International Oncology: Every Patient, Everywhere

International Oncology: Every Patient, Everywhere

Monica M. Bertagnolli, FACS, FASCO, MD

Jul 11, 2018

My presidential theme is “Caring for Every Patient, Learning From Every Patient,” meaning that every patient with cancer deserves equal access to the highest quality care and the opportunity to participate in research. And, as oncology professionals, we know all too well the breadth of cancer’s effects: globally, more people die of cancer than of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS combined.1 Sadly, where a patient lives can dictate their chances of surviving the disease: approximately 70% of cancer deaths occur in low- or middle-income countries (LMICs).2

The membership of our Society is reflective of cancer’s global reach, with our more than 44,000 members working in more than 150 countries. One of my goals as ASCO president is ensuring that cancer doctors and care providers in every single community, regardless of geographic location, have the resources they need to provide top-notch care. This involves better ways of sharing best practices and applying them worldwide, while also adapting care to the unique constraints of each community. We have so much to learn from each other. First and foremost, we seek the deep understanding of the interplay between culture, society, and science that is required to make progress for every patient in every community.

Over the years, ASCO has worked to fuel global discoveries, create an international network of learning, and disseminate research exploring topics unique to settings with limited health care resources. ASCO’s international programs, collectively known as ASCO International, leverage ASCO’s network of members and partnerships to improve global cancer practice. The portfolio of programs includes mentoring opportunities (such as the International Development and Education Award, Long-term International Fellowship, and ASCO Virtual Mentors Program), international meetings and courses held around the world, research grants specific to LMICs (such as the International Innovation Grant), and the Journal of Global Oncology, a journal designed to share global oncology research. These initiatives are just a few among a host of other ASCO programs designed to support and work with oncologists in LMICs. And these efforts are not one-sided benefits: by setting up a bi-directional information exchange, our international members in LMICs offer important learning lessons that can help in resource-scarce areas in high-income countries (HICs), including the United States.

Additionally, ASCO has established the Global Oncology Young Investigator Award (Global Oncology YIA) that supports research projects recognizing and accounting for limited resource settings in oncology. The award is designed for researchers in LMICs interested in “reverse innovation” insights, researchers in HICs investigating cancer in LMICs, and collaborative research on a shared concern in both HICs and LMICs. Global Oncology YIA applications are now open and due September 25.

While the global effects of cancer continue to be felt by patients, ASCO’s work in providing resources to oncology members abroad will continue to expand. Our vision is to actualize a world where cancer is prevented or cured and every survivor is healthy, which requires all oncology professionals, regardless of geographic location, to work together to help our patients and learn from their unique situations.

I look forward to working with ASCO International and ASCO’s international members during my presidential term.


  1. American Cancer Society. Global Cancer Facts & Figures. 3rd ed. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2015.
  2. World Health Organization. Cancer Fact Sheet. Accessed June 29, 2018. 


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Dorothy Chilambe Lombe, MD

Jul, 24 2018 8:42 PM

Thank you Madam President. We appreciate this inclusion and are already seeing the fruits. LMICs are going through the motions high income countries have gone through already in technological advantages. In a sense it is a priviledged position. We don't need to re-invent the wheel but we need to work closely with colleagues in resource rich environments to make the most of what we have and reverse innovate for the good of our patients.

Dorothy C. Lombe, MD

Clinical Oncologist, IDEA 2016 alumni, LIFE 2018 recipient


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