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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 1832-1833

Virtual oncology conferences – The new normal?

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Manipal Hospitals, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Radiation Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
3 Department of Medical Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission21-Apr-2020
Date of Decision21-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance21-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication16-Nov-2022

Correspondence Address:
Anusheel Munshi
Department of Radiation Oncology, Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jcrt.JCRT_496_20

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How to cite this article:
Munshi A, Agarwal JP, Prabhash K. Virtual oncology conferences – The new normal?. J Can Res Ther 2022;18:1832-3

How to cite this URL:
Munshi A, Agarwal JP, Prabhash K. Virtual oncology conferences – The new normal?. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 3];18:1832-3. Available from: https://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2022/18/6/1832/361206

One of the exciting events in the professional life of an oncologist is attending a scientific medical conference. It can be a local evening continuing medical education, an intra-country event at a different city of the country or the more exciting foreign trip to an international destination. It can be as a faculty or as a delegate. World over, medical societies ritually make meticulous calendars of their annual or biennial events. The bigger of these events host thousands of delegates from all over the globe. Top scientific faculty share the most recent advances of years of team hard work and toil. Breaking updates of trials are presented, special plenary sessions held and exciting debates on controversial topics keep the delegate interest going into the event which can go on for 3 or 4 days. However, all this seems passe.

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed about cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology detected in Wuhan City of China. The cause was soon determined to be the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Subsequent events evolved at a very rapid pace. On March 11, 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. This infection, aided by the present day brisk global air travel, rapidly crossed borders. Major health-care crisis and economic slowdown followed. The crisis has brought the world to a near-complete standstill. As of April 1, 2020, 750,890 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported globally, with a total of 36,405 deaths. Most international health organizations across the globe have expressed an urgent need to stop, control, and reduce the impact of the virus at every opportunity.[1]

Medical conferences, while purposeful in themselves, involve significant logistics and meticulous planning. The financial implications are often huge, requiring significant sponsorships from industry and other agencies. Cut to 2020, when the world is dealing (and struggling!) with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The entire world order is being reworked and healthcare is leading the change. The new buzz word is “distance.”

Ever since then, there has be a second pandemic, one of the cancellation and postponement of medical conferences and events.[2] Innovation followed as well. On March 24, 2020, ASCO, one of the biggest oncology events across the globe announced its plan to convert its annual meeting to a virtual meeting.[3]

Can this situation be considered a wakeup call for the oncology community as well? Should we consider this as a one-off event that came and shall pass? Or should we have a systematic plan B for every event. Going and extra step further, can we completely switch over to having a virtual conference for every event. In the present digital world, this is more than do able and can make research reach the door step of the delegate registered for the conference. The usual sections of the conference can be easily integrated with interactive workshops, meet the professor sessions and other related events.[4]

The gains of this switch over to the virtual conference are immense. Carbon emissions reductions gained from avoiding air travel would be immense. Nearly 4.6 million kg of CO2 emission would be avoided for 5000 delegates for a return Delhi- New York- Delhi flight.[5] Approximately 200,000 man hours would be save on travel alone for the same sector for similar passenger number. This does not take into account the time lost in jet lags and local travel. In addition, the delegates would get the flexibility for seeing the event real time or at a time of their choice, allowing them to integrate their work and conference in the most customized manner.

Perhaps then, it is indeed the time to bid adieu to the regular conferences. And also, a moment to welcome to the new order - The Virtual conference - the event that can be held anytime, anywhere!

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 > References Top

Available from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/dis eases/novel-coronavirus-2019. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 03].  Back to cited text no. 1
Available from: https://www.estro.org/Congresse s/ESTRO-2020/ESTRO-2020. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 10].  Back to cited text no. 2
Available from: https://www.meetings.asco.org/am/as co-statement-novel-coronavirus-co vid-19. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 08].  Back to cited text no. 3
Munshi A, Prabhash K, Agarwal JP. Oncology conferences: Please call it a day. J Clin Oncol 2011;29:e394.  Back to cited text no. 4
Available from: https://www.icao.int/environmental-protectio n/carbonoffset/pages/def ault.aspx. [Last accessed on 2020 Apr 10].  Back to cited text no. 5


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