The hematology/oncology residency is typically a focused experience in which the trainees work to enrich their hematology/oncology knowledge and enhance their clinical skills. Although most new oncology residents enter this training program capable of managing internal medicine issues, they typically lack an in-depth knowledge of anticancer drugs, cancer pathophysiology, cancer treatment guidelines, and relevant clinical studies to function in this area as a skilled clinician (the goal of oncology residency training). Many cancer patients have a disease course that is relatively straightforward, where residents learning/memorizing treatment algorithms can make sure the correct drug(s) at the correct doses are given; however, other cases are complex, and drug and dose selection are not optimized by following a treatment algorithm. Furthermore, some algorithms are simply out of date relative to current research results, and additional knowledge of clinical trial data is needed to optimize therapy. Due to the push to “cure cancer” and translate basic science gains into improved patient outcomes, there is a terrific amount of exciting new data being reported every year. These data are having a positive effect and moving the oncology field toward individualized therapy; however, the increase in data also means that the number of patients who do not fit an algorithm is increasing. When patients present who do not fit a current algorithm or who would not be included in a protocol due to patient-specific issues (comorbid conditions or tumor biology issues), they are best served by clinicians who are knowledgeable in the areas of disease pathophysiology, drug pharmacokinetics, drug pharmacology, and relevant clinical trials.
Optimal training of oncology residents involves enhancing their knowledge of drugs, disease pathophysiology, and clinical trials while caring for patients (real-world case-based learning). Residents learn how and where to find standardized treatment algorithms (eg, National Comprehensive Cancer Network [NCCN] guidelines), as well as drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacology information. It takes time for residents to gain this knowledge and learn how to use it; but it is relatively easy compared to learning how to stay abreast of new clinical trial results and put them in context of current practice. Since cutting-edge information is typically presented at a national and/or international meeting before publication, getting residents information from these meetings is 1 way to help them keep up with the new clinical trial results.
Attending the national hematology and oncology meetings is not feasible for most oncology residents; hence the Resident Reporter was developed. In this edition, we sent resident Katie E. Long of the University of Kentucky to the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, held in Vienna, Austria, on September 28 to October 2, 2012, and the 2012 American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting, held December 8-11, 2012, in Atlanta, Georgia. Oncologists from around the world presented data on recent advances in the treatment of cancer. The following is Dr Long’s report of advances in solid tumors from ESMO, and in hematologic malignancies from ASH. The goal of this column is twofold; first, to help oncology residents learn new cutting-edge material presented at these meetings, and second, to help them develop an appreciation of the type of material presented at the different meetings.