- 15 March 2021 -

St Gallen Breast Cancer Conference 2021

The 17th St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference will take place virtually from 17 to 21 March 2021. 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.

For the full programme of the conference, or for registration, click here:

In view of the conference, BIG interviewed Professor Beat Thürlimann, Dr Fatima Cardoso and Professor David Cameron.

Prof Beat Thürlimann talked about the establishment of the conference, its early days, its evolution and the legacy of Professor Aron Goldhirsch, Scientific Co-Chair of the St. Gallen conference for about 30 years and one of the main drivers behind the conference and the consensus. Prof Thürlimann’s interview has been published on BIG’s website on Wednesday 10 March and can be found here.

On Thursday 18 March 2021, Dr Fatima Cardoso will be honoured with the ESO Umberto Veronesi Memorial Award and will give an Award Lecture on de-escalation of early breast cancer therapy and Umberto Veronesi’s legacy. In the interview BIG had with her, she talked about the progress we are seeing in the field of de-escalation of early breast cancer therapy, the importance of collaboration and the advantages of a global network such as BIG. Dr Cardoso’s interview has been published on BIG’s website on Friday 12 March and can be found here.

On Saturday 20 March 2021, Prof David Cameron will give a lecture to honour the memory of Professor Aron Goldhirsch. Ahead of the conference, BIG had the pleasure to ask him a few questions about adjuvant therapies and the role Aron had in the evolution of adjuvant therapies across time, and in the evolution of academic research. Prof Cameron’s interview can be found below.

Lecture to honour Professor Aron Goldhirsch

Interview with Professor David Cameron on Aron Goldhirsch’s legacy.

For the first time, a lecture [1] will be given to honour the memory of Professor Aron Goldhirsch, co-founder of BIG, who passed away in February 2020. Professor David Cameron, Chair of BIG, has been entrusted to give this presentation, and we had the pleasure to ask him a few questions before his talk.

Could you list the key stages in the evolution of adjuvant therapies to its current role in patients with breast cancer?

  • Early investigators being brave enough to try chemotherapy and endocrine therapy
  • Recognising the existence of predictive markers for some treatments (i.e., endocrine therapy is only for hormone receptor-positive tumours, not all)
  • Longer duration of endocrine therapy
  • Large, multi-centre, multi-national trials!
  • Meta-analyses of trials to get precise estimates of benefits from all the women who enrolled in trials – none of the information is wasted!

How effective are adjuvant therapies today compared to 20 years ago?

Apart from trastuzumab (not available 20 years ago), the individual therapies are not that much better. However, an area where some success is evident, is combining many different therapies into a treatment programme.

Could you describe Aron’s role in the evolution of adjuvant therapies across time and in the evolution of academic research?

His role has been KEY, setting standards for trial design and the questions, and providing leadership in building multi-centre, multi-national trials and building consensus about how patients should be treated.

BIG has been active for over 20 years; what challenges do you perceive for academic research groups and the BIG network in the future?

A need for greater collaboration and increasing challenges in securing non-commercial funding for clinical trials.

[1] Saturday, 20 March 2021, 13.30-14.00 (CET). Aron Goldhirsch Memorial Lecture: Evolution of adjuvant therapies across the time and the future of cooperative academic clinical research Groups, David Cameron (UK). Introduction by Alan Coates (Australia). Co-chair: Michael Gnant (Austria).

Professor Aron Goldhirsch

Professor Aron Goldhirsch, the “father” of BIG and a founder of the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG), passed away at the age of 73 on 26 February 2020. Throughout his career, Prof Goldhirsch made significant contributions to breast cancer medicine and education and, besides his many national duties, he worked tirelessly to foster international collaboration and preserve academic independence in cancer research. Much of this work was conducted in the context of his leadership within the International Breast Cancer Study Group (, of which he was a founder. In 1996, together with Dr Piccart, Prof Goldhirsch created the Breast International Group (BIG) with the aim of bringing together academic research groups.

He was also one of the main contributors to the St Gallen International Expert Consensus Conference, which gives practicing oncologists recommendations on how to optimise treatment for patients with early breast cancer.