Improving Care in Every Corner of the World

Feb 26, 2013

An interview with International Affairs Committee Chair David Khayat, MD, PhD, FASCO

Dr. David KhayatASCO members will see a significant expansion of the Society’s international programs and engagement with medical professionals around the world beginning in 2013, an effort led by the International Affairs Committee (IAC). In the following interview, Chair David Khayat, MD, PhD, FASCO, of Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, France, discusses ASCO’s robust plans to confront global health challenges and improve the lives of patients with cancer around the world.

AC: What are ASCO’s global objectives over the next few years?
Dr. Khayat:
We will significantly increase the size, scope, and number of international projects. Every program that involves activities outside the United States will fall under “ASCO International,” the name we’ve chosen to promote ASCO’s international image and relationships. ASCO is a truly global institution, and it is rich with individual experiences from every part of the world.

AC: What are some of the new programs that will be implemented?
Dr. Khayat:
One is Virtual Mentors, which will help young oncologists from low-income countries develop their skills and build their knowledge using telecommunication. In 2012 we started a pilot program with seven pairs of mentors/mentees. Based on their feedback, we plan to make some small adjustments and promote this program more widely.

Innovation Grants will provide financial help to low- and middle-income countries to embark on pilot programs that they’ve developed to address their individual needs.

Low- and middle-income countries are challenged by the lack of oncology specialists. One solution we’ll be developing is to train nonspecialists—general practitioners, nurses, and others—to deal with cancer.

AC: What can ASCO Annual Meeting attendees expect to take away from the session organized by the IAC, “Cancer Control Plans: Challenges, Failures, and Success Stories”?
Dr. Khayat:
Most countries need a coordinated, evaluable, financed, ambitious program to fight and control cancer through all aspects: prevention, early diagnosis, screening, treatment, palliative care, and research. It’s important to consider the specific issues and resources of each country or region and set up an original program that is fully adapted to that country or region. In this session, we’ll share experiences so that we can be enriched in our own projects by what has been done elsewhere.

AC: In your opinion, what is the biggest global health challenge in oncology?
Dr. Khayat:
Within every country (including the United States and other developed countries) and between countries, there are huge disparities in survival outcomes, access to care, and palliation of pain. In particular, the poorest countries in the world are not prepared for the growing epidemic of cancer: according to the World Health Organization, 75% of cancer deaths in 2020 will occur in countries that today have less than 5% of the world GDP. Fighting these disparities is in the DNA of ASCO, and we have to continue our commitment.

Dr. Khayat is Head of the Department of Medical Oncology at Salpêtrière Hospital and President of the Institut National du Cancer in France. He has served on ASCO’s International Affairs and Cancer Education Committees, among others, and he received the Society’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2011.

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