Joining FORCES is the FORCE newsletter with news, views and supportive information for individuals concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
by Drea Thew
We did it again! Our second annual Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer conference was held in Tampa on May 18 and 19, 2007. More than 350 people—members of high-risk families, health care providers, and patient advocates—traveled from 36 states, seven countries, and four continents to attend.
The conference had something for everyone, including continuing education credits offered to nurses and genetic counselors. Our 35 speakers included expert researchers, clinicians, psychologists, and patient activists who shared up-to-date and inspiring information for individuals concerned with issues of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
Our mornings began with presentations by experts in cancer and hereditary cancer syndromes. Dr. Rebecca Sutphen’s “Ovarian Cancer Detection” session introduced current efforts to develop a screening test for ovarian cancer. Dr. Christina Annunziata of the National Cancer Institute presented encouraging information about PARP inhibitors, new agents to specifically treat cancer in BRCA mutation carriers, and pending clinical trials for treatment of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Dr. Judy Garber’s “Cancer Risk, Before and After” overview described how different management options affect cancer risk in BRCA carriers. Dr. Steven Narod presented his research on BRCA mutations and how hormones influence cancer risk.
Afternoons were filled with a variety of smaller, more focused sessions covering nearly every conceivable aspect of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Attendees learned about the most current research on risk and medical decision-making for high-risk individuals. “BRCA and Other Cancers” by pancreatic cancer expert Dr. Jason Klapman, for example, described a newly-opened clinical trial for pancreatic cancer detection. Researcher Dr. Cathy Phelan spoke about the risks BRCA carriers have beyond breast and ovarian cancer, and Dr. Karen Lu presented options for lowering ovarian cancer risk in BRCA carriers. Dr. Andrew Kaunitz gave a thorough overview of symptoms and management of menopause; he also included an overview of menopause research, identifying studies that are relevant to our community. Several plastic surgeons were also on hand to explain cutting-edge reconstructive techniques.
Networking with others can be a profound and rewarding conference experience, and our attendees had plenty of opportunity to do so. Whether mingling during breaks or meeting in sessions, participants discovered they shared concerns and benefited from the experiences of others. A popular roundtable session provided ample opportunity to speak one-on-one with physicians, researchers and other experts.
Several sessions explored the emotional aspects of living with hereditary cancer. Kathy Steligo’s workshop showed participants how to use writing techniques to find power and comfort while confronting their cancer-related fears. Psychologist Dr. Karen Hurley, whose work focuses on high-risk families, discussed ways to share cancer and risk information with children. She and Dr. Rebekah Hamilton joined forces to give specific insights to young previvors who are coping with risk. FORCE’s program, Looking Back, Living Forward, premiered at this conference. Andrew Filippone, Marnie Breecker, and Lauren Dubin presented film clips from the documentary Mina and the Family Treasure, and guided us through the process of thinking about, collecting, and documenting family stories and medical information. The conference closed with powerful footage from Joanna Rudnick’s film in progress, In the Family.
If you’re concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, the Joining FORCEs conference is the most pertinent information you’ll find under one roof. And, once again, we’ll hold our fundraising gala at the Florida Aquarium. It’s a chance to enjoy music, great food and the company of presenters and attendees alike in a festive, family-oriented—and “fishy”—atmosphere. Proceeds help us continue to provide FORCE services and programs.