The theme of the upcoming ASCO Annual Meeting is “Collective Wisdom: the Future of Patient-Centered Care and Research.” As I reflect on this theme, I can see many issues and opportunities that require the collective wisdom of the oncology community, but perhaps none are more challenging than those faced by many of our colleagues around the world. Although we have made remarkable progress in the treatment of many malignancies over the past decade, the global burden of increasing numbers of cancer cases will be magnified by the aging of the population. Over the past several years, ASCO has continued to expand its international educational offerings, including 23 courses and symposiums and 25 Best of ASCO International meetings in 2015. These different types of international meetings include courses on palliative care, clinical trials workshops, and multidisciplinary care.
International members constitute approximately 30% of ASCO membership. In order to serve our international membership in a more informed way, the ASCO Board of Directors created a Global Oncology Leadership Task Force in 2014 to enhance the international strategy for the ASCO membership. Several initiatives have been identified to enhance the educational activities for international members and meeting attendees, and all perfectly capture the “Collective Wisdom” theme.
One of the earliest activities planned by the Global Oncology Task Force was the Global Oncology Symposium at the ASCO Annual Meeting. The first Symposium was held at the 2015 Annual Meeting and addressed broad topics in global oncology. This first Global Oncology Symposium was very successful, and a second Global Oncology Symposium is planned for the 2016 Annual Meeting , with a focus on human papilloma virus (HPV)-associated malignancies, including prevention, vaccination, diagnosis, and treatment worldwide.
A second recommendation from the Global Oncology Task Force was to have ASCO act as a catalyst to bring together ASCO members, representatives from academic centers, the National Cancer Institute, and pharmaceutical companies to discuss possible collaborations on international oncology issues. This meeting took place at ASCO headquarters in early-2016 with participants from all international sectors. Several areas of possible collaboration were identified for future multidisciplinary international initiatives.
Other ASCO international efforts include the development of guidelines on essential chemotherapy in resource-stratified settings. These include guidelines for low- and middle- income countries, and focus on several types of common malignancies. The ASCO Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI) is also now available internationally.
ASCO professional development offerings including the International Development and Education Award (IDEA). More recently, the Leadership Development Program (LDP) has also been made available to international ASCO members. In addition, there has been an ongoing collaboration between ASCO and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) in several countries, focusing on the importance of pathology and obtaining the correct diagnosis in administering the optimal therapy.
The global cancer burden will continue to increase over the next decade. As such, ASCO will need to continue to work collaboratively with its members and the entire oncology community on prevention, treatment, and supportive measures for all of the world’s oncology patients. Making a difference will require our “collective wisdom” and our collective action.