JCO Global Oncology Special Series Highlights Innovations to Advance Cancer Care Equity

Nov 10, 2022

By Geraldine Carroll, ASCO Publishing

A new JCO Global Oncology (JCO GO) Special Series, “Driving Innovation to Advance Cancer Care Equity,” illustrates how innovation is making significant strides in securing better access to the technologies and approaches that will have a positive impact on cancer control and health equity across the globe.

“Innovation does not only mean technological innovation, but it also involves creative ways of thinking [in addressing cancer care], while promoting access to truly advance equity in cancer care,” said Tezer Kutluk, MD, PhD, FAAP, a pediatric oncologist and professor at Hacettepe University Faculty of Medicine and Cancer Institute in Turkey, and handling editor of the series.

There have been many landmark discoveries over the past decades in the global effort to make progress against cancer. Increasing access to technologic innovations and implementing policies and practices that mitigate the rising costs of cancer care and improve outcomes are key components of the global health agenda.

The series is a collaboration between JCO GO and the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and was inspired by discussions at the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, the flagship UICC event last year that focused on leveraging advances in innovation to improve cancer control equitably and reduce the global cancer burden. Sonali Johnson, head of Knowledge, Advocacy, and Policy, and Zuzanna Tittenbrun, global resources manager at the Knowledge, Advocacy, and Policy team at the UICC, were guest editors for the series.

Reflecting on how the series was conceived, Dr. Kutluk, who is also the associate editor of JCO GO, said innovation is not only made of many parts but can drive forward progress in diagnostics and treatment more quickly than previously thought.

“Changing the world in one day is not possible. However, new approaches, policies, and research implementation can have a significant impact on all aspects of cancer control and accelerate change more quickly and efficiently than we thought possible,” Dr. Kutluk said, noting that high-income countries are also impacted by health inequity.

The series is comprised of eight articles that examine what innovation means across the continuum of cancer control, how innovation can be assessed in multiple contexts, and the implementation of innovative policies, practices, and technologies within health systems.

Erfani et al. address the gap in the use of molecular diagnostics between high-income countries (HICs) and low-income countries (LICs), resulting from a lack of technical capacity, affordability issues, and limited diagnostic and clinical infrastructure.  The authors share lessons learned from the use of molecular diagnostics in tuberculosis and other infectious diseases and outline a three-step approach for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that includes implementation evaluation, context-appropriated endorsement, and multisectoral investment.

Bailey et al. explore how recent genomic innovations have improved the accuracy of diagnosis of children with brain tumors, leading to improved treatment stratification and the development of targeted therapies. The article offers suggestions as to how genomic advances can transform outcomes in LMICs.

Leveraging accessible mobile technology, Sánchez Antelo et al. highlight a 10-step design process for a counseling app that aims to reduce the psychosocial impact of HPV testing and educate users in LMICs about HPV and cervical cancer. The authors note that such a low-cost, easy-to-use tool would change how women access evidence-based information and counseling for HPV and support follow-up care and adherence to treatment for cervical cancer.3

Additional articles highlight lessons from disseminating quality improvement methods through a multisite international collaborative palliative care project; strengthening a multidisciplinary team approach in cities in LMICs; regional approaches to improve access to cancer care through engagement with patients; health systems strengthening through public-private partnerships; and elevating equity on the European policy agenda.

Dr. Kutluk said the series illustrates that while health systems need to show a willingness to adopt new and creative, cost-effective approaches and technologies to improve outcomes for patients, innovation must benefit patients, reduce health care expenditures, and advance health equity in the long term. 

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