Dear ESMO members,
Even as circumstances keep much of our attention fixed on the present moment, I believe we must also remember to look up from our daily routines and look at where we are heading. The start of this year has been marked by the introduction of ESMO’s roadmap for the times ahead. The ESMO Vision 2025 affirms our Society’s commitment to standing by those who care about cancer. It is driven by our ambition to offer a reliable, comprehensive system of support to all who care about cancer, from oncology professionals to health policymakers, from basic researchers to cancer patients and their families. Defined by three ideals that we want to make a reality over the next five years – One oncology community, Education for life and Accessible cancer care – the ESMO Vision 2025 has at its core a single promise with many applications: care.
We are all deeply concerned about the current trends in cancer incidence and mortality: according to the WHO, deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to reach over 13 million in 2030. Meanwhile Europe, which accounts for just a tenth of the world’s population but as much as a quarter of its cancer cases, is likely to see deaths from the disease increase by more than 24 percent by 2035 in the absence of decisive action. (1)
This is the sobering backdrop against which the European Union has recently unveiled Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, which is the result of tenacious efforts by a number of actors, including ESMO, to draw attention to cancer at the highest levels of political decision-making. It has been encouraging to see that Europe’s plan focuses on prevention, equitable access to screening, diagnosis and treatment, as well as support for survivors – the same lines along which ESMO has developed its own approach to cancer care. As a Society, we are eager to contribute our expertise to the translation of Europe’s Beating Cancer plan into action and to ensuring that it is sustainable in the long term. We are confident that the many similarities between the contents of the EU plan and the substance of our Vision 2025 will represent a significant advantage.
Guided by the ESMO Vision 2025, we will not only articulate our future efforts around activities that fall within the traditional scope of our Society, like translating the best available evidence on cancer treatment into guidelines for clinical practice, or providing oncologists with key educational tools and training opportunities. We will also move into previously unexplored areas where swift and targeted intervention is needed: primary and secondary cancer prevention, to reduce the number of cancers and their recurrence; widespread access to medicines for the patients who stand to benefit from them; support that is so essential following a positive diagnosis.
We additionally want to delve deep into the pathways of care, to tackle health disparities and shortages of essential medicines and qualified oncology professionals, wherever they exist. And we will be present to support the accelerated development of precision and personalised medicine as new technologies and advanced data analytics come of age, to be able to offer patients the therapies that work best for them without wasting time and resources on trial-and-error treatments.
We are acutely aware that despite such advances in anticancer treatments, the sustainability of cancer care cannot be guaranteed in the long term unless we prioritise prevention today. As I have highlighted in an interview to be published in the upcoming issue of ESMO Perspectives, not all patients will be able to benefit from innovative therapies if the case numbers continue to rise as they currently are. It is urgent that we act now to convince both the general public and patients already diagnosed with cancer to adopt preventive lifestyles, from which we know it is never too late to see tangible benefits. This topic is something we at ESMO have begun to pay special care and attention to with a dedicated programme in collaboration with the WHO’s International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC), even as widespread shutdowns in global screening programmes and persisting delays across our health systems due to the global coronavirus pandemic make this more challenging than ever before.
For over a year now, COVID-19 has understandably been on everybody’s lips, including in the medical oncology community – but going forward this should not come at the cost of distracting us from our primary objective: fighting cancer. As we have learned during this crisis, we can achieve things that we previously thought impossible when we truly commit to working together, like gaining insight into a new disease and developing a vaccine in record time. Alleviating the global cancer burden should be approached with a similar sense of urgency and here, too, ESMO has wasted no time in translating its aspirations into action. With the ESMO Virtual Plenaries, we have launched a platform on which the latest original data from clinical trials in oncology will be presented in live monthly sessions to accelerate the dissemination of practice-changing research whilst adhering to the principles of peer review, analysis and discussion.
Leading health and regulatory organisations and stakeholders know ESMO to be a precious ally that brings real value to collaborative enterprises through the practical tools we have developed to inform both clinical practice and health decision making. It is important to us that the collaborations and the partnerships we enter into do more for the oncology community than simply pay lip service to lofty ideals. ESMO has consistently strived to offer pragmatic approaches and concrete solutions to real-world challenges. Practical decision-making tools like the ESMO-Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale (ESMO-MCBS) for assessing the clinical value of anticancer drugs are now being used around the world to evaluate new therapies. Moving forward, ESMO will expand on this vital work with the development of geographically-adapted reimbursement models, aimed at enabling equal access to safe, state-of-the-art and affordable therapies for the greatest possible number of cancer patients.
Dear members, as the pandemic draws out into 2021, I know that our new daily routines will continue to take up a lot of our energy. Surveys conducted by the ESMO Resilience Task Force have shed light on the fact that many of us are struggling with the long-term effects of working under constant pressure, and that the risk of burnout is particularly high for those of us who have been personally touched by COVID-19. In addition, as emerged from the preliminary results of the ESMO Women for Oncology COVID-19 and gender survey, lockdowns had a stronger backlash on women in oncology. For this reason, you can trust that as we set our sights on the future, ESMO will also continue to stand by you in the present situation and ensure that “One oncology community” does not remain a hollow phrase. Our Society cares not just about the community, but about every individual within it, and our Vision 2025 is designed to ensure that each of you can count on ESMO for comprehensive support and high-quality education – not just for the next five years, but for a lifetime of work in oncology.