A tale of 2 meetings: Amid pandemic, ASCO moves online while ADA plows ahead

The American Society of Clinical Oncology moving its annual meeting, held each year in Chicago, online in 2020. (Pixabay/David Mark)

American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference attendees, you can cancel the ultra-pricey hotel reservations, close your browser tabs on that Chicago restaurant research and let next year be the year you finally invest in more sensible shoes for trekking around McCormick Place: It’s not happening this year.

But American Diabetes Association (ADA) annual meeting-goers? You might want to wait on that.

Monday, ASCO unveiled plans to take its annual meeting—set for May 29-June 2 in Chicago, its perennial home—online in response to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

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“ASCO’s primary concern is the health and safety of the global oncology community and the patients we serve,” the organization said in a statement, adding that “we still intend to deliver the latest cancer science to the global community during the Annual Meeting time frame using a virtual format that respects the contributions of the authors and the work of the Scientific Program Committee.”

Of course, the organization is expecting some questions about how exactly it plans to pull that off—and, understandably, it doesn’t quite have all the answers yet. It plans to keep its members and other participants posted in the coming weeks by adding info to its website on the meeting format, content, registration, refunds and more.

“While we recognize that our face to face meeting in Chicago is ideal for sharing the best science and optimal approaches to patient care, we will unite as a global community to meet these unprecedented challenges and address the acute clinical care issues,” it said.

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ASCO, known as the big event on the annual cancer meeting calendar, follows several other medical meetings that have either been postponed or moved online. The American Association for Cancer Research, for one, last week said it would move its annual meeting to August after scrapping plans for an April confab in San Diego. During the original dates, it plans to hold a virtual “annual meeting preview,” it said.

But as of right now, the ADA annual meeting—also scheduled to happen at Chicago’s McCormick Place, beginning just 10 days after ASCO’s conclusion—is still on.

“The McCormick Center is still scheduled to be open, and we are proceeding with planning for a successful, safe live event,” ADA said in a recent update. But the association is also “exploring options” to hold the conference virtually “in an abundance of caution.”