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Serving a new reality


December 2021

Dear ESMO Members,

Twelve months ago, I recall bidding farewell to the fateful year 2020 and entering this one uncertain what to expect, but hopeful that it would see us return to some level of normality. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, ESMO and the entire oncology profession had to react quickly, working under pressure to devise adaptive strategies to continue delivering the best possible care to cancer patients. The healthcare workforce was stretched to its functional limit, and as a professional organisation ESMO knew that its attention and support would be needed well past the critical peaks of the outbreak. As we close in on two years of learning to live with the virus, I feel confident that our Society has made effective use of 2021, keeping the good that came out of these terrible circumstances and building on it to better serve the oncology community in its new reality.

Conscious of the fact that neither oncologists nor our patients could afford to wait until the end of global travel restrictions for state-of-the-art practices and up-to-date knowledge in cancer diagnosis, treatment and care to reach clinics worldwide, ESMO rode the wave of technological innovation to make a steady stream of education available to practitioners everywhere. The freely accessible ESMO Webinar Series was launched this year to cover a variety of topics and cancer types, for example by confronting the evidence-based recommendations of the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines with real-world patient cases and enabling live interactions between the experts who develop the guidelines, oncologists who apply them and members of the audience. Since February, the ESMO Virtual Plenaries have also allowed oncologists to tune in monthly to presentations of original scientific data from clinical trials and discover meaningful, practice-shaping results as they emerge.

Once again ESMO meetings proceeded largely in virtual formats, for our collective safety. Recognising however that gaining access to the most recent research is only part of what attendees value about our events, we enhanced this year’s congresses with elements designed to foster the interaction and exchange of ideas that you had come to know and expect from them. Among other things, lounge discussions, presidential session debates, as well as live debates with the faculty at the ESMO Congress 2021 enriched the scientific programme of our flagship meeting and allowed participants globally not just to explore new findings more deeply, but also to engage more closely with their peers.

In addition to our community’s need for personal connections and networking to stimulate ideas for future research projects, ESMO continued to work to understand the needs of its members, and of physicians everywhere, in their daily practice. The third survey of the ESMO Resilience Task Force, conducted this year, provides insights into the longer term impact of the pandemic on us, oncologists: how it continues to affect our working conditions, wellbeing, risk of burnout and ability to care effectively for our patients.

Supporting oncologists as they adapt to a situation in constant flux is indissociable from attending to the pressing issues facing our patients, who suffer more than anyone else in this health crisis. As complex medical information continues to flood the news cycle, reliable guidance on what a person can and should expect following a cancer diagnosis is more than ever key to patient empowerment, treatment adherence and satisfaction with care. Efforts to translate the ESMO Patient Guides into additional languages have been increased to make orientation available to as many people as possible in the familiarity of their native tongue.
Importantly, ESMO-MCBS and ESCAT scores were integrated in the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines to give physicians more clarity about the level of evidence available for different treatment options, enabling them to pursue shared decision-making in the best interest of their patients.

This global pandemic is not over yet but we are pushing on to make sure the oncology community has the tools it needs to continue improving cancer care, including updated ESMO statements on COVID-19 vaccination in cancer patients to guide oncologists through this phase of the crisis response. For this and for the many other achievements that have kept our field moving forward this year, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you, ESMO Officers and Members, who made them possible. You are simultaneously the driving force of our Society and the direct connection to patients, who motivate us to do our best under every circumstance.

We recently asked you to share a few words about what being an ESMO Member has meant to you in 2021, and it was particularly gratifying to see your answers reflect just the values that ESMO has been trying to carry forward.

As we wind down for the holidays, I hope you share my satisfaction with our collective contribution and use this time to reflect and refuel before taking on the year ahead. I look forward to new opportunities for us to make a difference together—and to seeing you grow as professionals with ESMO standing behind you in 2022.

Yours faithfully,

Solange Peters
ESMO President

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