It’s always a great opportunity when we’re at ASCO to meet with colleagues far and wide and yesterday was the annual meeting of the North American chapter of the African Organisation for Research and Training on Cancer, also known as AORTIC. At the AORTIC ASCO event yesterday it was really so heartening to hear from so many especially strong women leaders and women mentees in cancer research from across the African continent. Among the top mentors really in her field is Dr Verna Vanderpuye. Dr Vanderpuye is well known to many here at ASCO, she sits on the International Affairs committee, and she’s one of the co-Chairs on a new commission from The Lancet on Women and Cancer and I’m delighted to be one of the other Co-Chairs. Our third Co-Chair is Dr Isabelle Soejomataram who’s at the WHO’s cancer research agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
All this to say, the conversation was about where we’re at with our commission, and to get people interested and excited about the findings that we’ll be publishing this September. One of our main partners on the commission is eCancer, so we have a lot of thanks to eCancer for hosting our website and bringing us together in many ways in different fora.
The commission really came about because of recognition that women’s health often did not include any consideration regarding cancer that women may get. Not just women’s cancers, like breast and GYN cancer, but women developing colon cancer and lung cancer. These are still thought of as being men’s diseases in many parts of the world, and the numbers are growing in every country worldwide. At the same time, we recognised that women are providing most of the care for cancer patients, and most of the cancer control efforts, whether it’s primary or secondary prevention, or treatment or survivorship care. When we go beyond just thinking of ourselves in the professions, in medical oncology or even nursing oncology, think about all the community health workers in many countries who play a huge role in the management of patients with cancer, as well as the unpaid caregivers looking after family in the home. We saw this was an opportunity to really address asymmetries of power as they relate to cancer and women. So that’s a little taste of what the commission is about.
We are 21 commissioners from more than ten countries with eight mentees, a six-person patient advocacy committee representing every region of the world. We came together to prioritise and then address some of the tougher questions like what is the value of women’s work in oncology? So, stay tuned for more, but it was exciting to see Dr Vanderpuye present you with the sort of titbits about the commission, at the AORTIC meeting.