SURGONConnect: Issue 1

SSO News 2019-1

SSO Leader Election Results Announced
KSSO Observership Offers Outstanding Learning Opportunities
The Vital Role of Society Volunteers – Getting Involved
Changes Announced to the SSO Foundation
Innovative Approaches to Regional Cancer Therapy Draws Surgical Oncologists from Around the World
Register Now for May Webinars at ExpertED@SSO
SSO Annual Business Meeting at SSO 2019

SSO Leader Election Results Announced

Thank you to all the SSO members who participated in this year's online election! SSO is pleased to announce results for the four positions included in the election.

Dr. Genevieve Boland Executive Council: Councilor-at-Large Representative

Genevieve M. Boland, MD, PhD
Director, Melanoma Surgery Program and Surgical Oncology Research Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital
Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
Associate Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Boston, MA

Nominating Committee: Community-Based Surgical Oncologist Representative

Kimberly Dalal, MD
Medical Director of Surgical Oncology, Mills-Peninsula, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
Medical Director, Pancreas Surgical Oncology, California Pacific Medical Center, Bay Area Sutter Health
Burlingame, CA

Nominating Committee: International Surgical Oncologist Representative

Alessandro Gronchi, MD
Chair, Sarcoma Service – Department of Surgery
Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori
Milan, Italy

Nominating Committee: Undesignated Active Member Representative

Nipun Merchant, MD
Alan S. Livingstone Endowed Chair in Surgical Oncology and Professor of Surgery
Vice Chair of Surgical Oncology Services
Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology
University of Miami
Miami, FL

KSSO Observership Offers Outstanding Learning Opportunities

Shaila Merchant, MD of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada was awarded the 2019 Korean Society of Surgical Oncology (KSSO) Observership opportunity. She recently returned from her ten-day trip, during which she attended the Seoul International Symposium of Surgical Oncology meeting and spent time at Seoul National University Hospital under the mentorship of KSSO Chairman of the Board of Directors, Professor Han-Kwang Yang, MD. Dr. Merchant spent a few moments to describe her experience to SSO Staff.

Q: What was appealing about the KSSO Observership opportunity?

Dr. Merchant: Gastric cancer is an area of clinical and research interest for me. It was highly appealing to travel to an area with a much higher incidence of this type of cancer as it is not as common in North America.  Many of the randomized clinical trials in gastric cancer come from South Korea and I was interested in learning more about their research infrastructure.

Q. What were your personal objectives for this program?

Dr. Merchant: There is a lot of controversy in the West about the extent of lymph node dissection related to gastric cancer. Surgeons in Korea and Japan have been performing these extended lymph node dissections for a long time. It is only recently that the technique has been adopted in Western countries. I was interested in seeing if I was taught the same way that surgeons in the East are performing the procedure. I also wanted to learn more about minimally invasive approaches to gastric cancer, specifically with respect to patient selection, positioning and key intraoperative maneuvers, as I plan to incorporate this into my own practice in the future. And finally, I wanted to learn more about their research and infrastructure and explore potential opportunities for collaboration.

Q. What were the most interesting components of this opportunity?

Dr. Merchant: There were many interesting components of this Observership opportunity. I was very impressed with the caliber of research presented at the Seoul International Symposium of Surgical Oncology meeting and the spirit of collaboration amongst the speakers and the attendees.

When I began the Observership at Seoul National University Hospital, I was shocked to see such high volume of gastric surgeries, approximately three to five gastrectomies a day. In my own practice I probably do 20 – 25 cases per year. It was interesting to see the number of patients that present with gastric cancer and the number of ways they approach gastric cancer surgery. But, even more than that, the most interesting thing was how the presentation of gastric cancer is so different in South Korea compared to my own practice. For example, in my practice the majority of patients present with locally advanced proximal cancer, where as in South Korea the majority of patients present with early distal gastric cancer. It dawned on me that we are treating very different gastric cancers in the West as compared to the East. The disparities in presentation are striking and incredibly interesting.

Q. What are some of the key takeaways from this experience?

Dr. Merchant: My key takeaway is that there are many nuances in the management of gastric cancers. Some of these nuances are about the approach – open, laparoscopic, robotic or even endoscopic for the early cancers and the extent of the resection that can be distal, pylorus-preserving, proximal or total gastrectomy. As well, the extent of lymph node dissection can be tailored to the stage and location of the disease and the various options for reconstruction to restore GI continuity. It was very interesting to see the wide variety of approaches that are utilized at this institution and the way that the surgeons very carefully tailor their approach to each patient.

Q. What information do you plan to share or integrate into your own practice?

Dr. Merchant: I’m the only person at my institution that performs gastric cancer surgeries, so I plan on slightly modifying my lymph node dissection technique based on what I learned in Seoul. And moving forward, when I have a patient with early distal gastric cancer, I plan to perform the operation laparoscopically. I also plan to share these experiences with my colleagues and surgical residents.

Q. What other information would you like to share?

Dr. Merchant: I am very grateful to be the recipient of the 2019 KSSO Observership. While I was only there a short time, it was very fruitful. Every day I was able to see multiple cases and have many of my questions answered by the surgeons. I was able to sit in on a research meeting and get a sense of their ongoing studies and gain an understanding of how they can be so productive. They are very collaborative and have large research teams that allow them to be so productive – it takes a village when it comes to high-quality research and they have an excellent infrastructure in place.

The KSSO Secretariat did a fantastic job organizing my visit and the entire team including surgeons, fellows, residents, medical students and nurses were warm and welcoming. Professor Han-Kwang Yang, MD and his surgical group are skilled, knowledgeable and importantly, shared their knowledge and wisdom openly. The experience I gained from this observership will enable me to deliver better surgical care to my patients and the connections I have made will serve the basis for life-long collaborations and friendships.

The Vital Role of Society Volunteers – Getting Involved

The SSO has nearly 390 members serving on 32 active Committees, Subcommittees, Work Groups and Task Forces for the 2019 – 2020 year. The various groups of SSO volunteer leaders are critical to the accomplishment of the SSO Mission. Whether Standing or Appointed, these Committees, Subcommittees, Work Groups, and Task Forces are the functional entities that guide and often execute the work of the Society. They also provide an opportunity for member engagement and the development of future Society leaders. During the 2019 Application for Engagement cycle, 186 members applied for 70 open positions.

In 2018, the Engagement Task Force made several recommendations to allow for a greater number of members to serve the Society in structured roles outside of formal committee work. Some of these recommendations have been implemented this year and include Human Librarians and Meeting Ambassadors at SSO 2019. In addition, the Annals of Surgical Oncology has identified roles for members as a manuscript reviewer or as a member of the Social Media Editorial Board. New opportunities will continue to be introduced and will be announced through Society communication channels. If you have questions or ideas for Society engagement opportunities, please email Andrea King, Manager, Governance and Engagement.

Insights into the Committee Appointment Process

The question of how one participates in this capacity is a frequent question. While all members are able to access the Committee Handbook, the following is a brief summary of the various processes.

There are several steps in the process and depending on the type of Committee, the process may vary. All positions on Committees, Subcommittees, Work Groups, and Task Forces are appointed by the incoming President, typically in December, prior to the start of the new governance year beginning April 1. The appointment process, however, begins in the Fall with the Application for Engagement. Based on the positions available, Active, Active International and Emeritus members may apply. The exception to this is the Fellows and Young Attendings Subcommittee, which is comprised of members who are Fellows or are within two years of completion of a Fellowship program. Applicants, along with recommendations by the Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs, are then presented to the President Elect. Committee terms are for two years and appointment notifications are sent early in the calendar year.

The Nominating Committee serves an important role in determining the members of the Executive Council. The Nominating Committee is a group of eight individuals, as specified in SSO’s bylaws. Three of the eight positions are elected positions. In late summer, Active, Active International and Emeritus members may nominate SSO members to serve. The list of candidates is presented to the Nominating Committee and the top three individuals are identified, approved by the Executive Council and presented to eligible members to vote in January. Terms begin in April.

Finally, the SSO Executive Council is the highest level of leadership in the Society. Positions are both elected and appointed. A total of three Councilor-at-Large positions serve on the Executive Council. This council position was specifically created to represent the voice of members 45 or less years of age. Candidates for these positions are solicited by the Nominating Committee from Executive Council members and Past Presidents. The list is narrowed by the Nominating Committee to two to three candidates. These individuals are then presented to eligible SSO members to vote. The Councilor-at-Large position is a three-year term, with a new position becoming available each year.  Other positions on the Executive Council are appointed and go through a two-step process. During the first step, current Executive Council members and Past Presidents develop a slate of candidates. Then, the Nominating Committee appoints candidates to open positions.

If you have any questions about the paths to serve on SSO Committees, Subcommittees, Work Groups and Task Forces, please contact Andrea King, Manager, Governance and Member Engagement.

Changes Announced to The SSO Foundation

In October 2018, The SSO Foundation (SSOF) Board and the SSO Executive Council unanimously approved a decision to transition all SSOF assets to the SSO Research and Education Fund, a restricted fund of the SSO, eliminating the operational expenses required to maintain SSOF as a separate 501(c)(3) corporate entity.  Based on a recommendation by The SSOF Board, the SSO Executive Council agreed that the use of the funds will be restricted for research (such as the existing Clinical Investigator Awards or Young Investigator Awards), education, or innovation.
This shift to a restricted fund ensures that 100% of donations will be used to support research grants and select educational programming, with no portion supporting operations. SSO has assumed responsibility for all expenses formerly funded by SSOF, including lectureships such as the James Ewing Lecture, travel awards such as the Harvey Baker Traveling Fellow Award, and all overhead and fundraising costs. 

Efforts to secure private foundation and industry support to extend the ability of the new Fund to award research grants will be pursued. SSO members are encouraged to donate to The Research and Education Fund and should feel confident knowing that 100% of every donation will be restricted to research grants and educational programming, with no portion of the gift supporting operations. Make your gift today to demonstrate your commitment to supporting the surgeon scientist. If you are attending SSO 2019, you may donate on site by texting SSODONATE to 41444.

Innovative Approaches to Regional Cancer Therapy Draws Surgical Oncologists from Around the World

The 14th International Symposium on Regional Cancer Therapies took place February 16 – 18, 2019 in Phoenix, AZ. SSO welcomed 197 surgical and industry oncology professionals to the meeting, an increase over last year’s event. The atmosphere was charged with energy, elevated by the high level of research, the excellence of the presenters and panels, and the real opportunity to connect with colleagues.

The three-day program was designed to cover the most recent advances in cancer therapy that are primarily of a regional focus, such as gastrointestinal, intraperitoneal, hepatic, ovarian and thoracic cancers. Several surgical oncologists from around the world were invited to present innovative approaches to challenging cancer treatment scenarios. The call for abstracts received over 120 submissions, resulting in 42 oral abstracts and 54 ePosters presented.

The annual Gabriella Graham award recipient was the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA).  Chad Ramsey, Vice President of Policy, was invited to the meeting to accept the award on their behalf during the Saturday reception.  The mission of the OCRA is to ensure access and availability to high quality treatment and care; promote a strong commitment to research and education funding and protect patient safety in the era of precision medicine and advanced diagnostics.

The Appendix Cancer/PMP Research Foundation (ACPMP) partnered with SSO to award three $1,000 travel grants to top oral abstract presenters presenting on the topics of PMP and appendix cancer:

  • Forrest Williard, BS, UTHSC College of Medicine, Memphis, TN for PM2:  Peritoneal Metastases have a Distinct Molecular Profile from Primary Colorectal Adenocarcinoma
  • Eliahu Bekhor, MD, Icahn Medical School of Mount Sinai, New York, NY for PM13:  Surveillance of Low-Grade Appendiceal Mucinous Neoplasms with Peritoneal Metastases After Cytoreductive Surgery and Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy: Are 5 Years Enough? A Multisite Experience
  • Marian Khalili, MD, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA for AR2:  Slippery Nanoparticles as a Diffusion Platform for Mucin Producing Gastrointestinal Tumors

Save the date for the 15th International Symposium on Regional Cancer Therapies, February 15 – 17, 2020 in Orlando, FL. The call for abstracts will open this summer.

Register Now for May Webinars at ExpertED@SSO

Strengthen skills, boost levels of proficiency, review best practices and stay up-to-date on the latest research with just one visit to SSO’s online educational platform, ExpertED@SSO. Several new webinars for the month of May have been announced and registration is now open.

The Framework to Submitting a Successful Abstract | May 1, 2019 | 4 pm CT
Moderated by: Danny M. Takanishi, Jr., MD and Yanhgee Woo, MD with guest speaker Rebecca Auer, MD, MSC.
This webinar will help to increase knowledge of proficient scientific abstract formulation and the ability to practically apply this knowledge in the submission process for consideration by scientific symposia program committees.
You may find this activity in the Other Surgical Oncology section in the ExpertED@SSO catalog.

Should a Patient with a 2 cm HER2+/TNBC Clinically Node Negative Receive Neoadjuvant Therapy? | May 9, 2019 | 2 pm CT
Faculty: Julie Margenthaler, MD and Sarah McLaughlin, MD
Based on the SSO 2019 Great Debate, this webinar will present data and compare and contrast the benefits and limitations of upfront surgery and neoadjuvant therapy for TNBC and discuss resectable HER2+.
You may find this activity in the Breast Disease section in the ExpertED@SSO catalog.
This activity is partially supported by an independent educational grant from Genentech.

Young Adult Onset Colorectal Cancer: What is going on? | May 15, 2019 | 3 pm CT
Faculty: J. Joshua Smith, MD, PhD, Y. Nancy You, MD, MHSc, and Heather Yeo, MD, MHS.
Young-onset colorectal cancer is distinct in many ways. Location of the tumor varies substantially with age and cancers are also histologically more aggressive. This webinar will review practice changing papers and national screening guidelines and age-related differences in colorectal cancer that have implications for diagnosis and treatment.
You may find this activity in the Colorectal Disease section in the ExpertED@SSO catalog.

Multi-Modality Management of Stage IV Melanoma in the Era of Immunotherapy | May 29, 2019 | 5 pm CT
Faculty: Omid Hamid, MD, Genevieve Boland, MD, PhD, Mark Faries, MD and Charlotte Ariyan, MD
Learn about the mechanisms of action and toxicities of novel immunotherapeutic agents for metastatic melanoma and how to best integrate these agents with surgical options. This case-based webinar will cover topics including: systemic therapy, immune adjuvants for Stage IV melanoma, management of oligometastatic disease and surgical outcomes in melanoma in combination with immunotherapy.
You may find this activity in the Melanoma Disease section in the ExpertED@SSO catalog.
This activity is partially supported by independent educational grants from Amgen, Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck.

SSO Annual Business Meeting at SSO 2019

In accordance with SSO Bylaws, the Annual Business Meeting will be held during the SSO Annual Cancer Symposium. Please join us at the San Diego Convention Center for reports on the state of the Society from the SSO Leadership. We’ll announce new members, present several awards, and introduce the incoming President.

Meeting details are as follows:

  • Date:                     Saturday, March 30, 2019
  • Time:                     3 – 3:30 pm (Pacific)
  • Location:              San Diego Convention Center; Room 31ABC
  • Purpose:              To present the state of the Society

Please plan to join us at this important annual Society event! Questions? Contact Andrea King, Manager of Governance and Member Engagement, via email at