I have been coming to IASLC meetings since the 7th conference in 1994 held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA and it always has been a meeting that I look forward to attending. I went to medical school, then surgical residency, then fellowships in surgical oncology and thoracic surgery in order to learn how to optimally treat lung cancer caused by tobacco. As a teenager, I was worried that my parents, who smoked heavily, would die from lung cancer like my grandmother did when I was 16. Therefore, it was a very early career decision that I wanted to dedicate my life to having fewer people die from tobacco. Most colleagues think that I started in tobacco control after I left thoracic surgery — but it was the other way around!
Much of my energy in my work with IASLC has been to increase the exposure of my colleagues to the rapidly changing environment in tobacco control. There are many new tobacco products, many changes in the interventions by the tobacco industry to maintain their markets and the impact of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. We have been able to slowly grow the number of presentations providing such tobacco-related education at our annual meetings.
In particular, for the 2018 meeting, the opening ceremony featured Prabhat Jha, PhD, Professor of Global Health Research from St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, who gave an excellent review of the tobacco epidemic. He spoke about the historical growth of global tobacco and importantly, about the impact that raising the price (i.e. taxation) has on significantly decreasing tobacco use. It is very important that we work with low and middle income countries where the majority of smoking still exists. Not only did I really enjoy his presentation, but several colleagues confirmed my opinion.
In the subsequent days, the tobacco control track had 2 other symposiums and one session with 6 presentations of submitted research. One symposium was entitled: Disruptive technology and lung cancer risk and the second one was Global perspectives in tobacco control. In my biased opinion, all of the presentations were excellent, interesting and informative. However, each of the sessions had only about 40 attendees. Several of those 40 were from the Tobacco Control Committee supporting each other with their attendance. It is hoped that this tobacco control track in the future can attract more attention and attendance as it is important information for all attendees! We are hoping in future meetings, that such topics can be integrated into other track sessions and not just be stand-alone sessions. Thus, the issue of “tobacco control” is not seen as an independent topic, but rather, the issues are critical to improving the treatment and outcome of our patients.
If I had to pick one tobacco control related topic, it would be the presentations by William Evans, MD from Canada. He presented research that demonstrated the ready ability and acceptance of providing smoking cessation programs in cancer centers and lung cancer screening programs. Now, if this information was heard and was then implemented across global cancer centers, we could make a huge impact on lung cancer outcomes!
All in all, the IASLC annual meeting is a terrific opportunity for interacting/networking with our colleagues from all disciplines, and learning not only new science, but also learning from our patients and advocates. I would say that the venue — or city — of the meeting is always an attractant, but confessedly, I spend little time away from the meeting. I find learning from my colleagues, and the innumerable educational sessions is where I want to spend the day. That said, I am exhausted by the end of the meeting — and cannot wait for the next year!
Carolyn Dresler, MD, MPA is a longterm member of IASLC as a thoracic surgical oncologist and has brought her passion for fewer people dying from tobacco to this organization. She is the President for the Human Rights and Tobacco Control Network.