ASCO International Year in Review for 2016

Jan 06, 2017

By Doug Pyle, Vice President, ASCO International Affairs
Megan Kremzier, Evaluations Coordinator, ASCO International Affairs​
Sarah Bachmann, Program Coordinator, ASCO International Affairs

On World Cancer Day 2013, ASCO launched ASCO International and a four-year plan to double ASCO’s international programs. Four years later, thanks to the hard work of many, we have accomplished all we said we would (and more), and plans for further expansion are in the works. As we prepare for World Cancer Day 2017 on February 4, I would like to take some time to review what we accomplished in 2016.

Before I do, I would like to thank the many ASCO member volunteers, ASCO staff, and many organizations around the world, without whom none of these accomplishments would be possible.

Our Mission

ASCO International is designed to harness ASCO’s core strengths in education and oncology practice to deliver programs with impact in the following areas:

  1. Improving quality of care—working with organizations and hospitals to extend oncology skills and knowledge
  2. Accelerating innovation and research—deepening the skills of investigators, particularly in low- to middle-income countries
  3. Supporting professional development—mentoring future leaders in oncology and providing career development for early-career oncologists in low- to middle-income countries

This past year saw real accomplishment in each of these areas.

I. Improving Quality of Care

In 2016, we held six Cancer Control in Primary Care (CCPC) courses, a significant new initiative envisioned in the ASCO International Expansion plan that works with governmental authorities, local organizations, and ASCO members to engage primary care providers in cancer control. The courses were held in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Oman, Kenya, Ghana, and Brazil. On average, 95% of respondents to the on-site evaluations for CCPC courses held in 2016 said they intended to make practice changes based on what they learned in the course. Responses to The one-year evaluation for the 2015 CCPC were also  promising: 94% of respondents to the one-year follow-up for the India course said they had made practice changes, and 77% said they were screening patients for cancer more than before the course; 100% of respondents to the one-year follow-up for the Georgia course said they had made practice changes, and 86% said they were screening patients for cancer more than before. Next year we are planning CCPC courses with partner organizations and government authorities in Nigeria and Bhutan.

In all, ASCO International organized 15 courses in 2016, training physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in Multidisciplinary Cancer Management Courses (MCMC), International Palliative Care Workshops (IPCW), International Clinical Trials Workshops (ICTW), and other courses that improve the quality of cancer care. In 2016, 92% of attendees at the MCMC courses in Kenya, India, Mauritius, and Argentina reported planned changes in practice; in the Palliative Care courses in Kazakhstan and China the average was 88%. In the ICTW Courses in India, Turkey, and Romania, the average was 72%.

Specialty training standards are another key component to quality cancer care, and in 2016 ASCO and ESMO officially announced the joint ASCO and ESMO publication of a new edition of the Global Curriculum in Medical Oncology. These guidelines offer a global perspective of the clinical training required for physicians to qualify as medical oncologists.

To support quality of care measurement, in 2016 ASCO  made significant progress in making ASCO’s popular Quality Oncology Practice Initiative more accessible to practices outside the United States. On June 1, the Contemporary Oncology Team of Athens, Greece became the first international QOPI®-Certified Practice, and by the end of the year, 27 practices were officially participating in Greece, Brazil, Spain, and Saudi Arabia. A number of other countries have expressed an interest in QOPI, and we hope to be able to expand further in 2017.

Guidelines are another important tool in the delivery of quality cancer care, and in 2016 ASCO published its first two resource-stratified guidelines on cervical cancer in the Journal of Global Oncology (JGO),on the management and care of women with invasive cervical cancer and secondary prevention of cervical cancer.

Lastly, in 2016 ASCO leveraged the educational platform of the Annual Meeting to hold its second Global Oncology Symposium as part of the Annual Meeting program. The Symposium focused on human papilloma virus (HPV)-associated malignancies, including prevention, vaccination, diagnosis, and treatment worldwide. In 2017, this symposium will be expanded to an entire global health education track at the 2017 Annual Meeting. Overall, in combination with the Journal of Global Oncology (JGO), these sessions will become an important forum for sharing insights from ASCO, its members, and partners on how to address the growing cancer burden in these settings.

II. Accelerating Innovation and Research

The Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO (CCF) has been instrumental in providing research grants to recipients in low- and middle-resource countries. Three-time grant recipient Enrique Soto Pérez De Celis, MD, eloquently describes the impact of these grants on his research and career in the ASCO Connection article, “Grants From Conquer Cancer Foundation Transcend Borders, Provide Key Funds For Research Projects in Mexico”. 

In 2016, CCF awarded four International Innovation Grants to the following investigators:

  • Ramandeep Arora, MBBS, MD, CanKids . . . . KidsCans—the National Society For Change For Childhood Cancer In India

A Multi-site prospective study to determine household, out-of-pocket expenditure incurred by families of children newly diagnosed with cancer in India

  • Dennis Buwembo, MBBS, Programme for Accessible Health, Communication and Education (PACE), Uganda

Smart phone tool to improve detection of precancerous lesions in Uganda, using VIA (visual inspection with acetic acid)

  • Sarita Ghimire, MD, Nepal Fertility Care Center, Nepal

Using mHealth technologies to ensure continuum of care in cervical cancer screening in Kailali district of Nepal

  • Teresa Sy Ortin, MD, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, Philippines

Use of mobile application to monitor pain control of cancer patients

In 2016, ASCO’s support for research in these settings was further enhanced with the Journal of Global Oncology (JGO), an online, open-source journal focused on cancer care, research and care delivery issues unique to countries and settings with limited healthcare resources. One of JGO’s articles describes one of ASCO International’s Multidisciplinary Cancer Management Courses, focusing on cancer care in Zimbabwe.

ASCO also launched its first clinical trial in 2016, the Targeted Agent and Profiling Utilization Registry (TAPUR) study. ASCO’s Chief Medical Officer, Richard Schilsky, MD, FACP, FASCO is excited about the possibility of global data sharing and international interest in this study. ASCO looks forward to collaborating with investigators domestically and around the world.

III. Professional Development

Supporting the professional development of future oncology leaders, particularly in parts of the world where such opportunities are limited, is a key component of ASCO International programs.

In 2016 we launched a new ASCO program called Virtual Mentors, which pairs early-career ASCO members with a mentor outside of their country or region. Mentors and mentees communicate via virtual technology, such as email, phone, and video-conferencing. If you would like to be involved as a mentor, please register in our International Volunteer Database. Applications for the Virtual Mentors program will reopen in Fall 2017.

In 2016, ASCO and CCF continued to offer one of ASCO’s oldest international programs—the International Development and Education Award (IDEA)—pairing young oncologists in low- and middle-income countries with senior ASCO member mentors. The IDEA program remains a cornerstone of our portfolio, not only in terms of achieving its own goals (94% of 2015 recipients reported implementing their action plans one year after getting the award, for example) but also in terms of supporting each of our other programs; past recipients of the IDEA award are now organizing ASCO courses, advising us on other international programs, and serving on committees and working groups. Read about the experience of one IDEA recipient in the ASCO Connection article, “From Azerbaijan to America.”

International participation in ASCO’s prestigious Leadership Development Program (LDP) remains strong. In 2016 Gilberto Lopes, MD, MBA, of Brazil, was accepted to the program.

New Directions

In June, Dr. Clifford Hudis, FACP, FASCO, officially became ASCO’s new CEO.  In a letter to ASCO’s international membership, Dr. Hudis posed provocative and important questions about whether one needs to be an oncologist to treat cancer, and how to define quality in resource constrained environments.  These are challenging questions that strike at the heart of what we do, and in our education and quality programs we hope to contribute to the answer.

Lastly and perhaps most significantly, in 2016 ASCO’s Global Oncology Leadership Task Force, charged by the Board of Directors to make recommendations for ASCO’s future international development, made its recommendations to the Board. The Task Force recommendations detail specific areas of further growth in the pillars outlined above: professional development, quality improvement, and research. These include promoting global oncology as a formal discipline, expanding international availability of quality improvement programs and supporting cancer control in urban areas, and expanding support for global oncology research.  The ASCO Board approved the recommendations, and this work will kick off in the new year. 

We hope this review has been informative, and that you will agree that ASCO International remains a dynamic and important part of the ASCO portfolio. Thank you for your support and interest in ASCO International and ASCO’s international mission.

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