Why I Attend: Dr. George Daneker Jr.

Why I Attend: Dr. George Daneker Jr.

Dr. George Daneker Jr.
George Daneker Jr., MD, is chief medical officer of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and began attending the ASCO Annual Meeting in the 1990s. In the following interview, Dr. Daneker shares the benefits of the Annual Meeting and advice for newer attendees.

Q: Why are you attending the ASCO Annual Meeting this year?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: Without question, ASCO is the premier clinical oncology event worldwide. It offers incredibly rich educational content, from groundbreaking presentations of the latest research to in-depth deliberations about a wide range of issues affecting patients with cancer. It also covers the bigger picture in cancer and cancer care, including how it impacts—and is impacted—by society. The conference attracts the who’s who in oncology, and it’s also valuable for those learning the field or studying a specific topic such as immunotherapy. Further, it’s always exciting to walk through the exhibits and get a glimpse into the latest and greatest technologies and advancements coming into practice.

Q: How do you plan your time during the Meeting? Do you have any tips for new attendees who may feel overwhelmed by all the on-site options?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: The sheer number of superb sessions can truly be overwhelming. I highly recommend downloading the iPlanner app a couple of weeks ahead of time and familiarizing yourself with the program to identify sessions you plan to attend—acknowledge you can’t see and do everything, and spend some time figuring out what your priorities are.

You should also be strategic and tactical. There could be three sessions you’d like to attend at any one time, so you need to carefully plan your own personal syllabus ahead of time to maximize value. Additionally, take into account the location of each session. Some conference rooms might be a 15-minute walk away. And for the most popular sessions, arrive in advance to guarantee a seat.

Q: Apart from the science presented, what are the benefits of attending the Meeting?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: The conference allows for a truly immersive educational experience. Personally, I have a hard time sitting and reading a journal for a couple of hours at the end of a busy day. At the Meeting, I turn my cell phone off (or at least silence it), and I engross myself in the content. The experience allows for the condensed exposure and rapid connection of ideas and learnings so you come out with a synergistic enhancement of your understanding of a topic, as opposed to trying to connect ideas encountered from various noncurated sources. The Plenary Session also provides a real sense of oncology as a discipline and where it is going—not only specifics about clinical trials, but bigger, macro trends that get you thinking.

I particularly enjoy the networking aspect of the conference and catching up with old friends and colleagues. I often run into people with whom I’ve served on committees, worked on projects, or trained with in my residency or fellowships. 

I also look forward to hearing and learning from fellow physicians on key topics such as precision medicine. CTCA has a specific interest in where the field is going and what the future looks like. In turn, I’m excited to share our learnings, such as best practices that led CTCA to become a lead accruer in ASCO’s TAPUR study. 

Q: Have you made any connections at the Meeting that have impacted your career?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: Where do I start? The connections I’ve made or renewed at the Annual Meeting have influenced decisions about my fellowship and my choice of a faculty position and inspired the overall direction my career has taken in terms of clinical and scientific interest. These connections have shaped my career as a surgeon, as a researcher, and as a health care executive.

Q: Do you have any advice for networking at the Meeting?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: Don’t be afraid to just walk up and say hello to anybody. Even the big names are open to meeting people, too. In my experience, these kinds of introductions have rarely been anything but beneficial.

Q: This year’s theme is focused on precision medicine. What do you think the Meeting will be most focused on 10 years from now?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: The world of precision medicine is changing rapidly as we continue to develop clinically meaningful approaches to improve the likelihood that an individual patient’s cancer will respond to precision medicine options. A decade from now, I believe we will be discussing how to leverage clinical trial and real-world evidence to inform and influence clinical decision-making at the true point of care. We might be asking:

How do we incorporate a robust oncology clinical decision–support strategy that will have been shown by that time to be of value in randomized clinical trials into routine clinical practice? And how will this essential management tool be funded?

How do we finally learn to incorporate lifestyle strategies (obesity management, HPV vaccination, tobacco control, stress reduction, etc.) in the cancer management paradigm as the cost of cancer care is increasingly recognized to be bankrupting the U.S. economy?

Q: What do you always make sure to include when packing for the Meeting?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: Comfortable shoes! You’ll do a lot of walking around the sprawling McCormick Place venue. I also bring something to take notes on, like a tablet, and a charger. And of course, a desire to learn and forge new relationships.

Q: Where is your favorite place in Chicago to get a drink?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: For a touch of nostalgia, and when I feel like reliving my days at the University of Chicago’s Business School, I go to the quintessential dive bar, Rossi’s. The Langham Hotel is also a great place to get a drink in a more upscale environment. And on a Friday afternoon, The Purple Pig is a fun place to be. But to me, the place is not as important as the people you drink with—and of course, the drink itself. Mine’s a dirty martini with a little vermouth and three blue cheese–stuffed olives. 

Q: Any other tips for attendees?

Dr. Daneker Jr.: Have fun and be open to meeting new people.  

Bio: George Daneker Jr., MD, is chief medical officer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America and has more than 30 years of clinical, research, and health care leadership experience.