World-renowned physicians and researchers gathered for the 25th annual Multidisciplinary Symposium on Breast Health.
Much clinical and scientific progress has been made regarding breast health over the past 25 years.
There is greater awareness about breast cancer risk factors, a larger percentage of women now undergo mammograms and more treatment options are available for those diagnosed with breast disease. These strides reflect the growth, success and popularity of the Multidisciplinary Symposium on Breast Health, which was held for the first time in 1995.
The 25th installment of the annual event, hosted by University of Florida pathologist Shahla Masood, MD, drew world-renowned physicians and researchers to Amelia Island from Feb. 13 to 16 for a weekend of networking, sharing of the latest findings and in-depth discussions about ways to improve breast health across the globe.
A plethora of topics
The symposium is the brainchild of Masood, medical director of the UF Health Breast Center – Jacksonville and a professor and chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville. The event covers a wide range of topics, such as breast cancer risk factors, diagnoses, new concepts in surgical management and advances in breast cancer therapy.
Specific session topics this year included morphologic features of breast cancer precursors, breast cancer risk and outcome disparities, genetic testing, advances in oncoplastic surgery, triple negative breast cancer, immunotherapy and much more.
“Our aim was for symposium participants to become familiar with the most recent advances that have been made in diagnosis and therapy in various disciplines involved in breast-related patient care,” Masood said. “We want everyone to think collectively about the best options for each individual patient based on the extent and biology of their disease.”
Paul Okunieff, MD, a professor and chair of radiation oncology at the UF College of Medicine in Gainesville, was the symposium’s keynote lecturer. He updated the audience on oligometastesis, a type of metastasis in which cancer cells from the original tumor travel through the body and form a small number of new tumors in one or two other parts of the body.
“Women with five or fewer metastases can actually be cured,” Okunieff said. “However, we need to treat them as if they have a new cancer using ablative multimodal therapies — in particular, a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.”
A special event
Several of the people on hand were first-time attendees, including Crystal Rivett, a nurse practitioner at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She said she enjoyed the four-day event and was impressed by its breadth and quality of speakers.
“The symposium was very informative and up to date with a broad spectrum of subjects surrounding breast cancer,” Rivett said. “I had been looking forward to this weekend for a while.”
Since 1995, the symposium has offered unique educational experiences and featured nationally and internationally known authorities. The event was the first of its kind to cover all aspects of diagnosis and treatment for a single disease. Its success resulted in several other breast cancer conferences occurring at the international level.
“The 25th anniversary of the symposium is a moment to celebrate the continuity of an educational event that has been considered an innovation in thinking,” Masood said. “This event has remained committed to bringing the most recognized authorities in breast cancer care and research as speakers.”
Masood added that a goal is for clinicians to always think collectively about their treatment methods.
“Participants recognize that breast cancer is not a single disease that can be treated by a single surgeon,” she said. “It requires efforts of integrated teams from different specialties in a multidisciplinary approach.”
A personal passion
Masood has devoted her entire professional life to advancing breast health and is proud to have served as a trailblazer along the way, particularly when it comes to visualizing and organizing such a robust event.
“In launching the breast symposium in 1995, it was the first time a pathologist, single handedly, focused on appropriateness of clinical cancer care and improving breast health literacy around the world,” Masood said. “The event has influenced educational advances across the globe while bringing significant visibility to UF Health and to our department.”
Masood has taken the symposium to several international cities, such as Rome, Paris, Cairo, Dammam (Saudi Arabia) and Tehran (Iran). The event’s success has motivated other groups around the world to hold similar annual functions in their respective regions.
Recognitions of note along the way include the French and Italian governments issuing stamps to commemorate the symposium, with proceeds benefiting breast cancer research. Also, in 2009, the Giza pyramid complex in Cairo was illuminated pink during the symposium, a spectacle that was covered by major news media.
The Breast Journal and public forum
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of The Breast Journal, a publication of which Masood serves as editor. The Breast Journal is the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary source devoted exclusively to all facets of research, diagnosis and treatment of breast disease. The journal encompasses the latest news and technologies from the many medical specialties tied to breast disease care in order to address the disease within the context of a woman's total health.
Additionally, Masood hosts an annual public forum on breast health. The free event brings breast health education to some of Jacksonville’s most medically underserved communities. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the event.
Chair, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine; Program Director, Breast Pathology Fellowship; Medical Director, Breast Health Center; Program Director, Cytopathology Fellowship; Director of Research; Interim Director of Cancer Programs