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World Health Organization (WHO)

ESMO collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) to tackle the global scourge of cancer

ESMO has been supporting and promoting WHO’s global initiatives since 2002 and was granted ‘Official Relations Status’ in 2013. As a result of this status, ESMO can amplify its policy messaging through participation in WHO governing body meetings and the delivery of official statements to all Member States.

Technical collaboration between WHO and ESMO is implemented through multiannual work plans that focus on implementing resolutions on cancer, evaluation of cancer medicines for the WHO List of Essential Medicines (EML), optimising cancer workforce, and development and implementation of the WHO Integrated Health Tool (IHT) module for cancer to scale up national cancer control plans. ESMO has supported the expanding of the IHT with data from two cancers to 20 cancers, and by supporting its implementation so far in five countries (Mozambique, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Senegal, Palestine).

Dr Raffaella Casolino is the third ESMO young medical oncologist on the World Health Organization (WHO) Cancer Control team in Geneva. Since February 2023, she is working as a WHO staff member to implement the current WHO-ESMO workplan through several global cancer initiatives that aim to support countries in the achievement of the goals of the 2017 World Health Assembly Cancer Resolution and Universal Health Coverage. The position is made possible through ESMO’s status as a Non-State Actor in official relations with the WHO and attendant work to foster a dialogue between oncology and global health.​   

Over the years, ESMO has supported the adoption of many WHO resolutions, including on reducing premature deaths from cancer, improving access to cancer services, medicines, and palliative care, achieving universal health coverage, building up the oncology workforce, and ensuring continuity of cancer care during health emergencies. In addition, ESMO has contributed to WHO global initiatives for childhood, cervical, and breast cancer, with technical input and references to the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines, including those on fertility preservation and supportive and palliative care. A prominent example of ESMO-WHO collaboration at the country level is a project with the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan, where ESMO reviewed the country's cancer treatment standards, which supported the Ministry in optimising its cancer treatment protocols.

Landmark decisions and reports that ESMO actively supported are the: 

ESMO advocated for the inclusion in these documents of specific actions on cancer, including the need to ensure a core set of cancer and palliative care services in national universal health coverage benefit packages so that no cancer patient is left behind. To assist countries in implementing the 2017 WHO Cancer Resolution, ESMO is collaborating on WHO projects to optimize the cancer workforce, scale up NCCPs, increase access to medicines, improve cancer treatment and care for childhood and cervical cancer, and to promote cancer prevention and healthy lifestyles, in addition to disseminating WHO’s global policy recommendations on cancer prevention and control.

ESMO contributed to the review of the WHO Report on Cancer: Setting priorities, investing wisely and providing care for allwhich highlights one example of how ESMO and WHO are working together for sustainable cancer care. The WHO report cites a case study of a joint project with ESMO and the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan, where ESMO reviewed the  country's cancer treatment standards, using the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, the European Medicines Agency's medicine indications, the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines,  the ESMO-Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale version 1.1 and expert peer review. The assessment supported the Ministry of Health in optimizing its cancer treatment protocols and linking them to the national essential medicines list as well as maintaining the country’s long-standing commitment to offer its citizens evidence-based comprehensive cancer care as part of universal health coverage plan.

Find out more about ESMO’s participation in WHO meetings of the World Health Assembly, and UN High-Level Meetings, and read ESMO’s official statements at these meetings on critical issues related to cancer.

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