26th Annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference

September 25, 2023 by Jeff Wakefield

Patient advocate Kristin Flanary, aka "Lady Glaucomflecken," will deliver the keynote speech, titled "Wife and Death," at the conference. (Photo courtesy Kristin Flanary.)

UVM Cancer Center’s 26th Annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference Attracted Over 600 from 35 States, Four Countries

Changing Landscape of Cancer Was Conference Theme;  Social Media Star “Lady Glaucomflecken” Delivered Keynote Address

 

The UVM Cancer Center held its 26th annual Women’s Health and Cancer Conference on Sept. 29 at the Dudley H. Davis Center on the UVM campus.

As it does every year, the conference attracted a large and loyal audience. Over 600 peopled registered, in-person and online. Thirty states were represented, as were Nigeria, Guam, and Canada. Half of the attendees were health care providers and half patients, caregivers and community members.  

The conference theme, the Changing Landscape of Cancer, reflected the many new insights into the disease, in research, treatment and patient care, that have arisen in recent years. Cancer strikes close to 2 million Americans each year. 

“Our understanding of the patient experience, clinical treatments, and the realities of a cancer diagnosis is growing by leaps and bounds,” said UVM Cancer Center member and conference executive director, Kim Dittus, MD, PhD. “This year’s conference explored many of the new paths we are taking — in nutrition, sexual health, strategies for living with and beyond cancer, trauma-informed care, and new treatments,” she said. 

Highlights of the conference 

The conference offered nine presentations and panel discussions. 

Highlights of the conference included the following. (The full listing of presentations is listed at the conference website.) 

Nutrition and Immune Function 

This talk described the complexity of our immune system, provided an overview of what is currently known about the link between immunity and lifestyle factors, and identified controllable immune supporters and distractors. Presenter: Jennifer May, RD, CD
Clinical Nutritionist, UVM Health Medical Center 

Hereditary Cancer Syndromes: Present and Future Care

The importance of identifying inherited genetic variants (mutations) was the subject of this talk, along with why longitudinal clinical follow-up is important for patients with hereditary cancer syndromes. Presenter: Kara K. Landry, MD, Co-Director, Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program, UVM Cancer Center (UVMCC).

Sexuality is a Human Right, Even After Cancer 

Cancer and its treatments can negatively impact sexuality and sexual relationships. Unfortunately, it is a topic that almost two-thirds of those treated for cancer do not discuss, because, in general, clinicians do not bring it up. However, cancer should not silence your sexuality and in this talk, the presenters reviewed the scope of the problem and how it can be approached and treated. Presenter: Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Brown University

Emerging Therapies Panel: CAR-T, TILS, mRNA 

This talk discussed advances, and potential challenges to these emerging therapy approaches, as found in early clinical trials of these tools. CAR-T cell therapy is an innovative way of treating cancer that uses a patient’s own blood cells to target and destroy cancer cells. It is currently FDA approved for the treatment of a variety of blood cancers and has revolutionized the field of oncology. mRNA- based cancer vaccines, therapeutic deliverables, and mRNA-based reprogrammed anti-cancer immune cells have all emerged as potentially useful tools in a variety of clinical settings. Most cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer, have immune cells within them, called tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). By studying TIL, we can identify immune cells that can recognize a patient’s tumor. We are experimenting with treatment strategies that deliver these cells back to patients with metastatic cancer, with some success. Presenters: Hibba tul Rehman, MD, (moderator) Medical Oncologist, UVMCC; James Gerson, MD Medical Oncologist, UVMCC; Stephanie Goff, MD, FACS Senior Research physician, National Cancer Institute, Surgery Branch, NIH; Dev Majumdar, PhD Surgical Research and Biomedical Engineering, UVM. 

Keynote Speaker: “Lady Glaucomflecken”

Kristin Flanary, MA (aka “Lady Glaucomflecken”), has survived being married to social media sensation “Dr. Glaucomflecken” through medical training, two cancer occurrences, and a sudden cardiac arrest (including giving him 10 minutes of CPR). In her keynote address, titled “Wife and Death,” Flanary delivered an immersive and poignant example of the bystander, co-survivor, and caregiver experiences and explored how to make healthcare a little more human for patients and their families. 

Art show, therapy dogs, reiki and acupuncture

In addition to the presentations, the conference also featured a number of creative collaborations for the benefit of attendees.  

A traveling art exhibit created by Vermont-based artist Mark Hitchcox called The Sixty Four Project displayed a selection of photos of sixty-four female models taken in Canada and the United States. The models who participated reflect a diverse range of ages, ethnicities and body types and includes breast cancer survivors. Each model was given the opportunity to share something about themselves and their stories, along with their portraits, were incorporated into the exhibit. 

Canines from Therapy Dogs of Vermont also visited the conference. A range of integrative therapies, from reiki to acupuncture, were also available for attendees to try out. 

The conference also attracted over 25 non-profit exhibitors, including the American Cancer Society, Dragonheart Vermont, and Pride Center of Vermont. 

VIEW PHOTO ALBUM

Screenshot 2023-10-10 at 2.14.19 PM

The Patti O’Brien, MD Women’s Health and Cancer Fund is the presenting sponsor of the the UVM Cancer Center’s Women’s Health and Cancer Conference. The Eleanor B. Daniels Fund at the UVM Cancer Center the keynote luncheon sponsor. And Vox Media Group is the conference’s supporting sponsor. 


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