By Dinesh Pendharkar, MD, PhD
This June, it was my pleasure to assume the role of chair of the International Affairs Committee (IAC) of ASCO, a truly international organization representing nations of every economic level. Global oncology is at the center of the focus of the IAC, and is a concern of many ASCO committees, where members from all across the world are involved.
As you may be aware, the International Affairs Committee of ASCO is specially designed to focus on international cooperation and outreach. The focused areas include professional development, quality of care, research, and bilateral cooperation with national oncology societies. The programs range from funding of global oncology research, contributions to international scientific meetings, participation by ASCO suggested experts in various training initiatives (including training in cancer management and in cancer prevention), clinical trial workshops, and so on. In addition, ASCO’s level of engagement with other international bodies working with cancer, such as ESMO, WHO, and UICC, continues to deepen.
This year has already proven to be a busy one for the IAC and other committees involved in ASCO’s international mission. In the field of professional development, ASCO is supporting the development of global oncology as a formal academic discipline. For many years ASCO and ESMO have partnered to prepare the Global Curriculum in Medical Oncology; this year we are starting work together to advance the recent Cancer Resolution of the World Health Organization. Quality of care is important area of concern the world over. To standardize and improve quality of care, ASCO is extending the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®) to other countries and will help raise levels of documentable quality care. At the city level, ASCO is working with UICC on a unique program called City Cancer Challenge, where ASCO expects to extend a large support to this initiative which will improve quality of care, starting in Cali, Colombia, Asuncion, Paraguay and Yangon, Myanmar.
The special focus has been on fostering clinical research in oncology through capacity and skill development by clinical trial workshops designed and carried out internationally by ASCO. The research is further being supported through generous grants from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO for research funding for projects from developing countries. The Journal of Global Oncology has quickly established itself as an important journal for disseminating research findings of this kind.
Access to care remains a great challenge the world over. Access includes multiple parameters like access to hospitals, access to drugs, availability of trained personnel, availability of pathology services, and many more factors. We are working on each of these areas, trying to understand and design strategies to resolve them.
ASCO is committed to global oncology. We urge members of the Society to share their ideas which can change the oncology scene in the world. Making the inaccessible accessible is the core of our philosophy.
Dr. Pendharkar is 2017-2018 chair of the ASCO International Affairs Committee, head of medical and hemato-oncology at the Asian Cancer Institute in Mumbai, and vice-president of the Indian Society of Oncology.