15th St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference : Interview with the conference’s founder Prof. Hans Joerg Senn

Intro text: 

Wednesday 15 February 2017

In about one month the 15th edition of the St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference will take place in Vienna, Austria. Held every two years, the congress brings together breast cancer experts from all around the world, and the consensus recommendations on the optimal treatment of early breast cancer are highly respected. 

BIG had the great pleasure of speaking to Prof. Hans-Joerg Senn, Founding Chairman of the conference.

The 15th edition of the worldwide St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference on 15-18  March, 2017, will again take place – as in March 2015 – in the spacious and well-situated, Austria-Center“ in Vienna, the capital of Austria: does this mean that Vienna will remain the future destination for this internationally important breast cancer meeting ?

Yes, this seems to be the case! The Board of the St. Gallen Oncology Conferences (SONK) as well as the international chairpersons of this longstanding line of very successful early breast cancer meetings have decided to remain in Vienna also in the future, because of the manifold advantages (international flight connections; meeting venue; hotel situation; tourist attractions, etc.), since all these logistic and touristic prerequisites are barely going to change in St. Gallen, Switzerland, during the years to come. Vienna as the prefered conference venue was greatly favoured by an overwhelming number of conference participants in a poll taken with the conference attendees after moving the meeting there in March 2015!

The next St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference in mid-March 2017 in Vienna will be the 15th such biannual event (formerly it was held every three years) since the early 1970s: don’t you think that the problems associated with optimal, curative treatment of early, localised breast cancer have been adequately addressed in the meantime? Why do you feel there is still a need to  continue with this meeting line?

Interesting question: we were asked the same questions already after the first two of these conferences, when they were still held every three years, the St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conferences in 1987 and 1990 – and now we are heading for the 15thedition in March 2017, which virtually thousands of breast cancer treating physicians as well as many developing pharmaceutical companies, are eagerly awaiting around the world. Especially its closing consensus session is an uncontested professional highlight: the new 2017 international consensus of updated, optimal curative treatment of the various bio-chemical and clinical presentations of (still localised, operable) breast cancer. On the contrary: the need to discuss and to practically standardise the presently best available methods of successfully and curatively treating early, localised breast cancer has not at all decreased, but clearly increased over time. Therefore it looks as if the periodicity of this meeting line is going to persist also in the future!

"... the need to discuss and to practically standardise the presently best available methods of successfully and curatively treating early, localised breast cancer has not at all decreased, but clearly increased over time."

Are there any very important changes – on the basis of new intercurrent laboratory or clinical evolutions – to be expected in the 2017 consensus guidelines?

We at SONK (St. Gallen International Oncology Conferences), and within the conference chairperson-team,  really think so, and we are convinced that the chairpersons, and the highly qualified members of the 2017 closing treatment Consensus Panel, – who are presently preparing the respective «question catalogue»  – will select the most pertinent and burning open treatment questions and problems to be discussed (and hopefully adequately solved) during the closing consensus session. The outcome, as in the past, will be  published as the St. Gallen treatment consensus update (in Annals of Oncology) in the spring of 2017.

Why do you think the St. Gallen Breast Cancer Treatment Consensus should be continued in the same way? Don’t you think it woud be time to change, or re-juvenate the closing Consensus Panel??

Regarding the development of scientific activitites at an international level, there are no indications at all that the refinement quality of optimal, curative treament of early breast cancer (confined to the breast) is going to miraculously  decrease, or even stop, in the near future. On the contrary: we expect this evolution rather to increase. However, SONK, and also the chairpersons of this early breast cancer meeting line, are fully aware of the fact that a continual turnover in selection of the speaking faculty, as well as of the composition of the voting Consensus Panel, are mandatory to keep up with the development of the field!

This year, BIG is proud to announce that its Co-Founder and Chair Professor Piccart Martine will receive the St. Gallen-International Breast Cancer Award 2017 and give the following lecture at the opening session of the 15th St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference, on Wednesday, 15 March 2017: "De-escalation of adjuvant systemic therapy for breast cancer: The Myth of Sisyphus of the 21st century". 

Read more about the St. Gallen-International Breast Cancer Award 2017.

The Opening and Award Ceremony 2017 will also include the first ESO Umberto Veronesi Memorial Award, which will honour Dr Giuseppe Curigliano, Instituto Europeo di Oncologia, Milan, Italy, also an esteemed investigator from the BIG network. 

More information about the 15th St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference can be found here