I am proud to be President of an organisation which is founded on the values of integrity, commitment, accountability and excellence and which has equality and inclusion as high priorities, as we continue the fight against cancer and strive for equal access to optimal care for all cancer patients. We are, after all, stronger and more effective together.
That said, we must also ask ourselves the important question: are we doing enough? The honest answer for ESMO, as for any other organisation, is that we have to do more, though the unprecedented events of this year have made that especially challenging.
As you know, the ESMO 2020 Congress will be taking place as a virtual meeting; we had to take a number of difficult decisions, including cancelling or postponing educational events, and placing other activities on hold, as playing our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 while protecting colleagues, patients and our staff has rightly been our top priority.
Now I will, on behalf of ESMO, its members and cancer patients worldwide, repay their confidence by redoubling my efforts in delivering a programme focusing on themes which are arguably more important than ever before in light of the times we are living – in particular, equal opportunities and care. As I said in my February letter, we must do everything possible to support physicians in those parts of the world where it remains difficult to implement quality cancer care for all patients.
I believe we will make a significant stride towards achieving this aim through the establishment of a new ESMO foundation designed to help make a real, tangible difference in under-served regions and countries. The creation of the ESMO Foundation is an essential project for me and is needed for ESMO too. It gained additional importance during a conversation I had during the ESMO Summit in Africa earlier this year with Dr Peter Vuylsteke. Originally from Belgium, he has taken up a post at the University of Botswana and is helping, among others, in research on cancers especially prevalent in Botswana. Of course, we also have much to learn from clinicians in other parts of the world and must continue to collaborate and share both expertise and tools such as the ESMO Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale (ESMO-MCBS), which Dr Vuylsteke says is proving so important in obtaining the medicines he needs to provide the best possible care to patients in Botswana.
Over the coming weeks I will be setting out my plans for the ESMO Foundation, along with other critical initiatives, among others the development of a model for fair pricing and reimbursement of cancer medicines, a comprehensive cancer prevention plan together with policies to properly support cancer survivors. All these together will help us achieve even greater equality in all senses of the word, from equality of opportunities for our members to equality of cancer care for patients worldwide. I look forward to sharing those plans with you and to working with you to continue advancing ESMO’s mission, vision and values for the benefit of cancer patients worldwide.
- The Health Foundation, “Will COVID-19 be a watershed moment for health inequalities?”, 7 May 2020, J.Bibby, G.Everest, I.Abbs