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LOOKING BACKWARD AND AHEAD - A Capsule History of the Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium

In 1972, one year before oncology was recognized as a specialty by the Board of Internal Medicine, Ezra Greenspan presented the first Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium to a small group of physicians in a Mount Sinai auditorium. His early work was a forerunner of what came after. Using empirical studies from his clinical practice to prove that cancer was a treatable disease with systemic therapy, he went on to present his findings in a landmark paper on combination chemotherapy at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting. Initial resistance by the profession was followed by publication in the Mount Sinai Journal in 1968.


Aptly titled Innovative Cancer Therapy for Tomorrow, the Symposium audience has grown to over 1,800 as oncologists from the US and abroad come every year to learn of new developments in cancer therapeutics from recognized experts.



The Symposium was designed to provide practical guidance as clinicians are challenged to keep up with all new developments in treatment of their patients. It continues in the vanguard of educational activities for oncologists. The format of a multispecialty meeting covering common tumor types in a single cancer conference offers practicing oncologists the opportunity to pursue their professional education goals at one time and place rather than attending numerous conferences and specialty meetings.


It continues that role and the founder’s mission as specialists report on treatments with new agents, concepts that have brought biotherapies, vaccines, genomics, predictive medicine, emerging knowledge of targeting tumors to real time practice.


Ezra Greenspan died in 2004. Franco Muggia, MD ,Professor of Medicine (Oncology) at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, and Edward Ambinder, MD Clinical Professor Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai continue as Chairs as the Symposium begins a new era in 2015 under management of Physicians Education Resources a leading provider of medical education for oncologists.


The Symposium was the professional education arm of The Chemotherapy Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that supports innovative cancer research, bringing the achievements of innovative, investigators to generations of oncologists and their patients.

The Oncologist Meeting Report

Chemotherapy Foundation Annual Symposium Grows in Size and Prominence

Edward P. Ambinder, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Board of Directors, American Society of Clinical Oncology, President, New York State Society of Medical Oncologists and Hematologists, President-Elect, New York Cancer Society—and Program Director of the Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium, said he has two major goals for the next symposium. “First, we will bring to practicing oncologists the most up-to-date information on emerging cancer treatments. By that I mean ongoing and completed clinical trials that have a practical application. Second, we want to help oncologists learn to use new technologic/scientific advances and clinical tools (the human genome project, gene chips, and such), as well as get to know and use information and resources on the web and in computer programs.”


These are ambitious goals, but Dr. Ambinder was enthusiastic as he described the 19th symposium, to be held November 7-10, 2001 at the Marriott Marquis in New York (http://www.mssmtv.org/tcf). “The Chemotherapy Foundation has been in existence for more than 30 years and is at the forefront in educating oncologists,” he said. This year we are reaching out to an increasing segment of our audience with simultaneous Spanish translation of all presentations.


“The symposium is only one of many Foundation activities. We also provide grant support for basic and clinical research at five major metropolitan area medical centers, and we publish booklets on cancer and cancer therapy for the public and the profession.”


The symposium has been held annually since 1972 when about 100 oncologists from the New York area met for one day at Mount Sinai Medical Center. It was created by Ezra Greenspan, M.D., Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine (Oncology) at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Medical Director of the Chemotherapy Foundation, which he founded in 1968 as a nonprofit organization to raise funds to support cancer research. The symposium has become its educational arm.


Dr. Greenspan is among the first cancer specialists in the world to advocate and use combination chemotherapy to treat cancer—in 1947 and 1948 when he was on staff at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.


He talked about the Foundation’s history. “We were the first organization devoted to cancer chemotherapy – and the first one independent of any established cancer entity. That meant we were not tied down by existing committees or procedures and were free to be completely innovative. We didn’t present old stuff when the symposium began, and we don’t now. Everything that appears is new material.”


Dr. Greenspan said that, until a few years ago, the Foundation and the symposium had been a “one-man show”—his show. But now they have broadened, and other scientists and practicing oncologists have greater input.


A dozen years after the initial symposium, a groundbreaking conference on cancer immunotherapy, Dr. Greenspan presented the first Breast Cancer Chemoprevention Conference, followed three years later by the International Breast Cancer Chemoprevention Workshop for about 300 attendees. Last year, the Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium known for many years as the Innovative Cancer Therapy for Tomorrow meeting, attracted 1,600 oncologists and hematologists from all over the world with over 2,000 expected to attend in 2001.


The symposium has increased in size and prominence until today when it is one of the preeminent cancer treatment meetings in the country. 

Leading investigators from all over the world (12% of the registrants are from foreign countries) come together to discuss promising treatments with new chemotherapeutic and biologic agents, as well as combination therapy, monoclonal antibodies, angiogenesis inhibitors, gene therapies, tumor vaccines, epidermal growth factor receptor antibodies, molecular-targeted agents, alternative strategies in high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell support, and hormonal interventions—in addition to advances in cancer screening and prevention.


The wide-ranging coverage of various neoplasms has become increasingly valuable to clinical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies. “We scan the biomedical horizon for all promising areas of progress in developing an agenda for the symposium,” said Jaclyn Silverman, Conference Coordinator. “In 1999, we added a feature called Late Breaking Developments to ensure that program printing deadlines do not prevent inclusion of important data.”


The symposium differs from most medical meetings in that it takes place at a single site with all presentations in the main ballroom. There are no concurrent breakout sessions or satellite meetings to divert attention from the main event.


“The role of industry is limited to sponsor exhibitor status,” said Ms. Silverman. Of the 74 sponsors/exhibitors at the 2000 symposium, only those involved with clinical trials sponsored presentations that related to specific pharmaceutical company interests. Although, the pharmaceutical industry is heavily involved in cooperative group and other major studies, we are careful not to permit them to influence the content of speaker presentations. “These companies provide

unrestricted educational grants to support the symposium, but since the pharmaceutical industry is heavily involved in cooperative group and other important clinical trials, we do allow them to make suggestions about topics and speakers. But we are careful not to permit industry influence on the content of presentations.”


Depending on the size of their contribution, sponsors are accorded varying degrees of prominence in the printed program and their location in the exhibit hall. All coffee breaks are held in the exhibitors’ space, so there is ample opportunity for attendees and exhibitors to meet and talk. “Because we’re moving to larger quarters this year, exhibitors will have more room in special areas for larger displays,” added Ms. Silverman.


Dr. Ambinder noted that the entire symposium will be made available on CD-ROM—and it will be posted on the Internet as a virtual meeting. It will then become a permanent part of the Chemotherapy Foundation’s website (www.mssmtv.org/tcf). Also, customized segments in some subjects will be posted on the website during the year after the symposium in order to provide wide access to papers, speeches, and research studies presented at the symposium.


E-mail kiosks will be placed at convenient places around the conference site for question and answer interaction between presenters and attendees. In addition, because the symposium is presented in conjunction with the Page and William Black Post-Graduate School at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, CME credits are now available to pharmacists and nurses, as well as physicians.


This year, and for the foreseeable future, the symposium will continue to explore new developments in cancer care and therapeutics. “I expect the exponential growth to continue, and we will keep emphasizing evolving biotechnology in cancer medicine and incorporate advances in the digital revolution for maximum outreach when we design future symposium programs,” said Dr. Ambinder.


Reprint from 2001 Article


Margot Fromer

Silver Spring, MD




An Early Chemotherapy Innovator, Franco M. Muggia, MD, Now Focuses on Advancing Therapies for Ovarian Cancer

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