Access to information around our increasingly connected world is changing perceptions and providing new opportunities. We can be aware, as never before, of the scope and scale of the challenges we face even as, in many ways, the world has never been a better place for more people.
World Cancer Day 2019, which we observe on February 4, brings this paradox into focus as we plan for the future of oncology. Our theme this year is “I am, I will” and these four words both capture the current reality (mostly good news and improving outcomes) while simultaneously committing each of us to do more going forward. Why do I say “mostly good news”? It is clear that public health measures and vaccines are already making a difference in cancer incidence; refinements in screening, including adjustments for lower-resource environments, are allowing us to limit some of the morbidity of illness; improved treatments, albeit often at a too-high financial price, are revolutionizing outcomes for some diseases; and science is advancing quickly, promising even better treatments in the near future. This is the result of “I am,” or reflecting the fact that none of us got here alone, “we are.” Indeed, we in the global oncology community are all contributors to this current, improving, state of affairs.
But the challenge is not “I am.” It is “I will.” What will each of us do, going forward, to further confront and reduce the global burden of cancer?
The good news/bad news reality is that as historic scourges—such as poverty, infection, diabetes, and heart disease (and so many others)—are progressively addressed, the diseases of aging, including cancer, increase in number. As we achieve greater global wealth and health, we can anticipate a greater overall age-related need for cancer care. “I will” is a challenge to focus our planning on what we will do to prepare for, and meet, the challenge of providing more cancer care to more citizens around the globe, recognizing the widely varied resources that may be available.
For us at ASCO, the challenge will be answered through our mission pillars: education, research, and quality. We are redoubling our efforts to provide education, support research, and define and improve quality of care on a global scale over the years ahead.
I invite everyone across the global oncology community to join us in this effort so that we can collectively look back with pride and say, “I did.”