By Linus T. Chuang, MD
Chair, ASCO International Affairs Committee
Worldwide, an estimated 70% of all deaths attributable to cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Cancer-related mortality is higher in LMICs than in high-income countries (HICs), especially in the age group younger than 65. Premature death and the lost years of productivity have a significant economic and societal impact in these countries.
The challenge in cancer treatment in resource-constrained settings is enormous. A simple transposition of treatment protocols and technology from HICs is not practical, sustainable, or realistic. Cancer research will need to be developed in LMICs to understand the biology of cancers, as their clinical course may be different from that in HICs. Additional research is required to determine if the findings from HICs are relevant and reproducible in populations in LMICs, how they differ, and how to assess the optimal delivery of quality care for patients in these low-resource regions.
ASCO conducts a variety of international programs, focused on mentorship, quality of care and capacity building, and cancer research. Programs such as the IDEA (International Development and Education Award) support mentoring and education of oncologists in LMICs. ASCO’s international courses and resource-stratified guidelines provide training and tools for quality of care. ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI) is also expanding internationally. ASCO also supports research in LMICs through the Journal of Global Oncology, through mentoring, international fellowship opportunities, and through the International Innovation Grant funding mechanisms. The Global Oncology Young Investigator Award provides funding to promising international investigators to encourage and promote quality research in oncology.
All of these initiatives rely on the dedicated support of ASCO’s member volunteers and collaborating societies and organizations around the world. The challenges are enormous, but together we can “Make a World of Difference in Cancer Care.”
Today, as ASCO joins other leading cancer organizations from around the world to raise awareness about the value and impact of cancer research, we invite you to sign the World Declaration for Research on Cancer and share why cancer research is important to you on your social media channels.
Dr. Chuang is the current chair of the International Affairs Committee at ASCO and is a practicing gynecologic oncologist in Danbury, CT. Follow him on Twitter @linuscmd.