The idea of the Forum was borne from the experience of George and Jennifer Forbeck, as they navigated the pediatric oncology world on behalf of their son, Billy Guy during his journey with neuroblastoma. The Forbeck family saw first-hand that when clinicians talk to each other, and share ideas in real time, medical progress happens. Thus, the Annual Forum was conceived as a small and intimate venue for open discussion, sharing and collaboration – a ‘think tank’ for cancer research. The Forum is limited to a 15-20 attendees who represent the cream of oncology expertise from around the world. The Forum theme, chairs and attendees are identified each year by the WGFRF Scientific Advisory Board. Each participant may show only 5 slides and must discuss only unpublished data. As a result of these guidelines, the majority of the Forum is comprised of informal, open discussions. This creates a level playing field for all participants, and has over the years resulted in openness, collaborations and innovations. Clearly this format requires a level of trust among participants; but the reports of discussions from past Forums are evidence that this format has succeeded.
When it was introduced in 1985, the format of the WGFRF Forum was truly revolutionary, since the majority of professional meetings for scientists and clinicians are built around formal societies, and are attended by large numbers of colleagues – in many cases, thousands or even tens of thousands, offering little leeway for brainstorming, something that is a critical part of developing new thinking in science and of challenging the status quo in medical research. The model implemented for the Forum is now duplicated by many other foundations. The venue in which the Forum is held is a defining asset in the success of these meetings: Moss Creek in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Far from the traditional windowless conference room of many scientific meetings, this venue takes participants away from the ‘daily grind’ and allows the group to enjoy a relaxed environment. Discussions continue, during outdoor breaks, and after hours. One metric that speaks to the success of the Forum are the overwhelmingly positive quotes collected over the years from Forum participants, and these are included in the past meeting summaries which can be accessed below.
The annual Forbeck Forum is a cornerstone of the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation, and is anticipated to continue pushing the frontiers of cancer research for many years to come.