complexity remains conserved between both primary and metastatic lesions and between DNA from tissue or ctDNA, dovetailed nicely with Dr. Kate Megquier’s talk. Both of these amazing women were or are associated with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and reinforced to me why the association that FidoCure has with this institution is so vitally important.
From FidoCure’s perspective, the presentation on trametinib was incredibly satisfying, as the dose that Dr. Takada and associates determined was appropriate for dogs is the dose that FidoCure has been recommending. Validation is indeed important.
And lastly, my participation in the Options and Evidence: Novel Diagnostics Panel Discussion was a highlight of the conference for me personally. The participants and companies represented on the panel truly exemplified the spirit of innovation that is an important part of the “DNA” of the Veterinary Cancer Society. This was the first time in a very long time that I felt that not only were we as a community moving the science of veterinary medicine forward, but we were also moving the practice of veterinary medicine forward. I was so pleased and honored to be asked to be a part of the panel and the feedback that I received about FidoCure’s focus on outcomes research was uniformly positive.