[Review] Skin Cancer Conference and Masterclasses 2016

The first Masterclass of the 2016 Skin Cancer Conference and Masterclasses focused on diagnostics through dermoscopy. Three leading clinicians and researchers presented on three fundamental approaches to dermoscopy.

Giuseppi Argenziano from Italy led off with his perspectives using the Elephant Method. In essence, Geppi urges us to look at a lesion and almost in a “blink” simply use our instinct to decide if a lesion is benign or suspicious. Why Elephant? Well – you look at an elephant and it is obvious what it is. Do the same with a suspicious (likely malignant) lesion. This is a neat concept, but as Geppi says it does mean we need to look at plenty of lesions while we get used to this idea. After all you don’t know it is an elephant until you have seen one, been told that’s what it is, and seen animals that aren’t elephants!

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Richard Usatine from the USA outlined his preferred method, which is the long established and well valued 2-step process. Cliff Rosendahl presented on his method, devised a few years ago and carefully evaluated in published studies, using the idea of Chaos and Clues. In many ways the Chaos is similar to Geppi’s Elephant, with the Clues being a more refined search for detail.

The Masterclass was capped off with a small groups session working on a sample of cases, and using different algorithms to evaluate them.

The second Masterclass on Thursday focused on surgery and histopathology, with Sharad Paul from New Zealand talking participants through the issue of Vascularity – an often neglected aspect of cutaneous surgery. Richard Usatine followed on with a session on the key aspects of medical therapeutics of skin cancers, as well as the procedural apsects including cryosurgery and electro-surgery.

Simon Clark, Blake O’Brien and Geppi Argenziano then ran an interaxctive session on dermtopathology of skin cancer.

20160729-3246The Conference ran for 2 days with many parallel sessions, with ranging across many aspects of skin cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The first day got off to a great start with an update on Melanoma Diagnosis and an overview of Hedgehog inhibitors for advanced BCC; this was the first time many attendees had seen what remarkable effects these new drugs can have on selected cases of advanced BCC. It was insightful to hear Richard Usatine’s direct experience and see pictures of improvements enjoyed by his patients.

Further sessions on the first day looked at a new approach to skin tension lines from Sharad Paul as well as genetics of vulvar melanoma, with Pedram Gerami presenting on the later via web streaming from the USA. This approach worked really well, with very effective interactions with the audience.

Conferences like this are an important opportunity to explore novel, groundbreaking and frontier aspects of a discipline and so hearing about genotypic risk, drug resistance models, and novel imaging technology, as well as micro RNAs was all fascinating.

20160729-3138These high tech sessions were very well complemented by highly pragmatic, and equally important sessions on skin cancer practitioner competence.

Day 2 included parallel sessions so that attendees could delve deeply into specific topics. One session looked in detail at monitoring (or not), while another explored the contentious area of sentinel lymph node biopsy – that created plenty of discussion. Mark Smithers from the PA Hospital and UQ School of Medicine chaired that session very capably. A further breakout session included a range of free communications.

Further sessions that day looked at pathology reporting and aspects of dysplastic nevi, standards in skin cancer surgery (including for example, use of prophylactic antibiotics and clean or sterile gloves), as well as medicare nightmares and the business of medicine.

The conference session wrapped up with an exploration of myths in melanoma screening, off label treatment options and melanoma margins, among others.

20160730-3652It is very impressive to see how far the content, complexity and scope of this conference has grown in its 8 years.

Of course the formal sessions of any conference are complemented by the informal networking and discussions that occur during the breaks, and this was facilitated by a range of interesting trade stands and shows, as well as several social events. These including a wine tasting evening, speakers dinner and of course the highlight being the Gala Dinner, with special musical appearances by several skin cancer doctors.

In 2017, we will be running a similar Masterclass and Summit, at the end of July in Brisbane, and intend to raise the bar even further in terms of excellence and enjoyment. Professor Harald Kittler from Vienna is our confirmed headline international speaker for 2017.

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