The AAO-HNSF 2022 annual meeting in Philadelphia was a special gathering in many ways. Perhaps first and foremost, it was wonderful to reconnect with many friends, colleagues, mentors, and trainees after the restrictions of the COVID-19-impacted years. Old connections were re-established, new ones within and between otolaryngology subspecialties were obvious, and the energy was contagious.
The takeaway from this meeting was innovation,as many areas of the conference highlighted innovation in otolaryngology/head and neck surgery. A quick walk through the vendor area and posters made the synergy between otolaryngology and industry to advance care obvious. Robotics, implantable devices for targeted drug delivery, biologic therapy, genetic analyses of all sorts, advances in voice restoration/preservation, advances for hearing restoration/preservation, and liquid biopsies are a few examples of innovations in patient care. There was also ample evidence of progression of office-based care, such as imaging and navigation, to benefit our patients by lowering costs and providing care closer to home. Finally, the basic discoveries that will inform future translational research were also displayed.
One wonderful highlight of the meeting was the advancement of our understanding of otolaryngologic diseases and outcomes. A shining example within the head and neck cancer realm shown through a panel highlighting how treatment of advanced and aggressive thyroid cancer is changing. The true power of next-generation sequencing to advance patient care is becoming a reality for more and more patients. The panel highlighted the identification of the molecular drivers of individual thyroid tumors and the potential to treat with new drugs targeting these drivers. In particular, mutations or fusions of oncogenes, including Trk, Raf, and Ret, are now targetable and dependent on the thyroid tumor histology and mutations or fusions of these genes targeted induction therapy are being tested and moving into standard care. The goal of induction therapy for these aggressive thyroid cancers is to decrease morbidity, increase organ preservation, and improve survival. Responses for these otherwise resistant tumors have been remarkable in some cases but modest in others. The panel had ideas about why some tumors markedly respond while others with similar mutations respond less well, and they agreed that more work is needed to optimize these therapies. Tumors that have lower incidences make trials more difficult to perform. However, the otolaryngology community is working collaboratively to overcome this and other barriers and to bring these innovative personalized treatments to patients.
Meetings like the AAO-HNSF are where ideas and advancements are shared, and new ideas are conjured. Innovation will continue to push our specialty forward to improve the care of patients.
Dr. Yarbrough has no conflicts of interest to report.
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