The Five ‘W’s’ (and ‘H’) of SABCS 2023 

Each December, an impressive cohort of breast cancer researchers gathers for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), one of the largest breast cancer meetings in the world. Nestled between the holiday lights bedecking the River Walk and the historical presence of the Alamo, scientists discuss the newest and most cutting-edge data that may impact the way breast cancer is managed in the clinic. 

SABCS 2023—a collaboration between UT Health San Antonio and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)—is the 46th of its kind and is expected to host over 10,000 attendees and 250 members of the media from around the world, both in person and virtually. What can they expect from this year’s meeting?

Here, we highlight the who, what, when, where, why, and how of SABCS 2023. 


The A-list of SABCS scholars begins with the conference co-directors, Carlos L. Arteaga, MD, FAACR, Past President of the AACR and director of the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, associate dean of Oncology Programs, and the Lisa K. Simmons Distinguished Chair in Comprehensive Oncology at the UT Southwestern Medical Center; and Virginia Kaklamani, MD, a professor of medicine in the department of hematology/oncology at UT Health San Antonio and the leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

A photo of Virginia Kaklamani, MD, and Carlos Arteaga, MD, FAACR, at SABCS 2022.
Virginia Kaklamani, MD, and Carlos Arteaga, MD, FAACR, at SABCS 2022. Photo by © MedMeetingImages/Todd Buchanan 2022.

The two have co-directed the meeting together since 2015 (Arteaga has served as a co-director since 2011) and have witnessed a rich legacy of advances in breast cancer research and care. 

“We continue to make major advances in the field,” Arteaga said. “Every year, this symposium represents an opportunity to reassert and re-energize our commitment to this cause.” 

Behind the scenes, the bulk of that re-energizing is done by the Program Planning Committee, which selects abstracts for presentation and ensures a robust experience for basic scientists, physicians, and patient advocates alike. 

That interplay between interconnected fields is a crucial element of the conference, Program Planning Committee member Charles M. Perou, PhD, FAACR, the May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology, co-leader of the UNC Lineberger Breast Cancer Research Program, co-director of the Computational Medicine Program, and faculty director of the UNC Lineberger Bioinformatics Group at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, told SABCS Meeting News.  

“I want to encourage basic researchers to … present their basic research data, because it often impacts clinical research in ways the basic researchers don’t realize. And the Symposium certainly will inform basic researchers about some of the unmet needs in the clinic,” Perou said. 

Patient advocate and Program Planning Committee member Julia Maués echoed that sentiment, stressing that the inclusion of the patient perspective “ensures that research efforts, treatment strategies, quality of life, and outcomes align with the needs and concerns of those affected by breast cancer.” 

SABCS also highlights the winners of several prestigious awards, as well as two plenary lectures delivered by prominent researchers. They include: 

  • Jack Cuzick, PhD, the John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and head of the Cancer Prevention Unit within the Center for Prevention, Detection, and Diagnosis at Queen Mary University of London, winner of the William L. McGuire Memorial Lecture Award
  • Kornelia Polyak, MD, PhD, FAACR, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, winner of the AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research
  • Alana L. Welm, PhD, senior director of basic science at Huntsman Cancer Institute, a professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences, and the Ralph E. and Willia T. Main Presidential Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at the University of Utah, winner of the AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research
  • Charles Swanton, MD, PhD, FAACR, deputy clinical director of the Francis Crick Institute, who will deliver a plenary lecture titled, “Breast cancer evolution, immune evasion, and metastasis driven by chromosomal instability.” 
  • Melinda L. Telli, MD, an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine, director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Stanford Cancer Institute, and associate director of the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center, who will deliver a plenary lecture titled, “Recent advances in triple negative breast cancer.” 


As always, the spotlight of SABCS will be the three General Sessions packed with clinical trial updates and the most impactful basic and translational research. Coverage of select presentations will be highlighted in the AACR Newsroom. Notable presentations include: 

Attendees at a general session of SABCS in 2022. Photo by © MedMeetingImages/Todd Buchanan 2022
  • “Phase 3 study of neoadjuvant pembrolizumab or placebo plus chemotherapy, followed by adjuvant pembrolizumab or placebo plus endocrine therapy for early-stage high-risk ER+/HER2− breast cancer: KEYNOTE-756,” which will be presented by Joyce O’Shaughnessy, MD (General Session 1) 
  • “HER2CLIMB-02: Randomized, double-blind phase 3 trial of tucatinib and trastuzumab emtansine for previously treated her2-positive metastatic breast cancer,” which will be presented by Sara Hurvitz, MD (General Session 1) 
  • “Effects of a structured and individualized exercise program on fatigue and health-related quality of life in patients with metastatic breast cancer: the multinational randomized controlled PREFERABLE-EFFECT study,” which will be presented by Anne May, PhD (General Session 2) 
  • “Fertility preservation and assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in breast cancer (BC) patients (pts) interrupting endocrine therapy (ET) to attempt pregnancy,” which will be presented by Hatem Azim Jr., MD, PhD (General Session 2) 
  • “Mammographic surveillance in early breast cancer patients aged 50 years or over: results of the Mammo-50 non-inferiority trial of annual versus less frequent mammography,” which will be presented by Janet Dunn, PhD (General Session 3) 
  • “Phase III study of adjuvant ado-trastuzumab emtansine vs trastuzumab for residual invasive HER2-positive early breast cancer after neoadjuvant chemotherapy and HER2-targeted therapy: KATHERINE final IDFS and updated OS analysis,” which will be presented by Sibylle Loibl, MD, PhD (General Session 3). 

The breadth of research will be further captured through six poster sessions and six poster spotlight sessions featuring presentations selected from over 1,700 submitted abstracts. Posters will be offered across 12 abstract categories, from “real-world data and real-world evidence” to “cancer health disparities” to “drug discovery, design, and delivery.” 

Two people at a poster session at SABCS 2022.
SABCS 2022 attendees interact at a poster session. Photo by © MedMeetingImages/Todd Buchanan 2022

New this year are three State-of-the-Art Sessions, in which panels of experts will discuss late-breaking topics and new technologies. The SABCS organizers have also added a half-day Career Development Forum, including special tracks for women researchers and early-career researchers. The forum will include topics such as networking, grant writing, and planning clinical trials. 

Returning to SABCS this year are two Controversies Sessions—one covering clinical research and the other covering translational research—that will help attendees make sense of the complex issues surrounding hotly debated topics among clinicians. Komal Jhaveri, MD, moderator of the translational research Controversies Session, told SABCS News that these sessions are not formatted as debates but rather as brief, open discussions between two experts. 

When, Where, and How?

SABCS 2023 will take place December 5-9 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio. Tuesday, December 5, will feature workshops, educational sessions, and special sessions where researchers can learn more about important topics shaping breast cancer research. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, December 6-8, will be packed with research in the form of General Sessions, talks by awardees and plenary speakers, panel discussions, poster presentations, and more. 

The exhibit hall will also be open from noon to 7:00 p.m. December 6-7 and from noon to 4:00 p.m. on December 8. Saturday, December 9, will feature the career development forum. 

All conference materials will also be available in a virtual format, including live-streamed sessions, virtual poster presentations, and on-demand access to the virtual meeting platform through March 31, 2024. Find out more about virtual and in-person registration here


“SABCS … serves as an unparalleled platform for both the dissemination of cutting-edge research as well as staying updated on advancements in the field of breast cancer,” Swanton told SABCS Meeting News. “The event facilitates the exchange of insights and breakthroughs in a collaborative environment that drives progress toward the diagnosis, treatment, and management of breast cancer.” 

“It’s great to have open discussions about topics that are not cut and dried. There are many companion diagnostics or new drugs with possible new indications where it’s not a slam dunk on exactly how to use them, when to use them, or why to use them,” Perou added. “I think it helps the medical professionals in the audience to hear these open discussions from experts in the field, some of whom are developing these as we speak.” 

Cuzick echoed these points. “I … look forward to the opportunity to hear about all of the latest advances in breast cancer research at SABCS. It provides a crucial forum for breast cancer researchers and clinicians from around the world to engage in discussions, interact, and plan new projects on an international scale.” 

Follow AACR’s coverage of SABCS on our blog. For additional SABCS highlights, stay tuned to SABCS Meeting News, the official newsletter of SABCS 2023.