2024 ACRO Summit Underscores the Importance of Continued Education in Radiation

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Steven E. Finkelstein, MD, DABR, FACRO, discusses the importance of disseminating treatment advancements and ongoing research in radiation oncology.

Steven Finkelstein, MD, DABR, FACRO

Steven Finkelstein, MD, DABR, FACRO

As advancements continue to unfold across the spectrum of radiation oncology, disseminating information on new treatment strategies, novel technologies, and ongoing research to up-and-coming oncologists is vital to keep the field moving forward, according to Steven Finkelstein, MD, DABR, FACRO.

“One of the things I strongly believe in is exposing our youth early to what we do as oncologists across the spectrum of oncology,” Finkelstein said in an interview with OncLive® during the 2024 ACRO Summit. “I love to see when young folks come [to these meetings], and they get here and bathe in all the excitement of what it means to help patients.”

During the interview, Finkelstein highlighted the significance of the 2024 ACRO Meeting, discussed unmet needs in radiation oncology that ongoing research endeavors aim to address, and explained the value of integrating potential oncologists into the radiation field early in their careers.

Finkelstein is the chair of Science and Education for ACRO and a radiation oncologist with the US Oncology Network at Florida Cancer Affiliates in Panama City.

OncLive: What is the significance of meetings such as the ACRO Summit for the field of radiation oncology?

Finkelstein: [ACRO] is a conference that brings together radiation oncologists from across the spectrum of academia and the community. [Approximately] 80% of patients with cancer get treated in a community setting, and it's important for us to disseminate education across our field. This is a meeting that brings doctors from all diverse backgrounds together—even in a multidisciplinary setting—to talk and see some of the advances in both care and research.

I'm happy to report that at the [2024 ACRO Summit], we had over 100 abstracts submitted, which were published and presented [over the course of the meeting]. In addition, as the founding editor of the new Journal of the American College of Radiation Oncology, also known now as CURiE, we're excited to announce that we published both the first paper and the first sets of abstracts coming from the annual meeting. We're excited to bring these advances to the field of oncology to help patients.

What can community oncologists gain from attending meetings such as the ACRO Summit?

The importance of meetings like ACRO for community oncologists is that we need to continue to advance education. The field is moving so fast, and there is so much information out there. How can we see the important advances and incorporate them to help our patients? In meetings like this, we can present and cull the intense amount of information into digestible pieces. Presentations like we [saw at the ACRO Summit] can be seen across the platform of virtual media to help people who can't make the meeting. There is a lot of cross pollination between what we do here at ACRO on an educational basis. We have world experts and doctors show up, network, exchange knowledge and then have that knowledge go out to the world, whether it be from personal interactions or interviews like this.

In terms of ongoing or upcoming research initiatives in radiation oncology, is there anything specific you would like to spotlight?

I'm extremely excited about the continued advancement of radiation oncology research in the community setting. We do such a wonderful job in radiation oncology. Again, if 80% of [patients with] cancer get treated in the community, we need to continue to advance those research approaches so that community physicians have access [to the latest radiation technologies and methods] to be able to bring [these strategies] to their patients. For me, as a principal investigator, [it’s important to] be active in those initiatives. Within our center [at Florida Cancer Affiliates], we try to bring those advances [to patients], and some of those advances we brought as a presentation [at the 2024 ACRO Summit].

However, what I really want to bring home is this message that if you're a patient, your doctors are learning about what they need to learn, and hopefully [this allows them] to bring [patients] access to the most cutting-edge technologies and research protocols so that they can have the best outcomes possible.

What unmet needs in the radiation oncology realm would you like to see addressed in the future?

One of the key unmet needs in radiation oncology is the continued advancement of radiopharmaceuticals. As a national expert in radiopharmaceuticals, we're just scratching the surface of this [area]. With the advent of [radiopharmaceutical] therapies in prostate cancer, we're helping patients, and that's going to extend outside of the prostate cancer space to help people with all different kinds of diseases.

That interplay between radiation oncology and industry partners to bring these new [radiopharmaceutical] therapies to research trials, both in academics and community settings, and then be able to have access [to these novel agents] for patients, is going to be a key piece of our future. I look forward to being part of [that initiative].

As new information continues to unfold in radiation oncology, what is the best way to keep pace in this evolving landscape?

A key takeaway I have for my colleagues across the field of radiation oncology and oncology [is to] be involved. It's not always easy to get away [from practice] to come to a meeting but find a way to be involved and get the information needed so that we can always do the highest quality work for our patients. We all fight the good fight every day. It's harder than ever [to keep up] with this incredible expanse of information. However, the kind of work that we're trying to do at meetings such as the ACRO Summit is to try to disseminate information that helps our patients.

What is the significance of involving students, trainees, residents, and younger individuals in research endeavors and conferences such as the ACRO Summit?

One of the things that is important is the future [of oncology]. Our future is our youth who decide that oncology is an important place to help the world and help patients. ACRO is at the forefront of engaging fellows, residents, and medical students. [Looking at] my background, I did surgery and surgical oncology. Then I went back to do radiation oncology because I never really had exposure [to this field]. I'm excited to get people [who have yet to become] medical students to see that radiation oncology is an exciting field with infinite potential. It is an honor to pay it forward in that way, and I'm excited to help in that role as chair of education.

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