State of the Art Radiation Therapy STARTX Conference, Byron Bay, August 5-7 2016
The inaugural State of the Art Radiation Therapy conference, STARTX, was held in the lush surroundings of the Byron at Byron resort between August 5-7 2016. As convenor, I was delighted to be able to to bring together some of the best national and international speakers in radiation oncology, assisted by the generous support of Varian ANZ, Tolmar Pharmaceuticals, Elekta ANZ and NL Tec.
The conference brought together delegates from the US, New Zealand, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland with fifteen domestic cancer centres represented among the 100 delegates. The aim of the conference was to present the latest advances in radiation therapy and by utilising the conference website at www.startxconference.com and the conference hashtag #startx2016 delegates were able to engage with key radiation oncology influencers around the globe thanks to the innovative social media and advocacy approach devised by Dr. Peter Gorayski @petergorayski, Associate Professor Sandra Turner @sandraturner49 and Dr. Matthew Katz, @subatomicdoc.
Conference proceedings were being re circulated around the globe by social media users with an interest in radiation oncology and radiation therapy in real time and peaked with almost 900 STARTX conference related tweets by over 250 unique users all over the world over the conference weekend.
In the head and neck session, Dr. Dave Fuller enlightened us with his excellent interactive presentation style and key insights into progress in head and neck cancer treatment around the globe through his work with Elekta Global Consortium at MD Anderson Cancer Centre. Associate Professor Sandra Turner turned us onto the importance of the advocacy campaign for our patients @targetingcancer during the STARTX HORIZONS session and we benefitted from a multi-disciplinary discussion from representatives of Elekta and Varian as well as clinician voices.
“Please learn about the Targeting Cancer campaign, it is saving lives and has the potential to impact the lives of cancer patients around the globe.” Dr Noel Aherne
Dr. Mark Pinkham from Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane and Dr. Ross McKay, interventional radiologist from Coffs Harbour updated us on the latest advances for patients with metastatic and oligometastatic disease. Ms. Susan Hewitt from ICON Cancer care, Ms. Deborah MacFarlane from Mater Brisbane and Dr. Sarah Turner from the Kathleen Kilgour Centre in Auckland demonstrated some of the challenges and technical aspects of advanced techniques in breast radiation therapy including Deep Inspiratory Breath Hold (DIBH) and treatment prone with involved nodes.
Associate Professor Andrew Kneebone and Dr. George Hruby laid out the future for the treatment of localised and oligometastatic prostate cancer, including the use of advanced imaging with PSMA PET CT. Associate Professor Kneebone also provided a lively counterpoint to many of the discussions across the other sessions and we are all the better for his presence.
Ms. Joan Torony from TROG and Dr. Fiona Hegi Johnson chaired the TRIALS and FUTURE DIRECTIONS Session and pushed the envelope with innovative insights from Dr. Dave Fuller and Mr. Kenton Thompson around radiomics, big data and knowledge based planning. The progress of TROG towards establishing secondary data mining opportunities is already yielding dividends for our patients with new collaborations being borne out of STARTX already.
The conference location in the luxury surroundings of the Byron at Byron was very popular with the delegates and the administration of the conference was ably managed by Alicia Smith and Katy Wohlrab of Will Organise, who provided on-site support for the conference secretariat.
Six of the Best
The STARTX Six of the Best Oral presentations carried a prize fund value of $5,500 and drew a number of fine presentations, judged by the scientific committee of Dr. Patrick Dwyer, radiation oncologist from the Northern New South Wales Cancer Institute at Lismore and our keynote speaker, Assistant Professor Dr. Dave Fuller, head and neck radiation oncologist at the world renowned M D Anderson Cancer Centre, Houston, Texas.
The breadth of the work presented within the STARTX Six of the Best session included innovative techniques such as hippocampal sparing whole brain radiation, flattening filter free SABR treatment, re-irradiation of glioblastoma multiforme, development of organ at risk constraints in breast IMRT and the impact of radiation dose and technique on outcomes for women with triple negative breast cancer.
The prize included a cash prize, the STARTX trophy and a statistical support package to bring their project to publication. The prize was won by Dr. Shreya Armstrong from the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital for her project on prostate cancer oligometastases management. Dr. Armstrong is a radiation oncology advanced trainee and conducted her work while employed at the Northern New South Wales Cancer Institute at Lismore. All presenters ably acquitted themselves and we look forward to seeing their work in fully published form.
Of course, an enormous amount of effort goes into planning a conference such as STARTX, and I owe a deep gratitude to all who helped since I began working on the conference in late 2015. First, I am very grateful to Tom Shakespeare, Pat Dwyer and all of my colleagues at the Northern New South Wales and Mid North Coast Cancer Institutes. The input of my colleagues from physics, radiation therapy and radiation oncology helped to hone the program significantly.
A special vote of thanks is due to our STARTX session chairs Dr. Patrick Dwyer, Dr Peter Gorayski, Associate Professor Sandra Turner, Dr. Carmen Hansen, Associate Professor Andrew Kneebone, Dr. Fiona Hegi-Johnson and Ms. Joan Torony, for their contributions on the day as well as the hard work devoted to preparing for their roles.
Our keynote speaker, Dr. Dave Fuller, from the MD Anderson Cancer centre was a superb anchor of the entire STARTX program with his key insights into big data, radiomics, the future of on board imaging and MRI integration into our practice.
We should also recognise that without the commitment of the conference sponsors, we would not have enjoyed a range of sessions that was – as one delegate remarked – ‘”exciting on every level”. We look forward to Varian ANZ, Tolmar pharmaceuticals and Elekta ANZ continuing their support for STARTX2017 as well as welcoming new supporters to ensure a great learning experience for all.
I look forward to welcoming you all to STARTX2017 in due course and outlines of the STARTX2016 talks will be available shortly at the conference website for registered delegates. In the meantime, you can follow me at @ozradonc or the conference at @startxconf to continue the discussion about key advances in our specialty.
Dr. Noel Aherne MB BCh AFRCSI FRANZCR, is a Specialist Radiation Oncologist and Convenor of STARTX