By Dr. Virginia Kaklamani and Dr. Ruben Mesa
This is the 40th anniversary of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which starts Dec. 5 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. As the 2017 symposium approaches, we reflect on this important meeting’s value to patients and families everywhere.
When the symposium began in 1978, women with breast cancer faced a far bleaker outlook than today. For example, radical mastectomies were still routinely done, and little was known about genetic profiling of tumors. Each year’s symposium has provided state-of-the-art information on breast cancer research, and this year’s symposium will be no different. Co-directors for 2017 are Dr. Virginia Kaklamani of the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center, Dr. C. Kent Osborne of Baylor College of Medicine and Dr. Carlos Arteaga of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium is one of the largest breast cancer meetings in the world, with approximately half of attendees coming from more than 90 countries outside of the U.S. More than 7,000 oncologists, cancer researchers and patient advocates attend annually. The first symposium, in contrast, attracted 141 physicians and surgeons from five states.
The meeting generates a $19 million economic impact for San Antonio, based on data.
San Antonio was an appropriate place to launch the world’s foremost breast cancer symposium since the city from the 1970s onward was a cradle of the highest-quality research in the field. Dr. William L. McGuire, pioneering breast cancer researcher at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Dr. Charles Coltman, medical director of San Antonio’s Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC), planned the first symposium. Dr. C. Kent Osborne, breast cancer researcher now at Baylor College of Medicine, was instrumental in the event’s growth during his years with the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and onward.
In 2005, Baylor College of Medicine became a joint sponsor with the CTRC. In 2007, it was announced that the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) would join the collaboration on the annual symposium.
Today the CTRC is part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and is called the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center. It is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
Exciting times are on the horizon as the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center is developing an affiliation with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. This will expand available cancer services to the region’s patients and ensure families will not be forced to go elsewhere for cancer care. Patients do better when treated near their homes.
Current investigators stand on the shoulders of the symposium’s founders. We are grateful that the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium exists, because in convening the field’s greatest minds, the armamentarium of treatments steadily increases. Mothers, grandmothers, wives and aunts of families can spend more time loving their families, the way it should be.
Virginia Kaklamani, M.D., D.Sc., is director of the breast cancer program at the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center. Dr. Ruben Mesa, M.D., FACP, is director of the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center.