I feel deeply honoured to be addressing you for the first time as ESMO President. I have the privilege of beginning my term on solid ground, being able to lean on our organisation’s dedicated staff and on a young and international team on the Executive Board, which is now larger, more diverse and democratic. Indeed, the transformation of ESMO’s organisational structure was one of our most notable achievements of 2019, making the life of the Society more transparent and participative for the future.
I would like to look towards that future now, because the great things that have been achieved should be leveraged for the work still ahead of us. The world is continuously exposed to new uncertainties and challenges: our Society will have to evolve and implement new ways of working, and should remain committed to doing so in the best interest of all of its members, for the benefit of all patients, wherever they are. There is a lot to be done, so I want to share with you the main paths along which I envision us moving forward.
Providing equal opportunities to our global members
ESMO members currently represent over 25,000 oncology professionals from more than 40 specialties, who practice in more than 160 countries. In addition to growing in size, our community is broadening in horizons. I believe this is the first important challenge to which we must rise in coming years: to think more inclusively.
The diversity of cultures, educational backgrounds, economic conditions, experiences and expertise that our members bring with them means they have a wide variety of needs to which we must cater. With almost 40 percent of ESMO members being young oncologists under the age of 40, and nearly half being women, we additionally need to be able to offer adequate, balanced career opportunities for different professional trajectories.
ESMO activities, committees, faculties, officers and policy commitments will all have to evolve in step with our changing membership landscape. To cover the large spectrum of demands that come along with this, we must reassess our reach and efficacy in all areas of the world, and ensure we offer a capillary network of services that cover our members’ different needs. This shall include new types of fellowships, an overhaul of the Young Oncologists career paths, utilising new technologies as well as developing targeted activities in new countries.
Proving that we care
By supporting oncologists in becoming better doctors, we are in fact helping cancer patients. However, there are many ways we can, and should help patients even beyond what we already do, and I want to use my time as President to drive ESMO action on the ground. I will dedicate significant efforts to giving new meaning to a familiar word in our profession: care.
We must support physicians in every corner of the world, in places where it is still hard to implement quality cancer care for all patients. I believe we are in a unique position to get things done – things that others may not have thought or had the courage to do. One means to this end would be through the creation of a new foundation, where we could collect ideas and requests for projects to make a real difference in less served regions of the world.
In addition, I believe a commitment to care implies assuming responsibility for cancer prevention. We have received a clear signal from research: by 2040, cancer incidence is expected to rise to 29.5 million cases, with mortality likely to reach 16.3 million. (1) If we are to stop, or at least slow this deadly trend, we must act now. We need to educate the general public as well as a broader base of doctors on cancer prevention, especially the general practitioners and organ specialists who are in the front line to guide patients towards healthy lifestyles and reliable ways to detect cancer early.
Beyond targeted action, caring also means reacting with solidarity and responsibility to developments in the world around us. I want our Society to respond in a supportive and clear-headed way to contingencies, by tuning in to the short-term needs within our community and by reconsidering our own activities and priorities as necessary. I also envision our Society leveraging any required adaptations and changes to serve a long-term thought process about the world we want to build for future generations.
Continuing on a successful path, with an enduring mission
The realities we face may be in constant flux, but one thing has stood the test of time: ESMO’s mission. First formulated by the Society’s founders, it retains all of its relevance today: To improve the quality of cancer care, from prevention and diagnosis all the way to treatment, supportive care and patient follow-up. How? By continuously educating doctors, cancer patients and the general public on the best practices and latest advances in oncology. And by promoting equal access to optimal cancer care for all patients.
This is the beacon to which we must look as we move forward as an organisation – and the reason why, ultimately, I also want to ensure continuity with the work of all my predecessors during my term as President.
ESMO’s Vision 2020, which perfectly captures this mission, was originally developed as a five-year plan: To secure the best possible outcomes for people with cancer, through Integrated cancer care, Specialised education and Sustainable cancer care. Our Society has since successfully articulated its efforts around these concepts, which will remain relevant to oncology this year and beyond. They should thus continue to anchor our work in the future.
In light of the soaring prices of innovative and potentially curative therapies arriving on the market, the sustainability and accessibility of high-quality cancer care throughout the world will have to remain a priority for ESMO, for all of us. The next big topic we will tackle in this area is the development of economic models for the reimbursement of cancer medicines based on their value – as defined by the ESMO Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale, for example – and adapted to local socioeconomic parameters and healthcare systems.
We should also make sure we continue to exploit the full potential of our educational capabilities. There are new educational and collaborative formats for us to explore, as well as emerging challenges to address, including the adaptation and adaptability of our guidelines for different realities.
Optimism is warranted by a strong team
The tasks ahead are not small, but my resolve to hit the ground running is greater still. Our Past-President Josep Tabernero steered the organisation with a keen sense of what its members would need in the future. I am particularly grateful for the fact that on the ESMO Executive Board I will be able to count on his support as well as on the commitment of President-Elect Andrés Cervantes and the three Directors responsible for developing the key pillars of our Society: Susana Banerjee (Membership), Florian Lordick (Education), Rosa Giuliani (Public Policy).
I am determined to build on our Society’s tremendous legacy to create new opportunities tailored to our members’ needs and reveal untapped possibilities to better care for our patients. As I embark on this undertaking, it fills me with confidence to see myself surrounded by the immense skill, dedication and passion that flow throughout this organisation.
Source: Globocan 2018