“This has been an incredible meeting. As President of ASCO, I am actually envious of the amount of really terrific science. Several game changers were presented here—there were six New England Journal of Medicine papers over the five days, and that’s unprecedented. The really great thing here is not that ESMO did a good job, or that ASCO does a good job, it’s that we’re doing a better job taking care of our patients and that’s what we’re seeing here this week. We’re seeing a reduction in mortality in metastatic melanoma, metastatic recurrent ovarian cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer. Who thought we would ever see that? And it’s not just the immunotherapy that’s exciting—although I think it’s the most exciting thing in oncology—it’s also the PARP inhibitors, the CDK4/6 inhibitors and the mTOR inhibitors. There is so much going on, it’s just unbelievable. I’m fond of saying I wish I was 30 years old again, for many reasons, not just for the science, but boy this is a great time to be an oncologist and it’s a great time to be in the field. And the really great thing is the way that ESMO and ASCO are working together, not just to make these advances but also to apply them. Medicine doesn’t work if it doesn’t get to the patient and we have a number of challenges in this respect. We have to get the cost of these drugs down so that everyone can receive them. It’s bad enough that any patient dies of metastatic cancer because we don’t understand the cancer and we don’t have the therapies, but it’s even worse if a patient dies who could have been cured. And we have to fix that. ASCO’s trying, ESMO’s trying; we’re working together. Let’s face it, most of our fathers and grandfathers were fighting a war and trying to kill each other and now we’re sitting around a table and trying to save lives. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And ESMO, this meeting, really shows that we can do that.”
ESMO 2016: Reflections and aspirations
This ESMO Congress has been really spectacular. The scientific content has been focused on patient care, especially with a clinical and a translational approach. Importantly, we were able to secure an outstanding scientific programme. The programme included 47 Late-Breaking Abstracts, 11 of which were featured in the three Presidential Sessions. We have seen innovations in different diseases, among which are melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer and ovarian cancer, giving very good news for patients. At the same time, several sessions discussed how we can make these drugs—these innovations—available to all patients. This is very important: ESMO is a worldwide society, in common with other societies, such as ASCO and the NCCN platform. As such, we think it’s very important for us all to discuss with stakeholders how we can improve patient access to medicines, not only innovative agents but also all essential medicines. Even drugs that are relatively inexpensive are not available in many countries. So the discussion on accessibility relates to how we can formulate ESMO initiatives that policy makers can consider to help make these drugs available on a wider scale. For example, ESMO has established the Cancer Medicines Working Group that works very closely with the ESMO Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale Working Group in putting the efficacy and safety of drugs into perspective with the actual value they offer to the patient and, ultimately, value-based reimbursement. This is a crucial aspect because the only way to favour availability and dissemination is to address it in relation to different reimbursement policies. ESMO is working to secure the co-operation of all stakeholders, including reimbursing bodies, representatives of national health systems and national cancer plans, patients, specialists, health economists and the pharma companies. Our ultimate goal is to provide models that will enhance the availability of information worldwide.
This article appeared in the Tuesday edition of the Daily Reporter