By 2023-2024 ASCO President Lynn M. Schuchter, MD, FASCO
As we enter 2024, this is a fitting time to reflect on the midpoint of my term serving as your ASCO president, which has truly been an honor and a privilege. We had a productive 2023, and the first half of this new year promises to be filled with even more activity focused on serving the diverse needs of you, our ASCO members. I am pleased to highlight some key points of progress that ASCO has made under our shared commitment to advancing cancer care worldwide.
An Impactful Year of ASCO Advocacy
Our advocacy efforts continue to influence policies that impact cancer care, research fundings, and patient access to quality treatment. Tremendous progress in cancer research and innovation in care are happening in the context of uncertain times—political, social, and economic. We could not rise to this occasion without your help. In partnership with 47 State and Regional Affiliates and thousands of dedicated volunteers, ASCO is making sure the voices of oncology professionals are heard: in 2023 alone, you met with more than 300 federal and state lawmakers, sent nearly 6,000 letters to lawmakers through the ACT Network, and participated in 85 meetings with federal agencies that oversee cancer research and care delivery. Our advocacy priorities are protecting patients from drug shortages, addressing aggressive prior authorization practices, addressing reimbursement cuts, and sustaining federal funding for cancer research. Every state was represented at the 2023 ASCO Advocacy Summit, a first since this event began in 2016, and I look forward to seeing you at the 2024 Advocacy Summit on April 16-17.
Drug shortages became an urgent area of focus for ASCO in 2023. In order to keep the cancer drug shortage crisis top of mind for Congress and the public, ASCO launched an advocacy campaign focused on the “Impossible Choices” oncologists face when recommended cancer treatments are unavailable. The effort, which kicked off in December, featured a week of advertising in a prominent health policy newsletter, a radio media tour with interviews across the country, and coincided with a congressional hearing which featured ASCO volunteer leader Jason Westin, MD, FACP, as an expert witness. This campaign grabbed headlines with coverage in CNN, NBC’s TODAY Show, and Good Morning America.
The effort will continue throughout 2024 to ensure Congress takes definitive action to address this critical issue.
Above: ASCO volunteer Brian Persing, MD, testifying before Congress about federal funding for cancer research.
Fostering Global Collaboration Through Regional Councils
The global cancer community is a key focus for ASCO, and our regional councils continue to play an integral role in fostering international collaboration. These councils provide a platform for sharing knowledge, best practices, and addressing region-specific challenges in the global fight against cancer. There are now four active regional councils listed in order of their launch: Asia Pacific (2019), Latin America (2021), Sub-Saharan Africa (2022), and Central and Eastern Europe (2023). Following are some highlights from each regional council’s work.
Asia Pacific: This group pioneered the regional council concept, and 5 years later this council remains very active. It adapted ASCO’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) and selected their second class of LDP participants in the yearlong program. They continue to advise on the ASCO Breakthrough meeting and are currently partnering with Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation’s, EveryGrant program on a metastatic breast cancer quality improvement grant for the region.
Above: The ASCO Asia Pacific Regional Council at 2023 ASCO Breakthrough.
Latin America: The Latin American Regional Council is supporting ASCO’s launch of a tailored LDP for young leaders this year. They are also piloting an adaptation of ASCO’s International Clinical Research Course to include formal research mentoring to support cancer investigators in the region. Finally, the council is actively working with ASCO’s Center for Research and Analytics (CENTRA) group to explore physician wellness and burnout in Latin America.
Sub-Saharan Africa: I had the great pleasure to attend this council’s first in-person meeting in Dakar, Senegal in November 2023, where the council selected a major African cancer center (Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital in Ethiopia) for support through ASCO’s International Cancer Corps training program and started partnering with Conquer Cancer on a breast cancer quality improvement grant to be offered this year. The council is focused on improving early detection and diagnosis of cancer in the region.
Above: The ASCO Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Council gathered in November 2023.
Central and Eastern Europe: Launched this past September, this council completed a regional survey of oncology needs and capabilities and is using this information to establish council priorities for action.
Continued Efforts to Improve MOC
ASCO’s collaboration with the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) for continued improvement to its Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program is moving forward, following our member survey and qualitative interviews from the end of 2023. ASCO’s MOC Task Force, on which I serve, recently met with ABIM leaders, who expressed a sincere desire to collaborate with ASCO on enhancements to MOC that would benefit all oncology diplomates. Key learnings from this meeting include:
- Only 20% of medical oncology diplomates (2,054 oncologists in total) have been eligible for the Longitudinal Knowledge Assessment (LKA), the alternative to a high-stakes 10-year exam. However, those who have participated have generally given positive feedback.
- The percentage of correct answers is similar for those participating in LKA and those taking the 10-year exam for the first time.
- ABIM is going to survey oncology diplomates to develop practice profiles as a foundation for developing subspecialized exams. They recognize that a growing number of oncologists, including those in community practice settings, are more and more focused on treating specific types of cancer.
- ABIM leadership was also willing to discuss the need for MOC points for those participating in LKA, and review the amount of time allotted per question and frequency of questions for LKA.
ASCO is deeply committed to working with ABIM to deliver what our members want. Once we have specific proposals, we will share them with you, our members, for feedback.
Congratulations Are in Order
Another 2023 highlight was seeing esteemed ASCO colleagues W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, and Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, embark on leadership roles at the National Cancer Institute (as NCI Director) and National Institutes of Health (as NIH Director), respectively. ASCO looks forward to working with them on the continued implementation of the National Cancer Plan and supporting both the NCI and NIH in their work to drive progress against cancer. Sincere congratulations also to Eric J. Small, MD, who will serve as 2025-2026 ASCO president, and all newly elected ASCO Board and Nominating Committee members.
The Art and Science of Cancer Care: From Comfort to Cure
It has been a wonderful opportunity for me this year to advance the important work on integrating palliative care into the routine care of patients with cancer. In honor of World Hospice & Palliative Care Day, I was joined by Ramy Sedhom, MD; Jennifer Temel, MD, FASCO; William Rosa, PhD, MBE, MS; Felicia Knaul, PhD; and ASCO chief medical officer and executive vice president Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO, for a webinar, Making Palliative Care a Part of Your Oncology Practice. Do take a listen to learn about current research in palliative and supportive care, the benefits of early intervention of palliative care, and ways to foster palliative care in your practice.
2024 ASCO Annual Meeting—The Place to Gather With the Oncology Community
Looking ahead, I truly can’t wait for you to join us at the 2024 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago on May 31-June 4. It promises to be a vibrant platform to share groundbreaking research, foster collaboration, and advance our mission to conquer cancer. The Scientific Program, chaired by Angela DeMichele, MD, MSCE, FASCO, will expand to include even more podium presentations, with Rapid Oral Abstract Sessions in every track. And Dr. Thomas LeBlanc, MD, MA, MHS, FAAHPM, FASCO, chair of the Education Program, is ensuring that each disease-focused session includes a state-of-the-art treatment talk as well as a focus on expertly managing symptoms, palliative care needs, and how to engage in difficult conversations about prognosis.
During a recent walk on Orr’s Island, Maine, I decided to stop at the library and sit in a quiet corner. It was such a peaceful, reflective moment on a rainy day. A nice pause; something I think we all need as we enter a new year with unlimited possibilities.
Above: Snapshot of the library on Orr's Island.
In closing, I want to express my gratitude for your ongoing support and commitment to ASCO’s mission. ASCO is committed to supporting you. I have so enjoyed meeting many of you this past year and look forward to connecting with many more of you in the remainder of my term. Wishing you all a happy and healthy year ahead.
Lynn M. Schuchter, MD, FASCO
2023-2024 ASCO President