3,000 pathologists gather to hear just-published studies and learn about the newest assays
DATELINE: FLORENCE, ITALY—As many as 3,000 pathologists from nations across the globe have gathered in Florence this week for the 22nd Annual European Congress of Pathology. Your Dark Daily Editor is here to give a presentation and learn about the most important new trends in pathology and laboratory medicine.
This large conference offers a rich menu of topics and a multitude of speakers. As to be expected, almost all sessions are about clinical services and advances in diagnostic technologies that enhance the ability of pathologists to diagnose disease. However, the patient safety trend—although not purely a clinical issue—has been a common theme here this week. Few presentations are delivered that don’t include some comments about patient safety.
It is notable that patient safety has a high profile at this conference. Around the world, healthcare systems are actively working to reduce medical errors. Pathologists at the European Congress of Pathology, by addressing this topic in their presentations, are demonstrating how patient safety has become an important international trend.
One example of this attention to patient safety was an extended seminar organized by Dako A/S. It was titled “Process Improvements in Pathology for Patient Safety and Diagnostic Accuracy.” Moderator of the seminar was Dr. Paolo Dei Tos, M.D., Chairman, Department of Pathology at Treviso Regional Hospital in Treviso, Italy, There were three presentations, described in order below.
First up was Robert L. Michel Editor of The Dark Report and Dark Daily. In his presentation, Michel offered insights about the rapid transformation of workflow in histology and surgical pathology. He noted that histology and anatomic pathology are being squeezed by two distinct trends. On one side, aging demographics and new assays are driving steady increases in case volume and lab test utilization. On the other side, an insufficient supply of histotechnologists, pathologists, and other laboratory scientists requires most pathology laboratories to scramble to keep pace with the incoming volume of specimens. Together, both trends are encouraging pathology laboratories to embrace work flow redesign and increase their use of automated systems, particularly in specimen preparation and specimen processing.
Next to speak was Bent Ejlertsen, M.D., Ph.D., of the Department of Oncology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark. The title of his presentation was “Prediction of Responsiveness to Adjuvant Anthracyclines in High-Risk Breast Cancer Patients.”
He reported on the extensive studies about the TOP2A marker that he and his colleagues have conducted. Their goal was to learn how to use this biomarker for both prognostic and predictive evaluations to identify which breast cancer patients would benefit from therapy with adjuvant anthracyclines. The TOP2A marker is scored in a similar fashion as the HER2 marker. Ejlertsen stressed that improved patient safety would result as the pathology profession achieved more standardized processing and diagnosis when working with the TOP2A marker.
Third speaker at this special seminar on histopathology workflow and patient safety was Professor Giuseppe Viale, M.D., of the University of Milan School of Medicine and European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy. Viale emphasized the importance of achieving improved standardization for estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PgR) assays in breast cancer. Of particular note, Viale is a member of the international committee working to develop recommendations for standardizing the preparation and evaluation of tests utilizing ER and PgR immunohistochemical probes.
He opened his presentation by describing the importance of achieving improved standardization in ER and PgR testing. Viale stated that assessment of hormone receptor status is “the first and most important clue” in tailoring treatment of a breast cancer patient. Additionally, he noted that the importance of avoiding false positive results for this testing, because Tamoxifen is detrimental for patients with nonendocrine-responsive tumors.
Collectively, these three presentations about process improvement and patient safety were warmly received by the audience. In fact, Dako correctly gauged the interest of the pathology profession in these topics. Not only was every seat taken in the lecture hall, but it was “standing room only” as pathologists crowded the auditorium to listen and participate in the session.
With almost 150 different sessions and more than three times that number of speakers, the European Congress of Pathology provides a comprehensive educational program. Thus, the fact that many speakers did include some comments on patient safety and the need for improved standardization demonstrates that reducing medical errors is a common goal in health systems throughout the world.
Robert L. Michel
Editor, Dark Daily