Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I recently informed you of the difficult decision ESMO has taken to cancel a number of educational activities and events this year; in that message I also wrote about our dual responsibility as oncologists and healthcare professionals to help reduce the spread of the virus, while continuing to provide the best care to patients and also protecting colleagues and staff.
However, I believe we share an additional responsibility – that of maintaining the pace of research to help achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients, not only in today’s challenging times, but also in the years ahead. Just as the global healthcare community is joining forces to find a solution to the Coronavirus pandemic, the global oncology community must continue working closely – but also safely – in the fight against cancer.
Protecting patients against the threat posed to them by the Coronavirus is, of course, an important and immediate challenge. Right now, colleagues across the global oncology community are working tirelessly to protect cancer patients who are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 infection, while continuing to treat them in extremely difficult circumstances. Yet at the same time, we need to maintain our focus on delivering good science, developing better medicines and the best possible education to help those with cancer live longer and have more fulfilled lives.
As you would expect, at ESMO we are doing all we can to support our members and the wider oncology community in achieving these aims.
Firstly, I can assure you that it is not a matter of if ESMO 2020 goes ahead, but how. Together with the Scientific Committee, I am committed to ensuring that this year’s ESMO Congress remains the most prestigious platform to present and discuss the latest oncology science. We will need to think creatively, potentially reshaping something that already works well into “something different” and perhaps something even better. We may need to develop (virtual) presentations to share practice-changing research results, organise (virtual) education initiatives that have a tangible impact on patients’ lives and stimulate (virtual) discussions to share best practices.
This year’s Congress tagline – “Bringing innovation to cancer patients” – could hardly be more relevant, both from the perspective of driving forward new treatments and in terms of presenting the latest science in the most appropriate ways possible. New technology is likely to have an important part to play and we will need to be innovative in both our thinking and approach to transform this challenging situation into an exciting opportunity.
Secondly – and importantly – we will be extending the abstract submission deadline for ESMO 2020 by two weeks, from 5 to 20 May. We hope this will help to balance the inevitable day-to-day challenges we are all facing in our hospitals, with our individual and collective desire as oncology professionals to continue pushing the boundaries of science in the interests of cancer patients worldwide.
I am particularly pleased to announce that ESMO 2020 will include a dedicated COVID-19 and cancer research track: our objective will be to gather meaningful data from across countries and diseases, to help improve the treatment of cancer patients with, or in relation to, COVID-19. Important collaborations are already underway such as the global consortium TERAVOLT registry for thoracic cancers – and ESMO will shortly be launching its own initiatives designed to accelerate this important research and enhance our understanding of COVID-19 in all cancer patients, across disease types, as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your unswerving commitment, dedication and professionalism as we look to navigate these uncharted waters. I hope you will join me in helping to make ESMO 2020 a milestone appointment at this pivotal moment in world history.