The 2022 European Congress on Interventional Oncology (ECIO) took place 24–27 April in Vienna, Austria. Interventional News spoke to chairman Philippe Pereira (SLK-Kliniken, Stuttgart, Germany) to hear his thoughts on the new addition to the meeting programme for this year: the foundation interventional oncology (IO) course.
Q: Why is the launch of this course such a landmark event? What will it mean for the area of IO and its trainees going forward?
A: IO is rapidly continuing to establish itself as the fourth pillar of cancer care alongside medical, surgical and radiation oncology. To the advantage of the right patients, IO can be combined with surgery, systemic treatment and, in some instances, with radiation therapy. Moreover, IO procedures can be hugely beneficial not only for the recovery times of the patient, but they are often far more cost-effective when compared to other therapies. The most effective way to increase the possibilities for patients to benefit from minimally invasive oncology treatments is for interventional oncologists to practise as fully fledged clinicians rather than simply as technicians, holding outpatient clinics and participating fully in discussions at multidisciplinary team meetings. In order to do this successfully, they must learn the basics of oncology in relation to the conditions they treat, so that they can engage in meaningful discussions with other clinicians and patients.
During ECIO 2022, we had the first foundation course in IO ever to have been held in Europe. The foundation course is for interventional radiologists who are not yet familiar with minimally invasive oncological procedures, and this day-long foundation course on the basics of oncology, including all surgical disciplines and radiation therapy offers a fantastic opportunity to get started in this field. The course came into being based on a very important concept, namely the recognition that interventional oncologists must be educated as true medical doctors (oncologists), and not just carry out the role of a technician.
The goal of the course is, ultimately, to improve cancer care by increasing clinicians’ knowledge of multidisciplinary and multimodal treatment strategies: IO offers safe and effective treatment for patients with a variety of malignancies. In recent years, potentially curative interventional radiology (IR) procedures have also emerged, making an increasingly significant contribution to the treatment of cancer patients. And this does not only hold true in a palliative setting. These developments are what is responsible for establishing IO as the fourth pillar of cancer care, alongside medical, surgical and radiation oncology, as I mentioned. IO procedures, when applied to the right patients, achieve excellent oncological results with fewer complications and shorter hospital stays than conventional surgery. As a result, they are less expensive and more cost-effective than surgery.
Despite these advantages, many countries do not have the infrastructure and provisions for carrying out IO procedures, and this even includes those countries where IR is well established. Across the globe and within Europe too, the spectrum of available IO procedures varies substantially, making it difficult to offer this service to patients in a reliable manner. This variation also makes it harder for tumour boards to make recommendations as to the best multidisciplinary IR treatments for patients.
Q: What were some of the meeting highlights for you?
A: It is a bit difficult to answer this question as the chairman of the meeting (!), but I would say, maybe, the sessions that focused on combined treatments were a highlight, as this is a field that is continuously evolving. The contents of the sessions gave insight into some of the developments we will see in the future, underlining that multidisciplinary approaches can achieve some of the best results for lung and metastatic cancer patients in particular. The take-home message here is that no single clinician or oncological specialty alone has the solution for cancer patients. Other highlights were the clinical research sessions that will establish IO in future treatment algorithms, the place of artificial intelligence in IO, but also emergencies in IO as well as and the session on IO in paediatrics, without forgetting the famous ‘Morbidity and Mortality’ session.
Q: What is your impression of how the course went?
A: This course was the first multinational event after COVID-19. Nevertheless, the course was packed, and there were numerous enthusiastic comments from some of the younger attendees, and also from the experienced clinicians on the faculty.
The best question or comment (even if we did not allow enough time to discuss it at length) was from a young participant: “…but who decides on the treatment of a cancer patient, the oncologist, the surgeon, the radiotherapist or the interventional radiologist?” This, I felt was especially pertinent as it was asked without any preconceptions, and it best reflects the need for this kind of course.