Dear ESMO Members, colleagues and friends,
Just when we were beginning to think that the health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic was fading—perhaps not to the extent or as quickly as we would have liked but certainly enough to warrant hope for the future—the world has fallen into the grip of a new crisis that is taking a devastating toll on human life. Wherever it rages, war is always a humanitarian catastrophe that hits the weakest individuals in society, including cancer patients, first and hardest.
As an organisation, ESMO represents oncologists. We stand by our members, by all of our colleagues who make up the global cancer workforce. Whatever the circumstances, we support them unconditionally in doing their job. Collaboration and inclusivity are essential to the work of oncology today. They are at the core of ESMO’s understanding of its own role in nurturing this professional community to be the most effective it can be at fulfilling its mission: to take the best possible care of patients. It was only natural, then, for ESMO to join the ECO-ASCO Special Network alongside other national and international organisations to help coordinate cancer care, information and relief efforts in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries.
Unfortunately, the health crisis of the past two years had already served as a stark reminder that borders are not guaranteed to remain open, that connections which used to be taken for granted can be severed in an instant. Yet adapting to this reality, which is likely to shape our world for the foreseeable future, has also taught us—as ESMO and as one oncology community—how to overcome physical and geographical constraints to continue our collective action against cancer and keep up the pace of progress in research and practice. Thanks to technological innovation, we have experienced that virtual meetings are not only possible, but also productive. Doctors worldwide can now access learning opportunities to acquire new knowledge and apply it to improve patient care regardless of their ability to travel the global oncology conference circuit. This lesson will not be forgotten and, in that spirit, the ESMO Congress 2022 taking place in Paris this September in an innovative LIVE Plus format will offer those who need or wish to attend remotely the chance to participate via an interactive virtual platform. Of course, this will also be open to all onsite participants, with whom we are so happy to meet in person again this year to discover and discuss the latest results from across the oncology research arena.
The medical uncertainty that has marked the COVID era simultaneously makes continuous dissemination of evidence and guidance more important than ever before. Determined to be a steadfast ally during these troubled times, ESMO has risen to the challenge, producing clear, usable information on an ongoing basis. The expert consensus statements series, inspired by the method behind the consensus recommendations on cancer patient management during the COVID-19 pandemic, were launched to offer doctors orientation in areas not covered by the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines and where evidence is currently insufficient to inform clinical decision-making. New tools have also been developed to support the use of the ESMO-MCBS, including a reproducible methodology, for the value-driven assessment and rationalisation of national cancer medicine lists by healthcare professionals, health authorities and policymakers alike. Additional resources are in the pipeline,to be released over the next few months, including support tools to assist practitioners at the point of care.
Meanwhile, the ESMO webinar series continue to bring oncologists up-to-date education on topics ranging from the protection of cancer patients against COVID-19 to emerging knowledge on individual diseases or technologies. Freely accessible and open to all, these virtual gatherings regularly bring together key opinion leaders, relevant stakeholders and healthcare professionals to discuss significant developments in the field—and ultimately help doctors around the world to offer the best possible advice and care to their patients.
Another important way in which ESMO strives to be a force for good in the oncology community and beyond is by working to ensure the long-term sustainability of what we do. In the current state of things, environmental and climate policy must apply to every field of human activity, and oncology is no exception: indeed, cancer research and care do not happen in a vacuum but rely on economic, social, political and ecological stability to flourish. ESMO’s commitment to improving the quality and accessibility of cancer care also implies a wider duty to contribute to building a better future for our world.
To fully assume this responsibility, ESMO established a Climate Change Task Force with a mandate to assess the sustainability of our activities and devise strategies and interventions to reduce their environmental footprint. First steps in this direction have already been taken with the conversion of ESMO’s flagship journal, Annals of Oncology, to a fully digital publication as of this January, as well as with the commitment to source food locally and considerably reduce paper and plastic supporting material at this year’s ESMO Congress. In-person meetings will always have a place in oncology research and learning, but we can no longer ignore their environmental cost: ESMO will need to take further action to ensure we do our part to preserve the health of our planet, as it is the primordial condition for protecting the health of its inhabitants.