Dear ESMO Members, Supporters, Colleagues and Friends,
At the close of last year, I was invited to say a few words in recognition of our now Past President, Fortunato Ciardiello, who, throughout his presidential two-year term, has so superbly steered our Society.
A simple request, a challenging task. How can one possibly hope to capture his immeasurable commitment and myriad of contributions to ESMO in summary? In short, you cannot.
His outstanding leadership qualities, coupled with his innate ability to inspire others, are for me the two major contributing factors behind his remarkable ESMO presidency. But I would be remiss if I did not also pay tribute to the exceptional dedication and drive of our executive and expert committees, staff, and dear members. You are also the champions who make our Society great.
Where we are and where to next
Under Fortunato’s stewardship, our Society has excelled in strengthening existing partnerships and fostering new ones. While the profession and practice of medical oncology naturally remains our core business and leading area of expertise, we will continue to welcome other specialties along with new contenders in cancer science and medicine – emerging areas with critical relevance to our field, including but not limited to immunotherapy of cancer, the advent of biosimilars and the extraordinary potential of liquid biopsies.
Open to all professionals working in cancer research, diagnosis, treatment, care and advocacy, ESMO’s unified and multispecialty approach has expanded the appeal of our annual congresses, and increased ESMO’s portfolio of cross-cutting programmes, educational resources and joint platforms with other professional societies and stakeholders.
Although I salute the successes of these initiatives, two undeniable truths remain. One, today’s era of precision medicine brings with it as many challenges as it does opportunities and two, there is still much work to be done towards better organising and streamlining our efforts in order to more effectively seize on these chances.
With strength born of a shared determination to ensure the best outcomes for people suffering from cancer worldwide, as your President I will seek to build on our solid foundations by further promoting and developing precious alliances and multi-stakeholder collaborations.
Only with the continued support and shared vision from other leading societies across the globe, along with the equal commitment from the entire oncology community, will we succeed in really combating cancer by facilitating equal access to the latest advances in personalised therapy, innovation and care to our patients. Only by acting in concert will we be able to navigate ESMO through its next exciting two-year chapter, as we continue to turn current obstacles in oncology into opportunity.
Policy points and priority setting
I will consequently prioritise and support actions aimed at strengthening ESMO´s strategic pairing with other specialties, patients, researchers, payers, regulators, policymakers, and industry partners at global scale. In terms of health policy, ESMO will continue to take the lead in engaging the entire oncology ecosystem across borders. Working collaboratively, we must ensure that an increasing number of patients can access the very best cancer medicines irrespective of location, disease status and setting, and seek to guarantee the best possible outcomes for all stakeholders.
The key is to work together to prioritise and better guide informed decision-making when it comes to fair pricing and access to approved therapies. The shaping of health policy towards facilitating equitable access to optimal, affordable care quite literally begins ‘at home’. Robust, evidence-based intelligence provided by ESMO and other societies will better enable decision-makers to balance efficacy and reimbursement of anti-cancer therapies with regional and socio-economic realities.
Collectively bringing about critical change
As a dynamic tool, we will continue in the fine-tuning and development of the ESMO-Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale to provide legislative bodies with reliable and unbiased information on oncology treatments. This will facilitate more informed decisions as well as lead public policy debate surrounding the real value of cancer care. In this respect, the ESMO Cancer Medicines Committee -- along with its specially appointed Working Groups, and the Global Policy, EU Policy and National Representatives Committees -- will continue to work with other bodies, including European institutions, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), among others, to promote the multi-stakeholder review of value-based reimbursement policies, cost settings and the suitable adjusted pricing of cancer therapies, aimed at transforming healthcare models accordingly.
ESMO will continue to address the gaping disparities across countries in terms of both access and identified shortages in established, essential and effective therapies. We will recommend measures that should consequently be adopted on a country by country basis to reverse these alarming trends.
Similarly, we will continue to work closely with other partners to establish the drivers that influence the costs of treatments per region and liaise with the respective policy makers and the industry to help establish ‘locally’-tuned solutions. By balancing affordability with expected societal gain, effective therapies with greater benefits are more likely to become accessible for an increasing number of patients.
Taking the lead over cancer’s manoeuvres
In order to drive and educate on the breakthroughs in research from bench, bedside and back in a timely fashion, ESMO’s flagship publication Annals of Oncology and our open access journal ESMO Open will continue to inform on the genetic basis of tumour-specific vulnerabilities as well as those studies that base clinical trial design on robust scientific hypothesis incorporating the co-development of biomarkers to facilitate a more precise patient selection. As the empirical, trial and error approach to trial design is no longer acceptable or affordable, ESMO’s publications will supply critical updates on future directions and models that translate to proven as opposed to promising.
ESMO congresses and meetings, increasingly held in partnership with leading societies, will continue to expand in their scope and importantly, deliver the latest findings in cancer discovery of relevance to the present and future practice of medical oncology.
These important platforms will continue to raise the bar in ensuring that all oncology professionals around the world can expand their specialist knowledge, debate and exchange with leading researchers and practitioners in other disciplines from every corner of the globe.
Protecting the future of our profession
Fortunato’s legacy as a devoted mentor to so many has also benefited our Society over the past presidential term. He promoted various initiatives aimed at supporting the future of our profession, ranging from mentoring programmes and a fully integrated oncology education programme to leaders’ generation development and preceptorships.
Guided by our Young Oncologists Committee, I too strongly believe in acting on the real issues encountered by our precious next generation of oncology professionals. ESMO will seek to build on these achievements by identifying new ways to ease the current burdens that could, if not monitored and addressed accordingly, cost our specialty dearly.
Last but by no means least
In the words of the great explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, ’People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.’
Thank you, Fortunato, for bringing your extraordinary gifts to ESMO during your presidency.
It is consequently both a pleasure and privilege for me to take the reins as ESMO President from such an exceptional leader, outstanding physician, scientist, devoted mentor, and an exceptionally kind human being.
As your new ESMO President, and in deep collaboration with Fortunato (Past President) and Solange Peters (President-Elect), my goal will be to fortify the three ESMO 2020 Vision pillars: Integrated cancer care, Specialised education, Sustainable cancer care.
Building on our recent progress, I look forward to working with you all towards expanding these efforts in breadth, depth, and scope. Together we will continue to grow our Society and evolve in tune with the current era of precision medicine in oncology.
ESMO President 2018-2019