Last week, at the ASCO Annual Meeting, I introduced the theme for my term as ASCO President: “ASCO: Making a Difference in Cancer Care With You.” Together, we’ll be making a difference for our patients and in our profession with the help of some game-changing initiatives from ASCO. I believe these will not only positively affect cancer patients in the U.S, but around the world. I would like to take this opportunity to describe just a few.
“You can’t treat it if you don’t know what it is!”
ASCO’s association with the College of American Pathologists (CAP) regarding tumor biomarker tests in breast, colon, and other cancers has been enormously successful. Working with the ASCO International Affairs Department, we are extending that collaboration to address analytical issues related to precision medicine and genomically driven therapies. ASCO and CAP have also partnered to reach out to the global health community to provide teaching, educational resources, and accreditation in oncology pathology to low-income countries. I’d love to see us bring other diagnostic societies into the tent, so we’re all speaking the same language and applying evidence-based medicine to our patients in the best manner possible.
“Volunteering to contribute to ASCO should not be a competitive sport!”
I’ve said before that ASCO is a big tent. How can we make the tent bigger? I have just finished appointing volunteers to ASCO committees. More than 2,000 of you applied online or directly to me, but I only had 250 slots to fill. This is an unacceptable circumstance, and I apologize if you were not chosen. Our new ASCO CEO, Cliff Hudis, and I have already begun to brainstorm ways that we can harness this incredible energy to contribute to the Society – taking advantage of our membership’s willingness to participate in ASCO activities in the United States and around the world. Please remain enthusiastic in your desire to help ASCO—there is more to come on this issue.
“Therapies don’t do any good in the bottle—only in the patient.”
We will continue and improve upon our efforts to support our members in community practice. We are already expanding ASCO’s engagement with its State Affiliate Societies in addressing issues critical to our members in practice. Guidelines, pathways, payment reform, MACRA, oral parity, part B, drug costs, Value Framework—all terms that none of us learned in medical school, but if we don’t get them right, we’ll forfeit access to care for those who depend on us to make them better. Frankly, these issues affect not just community practice but all of us who see and care for patients with cancer. If regulatory or reimbursement hurdles prevent our patients from receiving life-saving cancer therapy, they won’t get better.
“It doesn’t matter where you live—if you have cancer, you have a right to adequate treatment.”
ASCO has become a major player in global health in all levels. Oncologists, and their patients, in high-, middle-, and low-income countries all look to ASCO for resource-appropriate guidelines, for a venue to learn about or present the most recent research results, and so many other things that we can provide. Although we’re branded as the American Society of Clinical Oncology, we are truly an international organization.
Dr. Hudis and I are excited about two ongoing initiatives in particular that we believe will take oncology care and research to the next level: CancerLinQTM and the ASCO Value Framework.
If you don’t know about CancerLinQ, you will! Your Society has invested several million dollars to build a rapid learning system database that will collect data from patients treated in practices that have adopted electronic health records. CancerLinQ will provide access to real-time quality assessment tools at the point of care, and ASCO’s ambitious goal is to make CancerLinQ the world’s most granular observational research platform in oncology. Partnering with multinational software company SAP, we already have 61 vanguard practices representing more than 1000 doctors on board, with nearly three-quarters of a million patient records in the system.
Are you concerned about the cost of drugs and the financial toxicity of treating your patients? ASCO has developed a Value Framework to permit the caregiver and patient to objectively and rationally assess the net health benefit of a new therapeutic in the context of the out-of-pocket cost to the patient, allowing him or her to decide if, indeed, the value of the therapy is sufficient to justify the cost. Value Framework 2.0, with revisions based on your input during our open comment period, was published the end of May, 2016, and we expect even more updates and further spin-offs to help us better help our patients.
While these two “game-changers” are initially directed to practices in the United States, we are already working with ESMO to reconcile our two Value Framework initiatives so that they are relevant and useful to oncologists, cancer patients and health systems in different countries, and we believe that CancerLinQ will be applicable anywhere an electronic health record is available. On a related note, ASCO also continues to work with the Union for International Cancer Control to advise on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List as it relates to access to critical cancer therapies.
And this just scrapes the tip of the ASCO iceberg. There is so much more that ASCO is doing to help you “Make a Difference in Cancer Care.” As always, I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you about how we can work together to make the best possible difference for our patients.
Post updated on July 1, 2016