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Message from the President of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Clinical Oncology

Masahiko Watanabe M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Surgery, Kitasato University School of Medicine
It is a great honor for me to serve as the President of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Clinical Oncology (JSCO), a meeting with a long history and tradition, and I am acutely conscious of my responsibility. In the more than 50 years since the Society was founded, it has grown to a membership of over 18,000. This growth is a testament to the enthusiasm of all our members, who are engaged in cancer treatment with the intention of responding to the expectations of the ever-increasing number of cancer patients.
Our theme is “Cancer varies. Lifestyles do too.” Our intention in choosing this rather abstract theme is to express in simple terms our intention to study the characteristics of cancers in depth, produce efficient and sophisticated therapies, and offer cancer treatment tailored to the lifestyle of each individual patient.
For many years, cancer diagnosis up to pathological diagnosis had mainly been based on appearance, taking into account a diverse variety of symptoms and diagnostic images along with macroscopic findings obtained during health checkups. Standard treatments have been proposed on the basis of epidemiological studies, guidelines have been produced for the diagnosis and treatment of different types of cancer, and the standardization of treatment on the basis of international consensus is now well underway. However, it is widely known that cancers also possess individual biological characteristics that cannot be resolved by appearance alone. Attempts have been made to understand their individual natures on the basis of gene products such as proteins, amino acids, and sugar chains. Advances in gene expression analysis have also revealed the existence of molecules that regulate cell proliferation and metastatic potential. Treatments tailored to the individual nature of cells with genetic abnormalities are now aggressively being developed for a range of cancers, including breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. However, the cost of the development, clinical trials, and production of the molecular targeted drugs used in such personalized treatment is extremely high, and concern is growing that the amount paid by patients may have to rise as a result.
Improvements in the ability to deliver radiotherapy to localized areas have allowed multidisciplinary treatment to become generally used. Particle beam therapy is also now being shown to have a dramatic effect on some types of cancer. Advances in endoscopic surgery have reduced the invasiveness of surgical treatment, and this already forms part of the standard treatment for colon cancer and prostate cancer. The further introduction of endoscopic surgery to treat cancers other than gastrointestinal cancer, such as uterine and lung cancer, including robot-assisted surgery, is already underway. Robot-assisted surgery, however, comes up against issues of devices and tools, while particle beam therapy is expensive to install and maintain. Thus, the increasing sophistication of cancer treatment also entails higher medical costs, and this is one of the issues that merit serious discussion at this meeting.
With the huge amount of information on cancer available to the general public and the subject attracting ever greater attention, patients are living with cancer in their own different ways. In the context of their various economic and social circumstances, patients are struggling with all their might against cancer according to their own personal philosophies of life. Therefore, what is required of us as medical professionals is not only treatment, but also the provision of accurate information concerning daily life, as well as the development of frameworks capable of providing individual psychological and social support. Another issue that requires discussion now is cancer treatment in an aging society. The theme of the 53rd Annual Meeting under Professor Konishi was “We will live with cancer,” and that of the 54th Annual Meeting under Professor Nakano was “Renovation of cancer medicine in ‘the mature society’,” both of which were predicated on the question of how doctors can view matters from their patients’ perspectives. I believe it is part of our social responsibility as the JSCO for all the participants in the meeting to engage with patients and discuss how we can collaborate in order to find better ways of providing cancer treatment.
The JSCO has been engaged up to now in research, education and awareness-building activities that transcend the boundaries between disciplines and professions, and this meeting will provide opportunities to develop these areas of activity further. I intend to put forth every possible effort to make this Annual Meeting, one of the most important activities of the JSCO, a meaningful and beneficial meeting.