ASCO International Year in Review for 2015: New Courses, New Partnerships, New Government Collaborations, and a New Global Journal

Jan 27, 2016

By Doug Pyle, Senior Director, International Affairs

On World Cancer Day 2013, ASCO launched ASCO International and a commitment to double its international programs. Three years later, much of what we said we would accomplish has been done, and plans for further expansion are in the works. On this February 4, I would like to take some time to review what we accomplished in 2015.

Before I do, I would like to thank the many ASCO member volunteers, the 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. Improve Quality of Care

In 2015, we launched the Cancer Control in Primary Care course (CCPC), a significant new initiative envisioned in the International Expansion plan. The first course was held in Bhopal, India, in collaboration with ASCO member Dinesh Pendharkar, MD, PhD, and with the state authorities in India. The second course was held in the Republic of Georgia, also in collaboration with government authorities in Georgia, NGOs, and ASCO members. The initial results of both courses are promising: 87% of the primary care providers at the India course plan to change their practice, and many specifically cited the earlier detection of cervical and breast cancers; 97% of the Georgian attendees plan to make changes to their practice. We will follow up with the attendees in a year to determine what changes they were actually able to implement, and which obstacles they faced. Next year we are planning CCPC courses with partner organizations and government authorities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Oman, Brazil and Ghana.

In all, ASCO International organized 12 courses in 2015, training physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in multidisciplinary cancer care, palliative care, and other topics that improve the quality of cancer care. In 2015, 83% of attendees at the MCMC courses in Brazil, Chile, China, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe reported planned changes in practice; for the the Palliative Care courses in(India, Morocco, and Nepal, the rate was80%.

Beyond training, the ASCO International plan envisions making ASCO’s popular Quality Oncology Practice Initiative more accessible to practices outside the United States; in 2015 there was significant progress in making QOPI available internationally. Feedback from pilot practices in Brazil and Greece has been very positive. ASCO Past President Peter Yu, MD, FACP, FASCO, and I had a chance to visit the Brazilian practice in 2015 and they enthusiastically shared with us all the ways that QOPI had improved their practice. In addition, in 2015 QOPI was made available in Argentina and in India, and we look forward to engaging interested practices in those countries.

Pathology is another key component to quality cancer care, and in 2015 ASCO launched an international collaboration with the College of American Pathologists (CAP) to identify strategies for improving access to quality pathology in limited resource settings. In July we held a workshop at ASCO that included pairs of oncologists and pathologists from our four pilot countries (Honduras, Haiti, Uganda and Vietnam), ASCO leadership and experts in global oncology, and CAP leadership and experts. The workshop was very productive and generated several specific areas where ASCO, CAP and the pilot countries can collaborate in the areas of education/training, quality assurance and SOPs, and advocacy.

Lastly, in 2015 ASCO leveraged the educational platform that is its Annual Meeting to hold its first Global Oncology Symposium as part of the Annual Meeting program. The first Symposium included a scientific component examining gastric cancer from different perspectives, followed by a global health themed component focused on pathology. We look forward to the second Global Oncology Symposium this coming year. Overall, in combination with the Journal of Global Oncology (JGO), this session 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

Until the expansion of ASCO’s international programs in 2013, the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO (CCF) had no dedicated funding mechanisms for research in resource-limited settings. That changed with the launch of the International Innovation Grants. In 2015, CCF awarded five of these grants to the following investigators:

  • Olutosin Awolude, MBBS, MS, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Enhancing Health Resource Capacity to Prevent Cervical Cancer by Leveraging on HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment Infrastructure

  • Yanin Chávarri Guerra, MD, MSc, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion Salvador Zubiran

A Breast Health Educational Program to Increase Breast Cancer Awareness Among Adolescents and Their Female Relatives in Low-Income Communities Through Intergenerational Learning

  • Tanuj Chawla, MBBS, MD, Tata Medical Center

Mobile Short Message Service (SMS) Alerts for Reducing the Toxicity and Improving Protocol Compliance During Cancer Chemotherapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Alexandru Eniu, MD, PhD, Oncology Institute "Prof. Dr. Ion Chiricuta"

A Multidisciplinary Breast Tumor Board Telemedicine Web-Based Platform to Improve the Appropriateness and Implementation of Treatment Recommendations in Small, Remote Cancer Centers in Romania

  • Noleb Mugisha, MD, MPH, Hutchinson Centre Research Institute of Uganda

Linking Cervical Cancer Screening in HIV Clinics to Tertiary Cancer Care in Uganda

In 2015, ASCO’s support for research in these settings was further enhanced with the launch of the Journal of Global Oncology (JGO), a new online open-source journal focused on cancer care, research and care delivery issues unique to countries and settings with limited healthcare resources. David Kerr, MD, DSc, was appointed as the inaugural Editor-in-Chief. Interest in the new journal is high and clearly the journal is filling a popular need.

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 2015, 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 (95% of 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.

International participation in ASCO’s prestigious Leadership Development Program (LDP) remains strong. In 2015 Rebecca Dent, MD, MSc, FRCP, of the National Cancer Center Singapore, was accepted to the program.

Lastly, in 2015 we also refined a new ASCO program called Virtual Mentors, which will aim to provide mentoring opportunities to ASCO members around the world using a variety of communication technologies in a structured framework. We hope to make the Virtual Mentors program widely available in 2016.

New Directions

In 2015, we made substantial gains as an international partner—both on the global scene and in individual countries—and charted a path towards further global engagement.

Globally, we deepened our relationships with key international cancer organizations, such as Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and the U.S.’s National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Center for Global Health. We became an active member in the International Cancer Control Partnership, which links ASCO with UICC, NCI, and numerous other organizations in providing technical assistance to countries that are developing or implementing cancer control plans. Also in 2015, a group of ASCO member volunteers served on the UICC task force advising the WHO on their list of essential cancer medicines, and in April, the UICC task force achieved the approval of more than 20 additional drugs for this list.

On the national level, this year we have collaborated with governments to a greater extent than ever before, holding courses with governments in India and Georgia on primary care, and meeting with government authorities in South America and India about additional collaboration. We also extended into new geographic areas and partnerships this year, including our first course in Myanmar.

Lastly and perhaps most significantly, in 2015 ASCO’s Global Oncology Leadership Task Force, charged by the Board of Directors to make recommendations for ASCO’s future international development, made substantial progress in its work. This included two fact-finding trips by Dr. Yu to South America and India. The Task Force will deliver its findings to the ASCO Board in 2016, and we will look forward very much to sharing the outcomes of the Task Force’s work in future communications.

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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