Earlier this month, more than 35,000 oncologists, communications pros, journalists and others arrived at McCormick Place in Chicago for one of the buzziest medical conferences in existence: The American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting.

The meeting is considered one of the most important events for those working in the oncology space. It brings together the brightest minds in cancer to highlight key presentations and groundbreaking data that can lead to saving lives.

The oncology community is very active in terms of commitment to breakthrough science *and* social media. In this case, Twitter has overwhelmingly been the breakout social media platform in medicine. Over the course of the ASCO media cycle, which starts on May 18, when abstracts are released online, and ends when the conference concludes, the #ASCO16 hashtag was used m 88,590 times. While some conferences have been more stringent in terms of photography, video and social media use, ASCO has been one of the most forward-thinking medical meeting organizers when it comes to social media.

Last year the grand experiment was Periscope. But the hype around Periscope, and even its spiritual sibling, Facebook Now, had largely faded.

Instead, social media attention this year was focused on the breakout media-sharing app, Snapchat. The mobile app lets you send quickly disappearing messages, photos, and videos, either directly to friends or to everyone who follows your account. If you haven’t heard of it, check with your children, anyone under the age of 30, or First Lady Michelle Obama. Person-to-person content disappears after a few seconds and posts to a user’s public “Story” disappear after 24 hours.

Snapchat attracted a few high-profiles users at ASCO. Don Dizon, M.D., a Massachusetts General oncologist and early Twitter adopter, waded into Snapchat, but no one at the meeting invested more than Emil Lou, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota, who goes by “cancerassassin1” on Snapchat and Twitter. Lou shared a number of snaps at ASCO16, and told me that he was able to add thoughts and a “more personal touch” following sessions he attended.

“I had a lot of fun using Snapchat at ASCO. It’s interesting that the scientific and medical community are ahead in so many ways, but behind in others, like social media,” Lou told me during a phone call.

According to reports, Snapchat is estimated to have 85.5 million users in the US by 2020, and per Dr. Lou, maybe Snapchat might make its way into the ASCO app at #ASCO20.

The idea of using Snapchat had some institutional support, too. We used custom Snapchat geofilters at our annual “Unofficial” tweetup to help people customize dress up their snaps from the event, but the bigger news was ASCO’s embrace of the technology: they had their own geofilters, available to anyone at within McCormick place.

According to an ASCO spokeswoman, the filters were used about 520 times and viewed more than 15,700 times. At least one of those users was Business Insider’s Lydia Ramsey…and this PR chick:


While Snapchat numbers pale in comparison to those on Twitter, with time, Snapchat could be the next big social platform at medical meetings. And as Dr. Lou pointed out to me, the next generations of medical researchers/oncologists will likely live to see a cure for cancer, and just maybe Snap their way there…