Owing to social restrictions still in place in the continued effort to halt the COVID-19 pandemic, the next ESMO Breast Cancer Congress 2021 (5-8 May 2021) is due to take place in a fully virtual environment.
True to ESMO’s ethos of bridge-building between scientific evidence and clinical practice, and with the objective of accelerating and maximising implementation of new technologies in everyday care, the organising Committee has ensured that the programme features several opportunities for interaction and knowledge exchange, including three Virtual Lounge Discussions. Always on the lookout for novel ways of using virtual platforms to optimise physicians’ education, we at The Corpus have taken a keen interest in these sessions and wanted to learn more about molecular tumour boards (MTBs), ahead of the dedicated discussion on 8 May.
MTBs have been recently heralded as a much-needed tool to bridge the gap between an exponentially increasing amount of information available to HCPs via high-throughput screenings (such as next-generation sequencing) and the ever-diminishing availability of free time they can dedicate to learning about these techniques and, especially, to understanding how to effectively translate results into clinical practice(1-3).
To our surprise, whilst we were expecting to learn about a new technology, or a novel software, we discovered that MTBs are instead reliant on one of the most sophisticated instruments available to science: the human mind.
MTBs are still very heterogeneous: a core of medical oncologists and pathologists is often joined by geneticists, medical biologists, and bioinformaticians, but meeting attendance may extend to as many as 10 disciplines, with the inclusion of up to 40 members(3). The focus of MTBs may also vary: whilst most discuss clinical implications of tumour profiling results, others may drive decisions as to whether, and on what platform, a patient’s tumour should be tested in the first place(3).
Although increasingly recognised as a crucial component of the treatment/algorithm selection process, MTBs are not yet fully standardised and validated, and guidelines on the subject are still lacking. However, their effectiveness has been assessed through several studies, recently reviewed and summarised by Specchia et al.(4).
In their umbrella review, the Authors concluded that MTBs “represent the best approach to a complex care pathway as cancer treatment, because it improves decision making, patient care coordination, and it reduces waiting times”.
Convening several members of various disciplines together does however come with its own set of challenges, such as difficulties in achieving effective decision-making, good communication, and ensuring the participation of patients, as well as HCPs, as key stakeholders(4). Importantly, lack of time and logistical difficulties have been highlighted as key hindrances when attending and implementing MTB meetings(4,5).
Coordination of busy speaker schedules is something that the Corpus team excel at, having run hundreds of online healthcare-oriented meetings since 2014. This being the case, we are keeping a keen eye on the Molecular Tumour Boards scene and will look to incorporate learnings from ESMO Breast Cancer Congress 2021 into our online meeting offerings, for future project collaborations.
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1. Lamb BW et al. Ann Surg Oncol 2011;18:2116-25
2. Luchini C et al. Trends in Cancer 2020;6(9):738-744
3. van der Velden DL et al. Ann Oncol 2017;28:3070–3075
4. Specchia ML et al. BMC Health Services Research 2020;20:73-86
5. Coory M et al. Lung Cancer 2008;60(1):14-21.