Providing Care, Confronting Challenges After Natural Disaster

Providing Care, Confronting Challenges After Natural Disaster

Linda R. Duska, MD, MPH

Oct 25, 2017

As we were completing this issue of ASCO Connection, reading the news was a grim affair: literal fire and flood. In North America alone, hurricanes tore a path across the Caribbean and the southern United States, a massive earthquake devastated parts of Mexico, and wildfires scorched regions in Canada and the western United States.

Delivering high-quality cancer care is challenging even under ideal circumstances. To the providers working in areas struck by natural disaster, where the basic resources and infrastructure you depend on are suddenly unavailable—where the road you would take to the hospital is flooded, or uprooted trees have knocked out your electricity—you have my utmost admiration.

And to the providers working in areas where disasters have been wrought by human hands, areas of war and violence, bravely traveling unsafe streets to reach the patients who desperately need your care, you are truly heroes.

Whatever challenges you are facing, I hope the stories in this issue offer you a measure of optimism and hope.

In our Current Controversies in Oncology column, two members of our editorial board, Dr. Gregory Masters and Dr. Travis Osterman, along with their coauthors Dr. Dhaval Shah and Dr. Leora Horn, consider the evidence for either targeted genetic testing or broad-based next-generation sequencing to identify actionable mutations in non-small cell lung cancer. A disease that was once a death sentence can now be treated with precision medicine, thanks to many decades of scientific discovery. 

For the first time, ASCO convened a roundtable of experts to develop strategies for breaking down an unacceptable barrier to patient participation in clinical trials: cost. They envision a world where any patient who wants to contribute to our body of knowledge will be able to do so, regardless of their household income or financial situation.

Ms. Brittany Sullivan, who is just 29 years old, is a 6-time sarcoma survivor thanks to the promise delivered by well-conducted clinical research. She was the first person to enroll on a trial led by Dr. Breelyn A. Wilky, and funded through a Young Investigator Award from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO. The novel combination therapy being tested by Dr. Wilky reduced Ms. Sullivan’s widespread sarcoma to a few small tumors.

Dr. Diah Martina describes the development and current state of palliative care in Indonesia, her home. She is using the knowledge she gained as an International Development and Education Award in Palliative Care (IDEA-PC) recipient to help reduce suffering and improve quality of life for Indonesian patients with cancer.

Everywhere, in every specialty and setting, with whatever tools and resources are available, through literal fire and flood, ASCO members will never cease in their mission to deliver hope to patients with cancer.

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate as the year draws to a close, I wish you and your loved ones health, safety, peace, and—above all things—hope. 

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