ASCO Multidisciplinary Cancer Management Course in Azerbaijan: A Well-Attended Success

Jan 04, 2019

By Jamil Aliyev, MD, PhD, Julie R. Gralow, MD, FASCO, and Stefan Terwindt, MBA

The National Center of Oncology (NCO) in Azerbaijan partnered with ASCO, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), and Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) to conduct a highly successful Multidisciplinary Cancer Management Course (MCMC) in September 2018 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The conference focused on two primary cancer types, breast and head and neck cancer, as well as a session on palliative care. Additional activities included an ONS-led oncology nursing training course, along with a tour of the state-of-the-art research and clinical facilities and a meeting with the NCO director general Dr. Jamil Aliyev.

The National Center of Oncology is the leading scientific research institute in Azerbaijan, responsible for the treatment of more than 90% of patients with cancer in the country. The center has 1,050 beds for the care of patients with cancer. The modern facilities allow provision of the highest level of international standards for treatment of cancer. The center has state-of-the-art radiology, surgery, infusion, and radiation oncology facilities, and houses a hospital-based cancer registry. In 2015, NCO was elected as a full member of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

This was the first ASCO International MCMC held in Azerbaijan. ASCO International improves access to quality cancer care through a three-part global oncology strategy: cultivating and collaborating with oncology leaders around the world; working with those leaders to adapt and deliver quality improvement, education, and clinical training programs in their countries; and supporting and disseminating global oncology research that discovers new models to improve access to quality care in resource-limited settings.

The course objective was to improve cancer care with a multidisciplinary approach at the NCO and within the region. The 2-day course, held September 15-16, 2018, included didactic lectures, case presentations, and interactive sessions on head and neck and breast cancer. Reviews of recent practice-changing research and dialogue on current treatment approaches across all disciplines helped attendees improve their knowledge on multidisciplinary cancer management. More than 200 health care providers specializing in oncology attended, including radiation and medical oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, nurses, medical students, and other health care workers from Azerbaijan. Approximately 20 doctors from neighboring countries, including Iraq and Georgia, also attended the course.

The Azerbaijan MCMC course leaders included Dr. Aziz Aliyev, surgical oncologist and first deputy director of the NCO, and Dr. Narmin Talibova, medical oncologist and ASCO 2016 International Development and Education Award (IDEA) recipient. ASCO staff, including Ms. Vanessa Sarchet and Ms. Vanessa Eaton, worked closely with the course planning committee to conduct this course. ASCO faculty members included Dr. Julie R. Gralow (breast medical oncology) of the University of Washington/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Dr. David Raben (radiation oncology) of the University of Colorado, Dr. Herbert Loong (medical oncology) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Dr. Carlos Garcia-Etienne (breast surgery) of Policlinico San Matteo, Italy. ASCP was represented by Dr. Tan Ince (pathology) of the University of Miami. ONS faculty included Mr. Stefan Terwindt (specialist in International Affairs, ONS), Ms. Colleen O’Leary of Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital, and Ms. Jeanie Rosiak of Aurora Health Care. In addition to Drs. Aliyev and Talibova, local faculty included Dr. Elkhan Kazimov, Dr. Samira Mahmudova, Dr. Ulviyya Nabizade, Dr. Gunel Haji, and Dr. Javid Garibov.

Dr. Gralow, an ASCO faculty member, commented, “This course was an unequivocal success. Case discussions regarding how to optimize cancer management and enhance communication and shared decision-making between disciplines, specialties, and patients were highly interactive. The question-and-answer sessions were lively, and focused on evidence and best practice. We all, including the faculty, came away with knowledge and new ideas that will change our practices and improve outcomes for our patients.”

Ms. Rosiak, an ONS faculty member, commented, “We were happy to see so many disciplines represented, and have nursing recognized and involved in this event. There are more similarities than differences in our respective practices. Even though in many instances we do not speak the same language, similarities in the way we care for our patients were readily communicated. We are hopeful that nursing is included in future interdisciplinary presentations in Azerbaijan, and that ONS will have ongoing opportunities to collaborate on exchanging information and experiences with the nurses there.”

Preceding the ASCO MCMC, on September 14, 2018, a course on “The Role of the Nurse in Symptom Management of Patients With Cancer” was held at NCO with the support of ONS. It was the first international event conducted for nurses in Azerbaijan. ONS faculty included Mr. Terwindt, Ms. O’Leary, and Ms. Rosiak. Approximately 70 nurses attended the course and improved their knowledge on symptom management in oncology. The course was interactive, with group activities, and ONS faculty received positive feedback from all participants about the very professional organization.

“We were very impressed with the enthusiasm and engagement of the nurses. They were so knowledgeable about oncology and management of symptoms of the diseases and treatments, and eager to share their expertise during the case study exercises of the presentation,” Ms. Rosiak said. 

In conclusion, the ASCO MCMC was very useful for cancer care specialists in Azerbaijan. Faculty and attendees felt that this course was beneficial in improving cancer care through the promotion of a multidisciplinary approach. Oncology specialists worldwide have the common goal of helping patients achieve the best chance of survival and the best possible quality of life. Collaboration and communication across disciplines can help us achieve this goal. The NCO in Azerbaijan has already discussed with ASCO holding this type of course again in 2 years, and on a recurring basis.

Dr. Aliyev is the director general of Azerbaijan National Oncology Center and a professor of breast cancer surgery, as well as chair of Azerbaijan Scientific Medical Society of Oncologists.

Dr. Gralow is the director of Breast Medical Oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and a Clinical Research Division member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She is the Jill Bennett Endowed Professor of Breast Cancer and an adjunct professor of Global Health at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is the chair of ASCO’s Academic Global Oncology Leadership Task Force, co-chair of the Resource Stratified Guideline Advisory Group, and a member of the Special Awards Selection Committee and Osteonecrosis of the Jaw Consensus Panel.

Mr. Terwindt is a senior advisor for International Affairs at the Oncology Nursing Society.

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