Nov 16, 2020
New recommendations aimed at advancing the status of global oncology as an academic discipline were published earlier this month as a special article in JCO Global Oncology (JCO GO) by the ASCO Academic Global Oncology Task Force.
The field of global oncology is important because, according to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide, responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018.1 With an increasing number of cancer cases each year, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), there is “a vital need to train global oncologists to work with colleagues in LMICs to develop sustainable capacity and infrastructure for clinical oncology care, research, and education,” stated the authors of a 2015 paper, “Training Global Oncologists: Addressing the Global Cancer Control Problem.”2
“Global oncology is gaining traction at many levels,” said special article lead author Julie Gralow, MD, FASCO. “There is an increasing focus on the global cancer threat by the United Nations and World Health Organization, ongoing efforts in most countries to develop and implement National Cancer Control Plans, and recognition that there is much we don’t know about how best to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer in lower resource settings. The current generation of trainees have expressed strong interest in learning about and participating in global oncology opportunities, many with a desire for a career working on cancer problems around the globe.”
To address this need for global oncologists, the ASCO Academic Global Oncology Task Force created the recommendations, which they arrived at after first developing a definition of global oncology; reviewing ACGME rules and regulations to assess how they could support oncology fellows with an interest in a global oncology; assessing existing curriculums and courses in this subject area; and distributing and reviewing an NCI/ASCO Survey on Global Oncology Research and Training Programs in NCI-Designated Cancer Centers (read more about these efforts).
The task force then grouped the recommendations into four categories: global oncology training; global oncology research and practice; global oncology career paths and professional development; and overall global oncology.
“The ASCO Academic Global Oncology Task Force provides a series of recommendations related to overcoming barriers to global oncology training, promoting global oncology career pathways and professional development, and facilitating global oncology research and practice,” said Dr. Gralow. “There is a strong focus on promoting partnerships and collaboration in all of these efforts, with our colleagues in other countries, with other professional societies, foundations, and advocacy organizations, and with the NCI and other governmental organizations.”
The authors note that success in developing this global oncology field will necessitate collaboration among all members of the global health and oncology communities, as well as:
- Demonstrating the benefits of this field to oncology training programs and academic cancer centers
- Validating that evidence-focused research will lead to improvements in cancer outcomes
- Creating strong partnerships with international stakeholders, including health care providers, governmental agencies, patient advocates, corporations, and philanthropic organizations
- Leveraging existing infrastructure and relationships and encouraging international partners with shared authorship, funding, and opportunities for career advancement
Although the field of global oncology is young and not heavily resourced, there is an increasing number of early-career oncology professionals interested in pursuing experiences and training in this area. As a result the task force recommended that ASCO support “the transition of global oncology from an informal field of largely voluntary activity to a formal field with a strong research component and recognized value to oncology training and the practice of oncology,” as stated in a 2017 report of the Global Oncology Leadership Task Force, whose findings prompted the creation of the Academic Global Oncology Task Force.
Dr. Gralow encourages members who are interested in getting involved in international activities to do so. “ASCO provides many opportunities for its members to participate in international education, research, networking, and clinical experiences,” she explained. “These programs will undoubtedly be expanding as a result of the ASCO Academic Global Oncology Task Force recommendations over the next few years. If you have an interest in participating in any of these programs, reach out!”
Contact ASCO’s International Affairs team to get involved.
- World Health Organization. Cancer. Accessed Nov. 4, 2020.
- Grover S, Balogun OD, Yamoah K, et al. Training Global Oncologists: Addressing the Global Cancer Control Problem. Front Oncol. 2015;5:80.