- For the first time since 2010, the American Society of Clinical Oncology will not hold its annual conference in Chicago's McCormick Place, announcing Tuesday it will move the meeting online in the latest sign the business impact of the coronavirus will extend for months.
- "As public health safety measures related to COVID-19 extend, the ASCO Board has concluded that the Annual Meeting, scheduled for May 29-June 2 in Chicago, cannot occur in person as planned," the group said in a Mar. 24 statement.
- With at least 16 states, including Illinois, now asking their residents to shelter in place, the chances of ASCO holding a meeting that regularly draws tens of thousands of doctors, scientists and researchers as planned was remote. Its cancellation is the latest in a lengthening list of medical meetings to be called of as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
While other cancer conferences have become more significant in recent years, ASCO is the highest-profile forum for advances in oncology research and its move to a virtual setting will impact the plans of thousands of researchers and hundreds of companies.
The conference organizers said they will present the scientific program, which contains the latest clinical trial results, in an online format during the same timeframe as the meeting was scheduled to be held. Last year, nearly 2,500 abstracts were accepted for presentation at the conference's traditional venue of McCormick Place, and more than 3,200 abstracts were published online.
It's a tremendous volume of clinical research, which usually features major updates from cancer biotechs and large pharmaceutical companies like Roche, Merck & Co. and Bristol Myers Squibb.
The conference is also a venue for oncologists to attend panel sessions and presentations that count toward their medical education requirements. That program will not take place during the May 29 to Jun. 2 timeframe, ASCO said, although the group is considering "opportunities for the future."
More than 42,000 people attended last year's meeting, an ASCO spokesperson said. All currently registered attendees can receive a refund or apply their fee to a future meeting.
ASCO's decision to go virtual follows similar moves from the American College of Cardiology, the American Association of Cancer Research and the American Academy of Neurology, among others.