ASCO President Lists Progress Made in Cancer, Highlighting Current Priorities

August 2017, Vol 10, Special Issue: Payers’ Perspectives in Oncology: ASCO 2017 Highlights
Wayne Kuznar

Chicago, IL—The theme of the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting was “Making a Difference in Cancer Care With You.” The meeting attracted 38,000 attendees from around the world over 5 days.

In his presidential address, 2016-2017 ASCO President, Daniel F. Hayes, MD, FACP, FASCO, Co-­Director, Breast Oncology Program, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, highlighted the progress made in cancer care that he has witnessed during a 35-year career. Although much progress has been made in curing many types of cancer, he said, “the real problem is, we don’t cure enough of them, and we’re not curing them fast enough.”

He enumerated the challenges that prevent the curing of every cancer.

“I’ve also seen glimpses of how we will address these challenges, and I’m excited about laboratory, translational, and clinical research that offers new hope to those in the past for whom there was none,” Dr Hayes said.

“I’m excited about educational initiatives that will help all of us transfer these wonderful discoveries into our routine clinical care,” he said.

Cancer Research

In terms of research, recent success in improving cancer outcomes is threatened by the diminished support to the National Institutes of Health, and specifically the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr Hayes said. Accounting for inflation, the NCI budget has decreased by more than $1.1 billion (24.7%) since fiscal year 2003.

“This deficit is driving a wedge between where we should be, and where we are in federally funded cancer research, and I fear this wedge is pushing young and highly gifted investigators out of medical, and in particular cancer, research,” he said.

Precision Medicine

“As we all know, precision medicine is a hot topic,” said Dr Hayes. However, “this movement has been met with justifiable skepticism. Prospective trials to test this strategy are critical. ASCO strongly supports the federally funded LungMAP and MATCH trials being conducted by the North American clinical cancer cooperative groups. These trials…are designed to determine the value of precision medicine for patients with metastatic cancer,” he added, noting that these 2 trials have strict eligibility criteria, which may complicate patient participation.

Furthermore, he said, ASCO has recently initiated a new clinical trial—the Targeted Agent and Profiling Utilization Registry (TAPUR) Study. ASCO has partnered with 7 companies that have provided 17 drugs for TAPUR, and 65 oncology practices and cancer institutions have already enrolled 301 patients in the study. And ASCO is expecting that 36 additional sites will join in by the end of 2017.

“We owe it to our patients to not just assume the strategy of precision medicine is appropriate but to prove it, and these trials are a step toward that,” Dr Hayes said.

Educational Initiatives

Education is key for progress. “This meeting alone demonstrates how critically important education is to our mission,” he said. “But the annual meeting is just the tip of the iceberg. I urge all of you to explore the educational resources on our website to better understand how ASCO works ‘with you’ to help improve cancer care, whether you are an established doctor or nurse, one in training, or a patient or other lay individual,” Dr Hayes said, adding that “we can do better.”

This spring, he said, ASCO established 2 new educational initiatives:

  1. The Education Scholars Program, which will mirror the Leadership Development Program, will focus on “teaching interested members of ASCO how to be better teachers.” The goal is to apply cognitive science and learning theory to ASCO activities and to develop educational leadership skills
  2. An Education Council that will be charged with reviewing and coordinating all educational services within the society and “will revolutionize what ASCO offers to us by taking advantage of innovative methods in learning science,” he suggested.

High-Quality Cancer Care

Ensuring the delivery of high-quality care regardless of geography or financial means, is another priority.

“As our treatments become even more complex, this issue becomes even more acute. All the advances in the world will do no good if they aren’t applied properly or at all,” he said.

ASCO is addressing practice heterogeneity and disparities in care not only through advocacy but also by generating guidelines and improving practice pathways.

“ASCO is actively engaged in shaping Medicare’s change from a fee-for-service model to the new Quality Payment Program,” said Dr Hayes.

“The transition to Medicare’s new Quality Payment Program is already underway, and it will be transformative for not just how we are reimbursed, but how we practice,” he said.

Survivorship Care

Finally, Dr Hayes noted that although cancer mortality has declined by as much as 20% in the past 20 years, this decline varies by geography and demographics, highlighting the need to improve quality care to all patients, regardless of where they live.

“When you are diagnosed with cancer, where you live should not dictate whether you live,” Dr Hayes said.

ASCO is committed to ensuring that every patient with cancer and every survivor enjoys a healthy life after cancer treatment. A specific survivorship track was added to the 2017 ASCO annual meeting, and ASCO now offers an annual survivorship symposium.

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