ASCO's strategic plan for cancer care in LMICs

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Published: 8 Jan 2024
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Dr Lynn Schuchter - President, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), USA

Dr Lynn Schuchter discusses ASCO's strategic plan for cancer care in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with ecancer.

She highlights the grants offered by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to young oncologists working in Africa.

She also talks about the courses developed by ASCO to improve cancer care by training clinicians and other healthcare workers involved in a multidisciplinary team.

Dr Schuchter concludes by discussing the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed last year between ASCO and AORTIC for developing educational opportunities and training meetings in Africa.

ASCO's strategic plan for cancer care in LMICs

Dr Lynn Schuchter - President, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), USA

Would you be able to describe the work ASCO’s ‘strategic plan’ is doing for cancer care in LMICs?

Yes, so ASCO has a strategic plan and recently we updated that strategic plan. It’s a five-year goal and it’s three pillars of access to clinical care, cancer care, and research to ensure a healthy work environment wherever people are getting their cancer care and knowledge, providing education and training to global professionals. So what we’ve done with this strategic plan is that, reflecting ASCO’s global membership and mission, global impact is really across all three of our pillars. So everything that we’re doing and thinking about education, research, care delivery, has the idea of thinking, ‘Yes, what for the US, but importantly what are the opportunities globally?’ And so that is a really important way that ASCO has really changed our five-year vision.

ASCO, as you know, is a professional organisation that has medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, but also nurses and pharmacists. And our members, which is approaching 50,000, come from all over the world. About a third of our members come from outside of the United States and here in Africa there are almost a thousand ASCO members. So this is really important for ASCO to be here at AORTIC ‘23, and we are learning so much by being here with our colleagues.

What grants does ASCO have for young oncologists working in Africa?

One of the priorities of ASCO is to develop grants. We think this is essential to train the next generation of investigators, so with our foundation, called Conquer Cancer, we’ve developed a number of special grants and I want to highlight a couple. One is called the IDEA Grant, and also IDEA PC for palliative care. This is an amazing grant for a young oncologist who needs a mentored experience. There are opportunities to come to the United States and then be mentored on a clinical project. Over 63 ASCO members who are in Africa have been IDEA recipients. Then what we’ve seen is that once you get this first grant, it builds on other grants that ASCO has or other foundations. So we have LIFe awards, we have a very important grant called a YIA for young investigators and, again, so many of our ASCO members in Africa have received YIAs. And we recently have targeted very specific YIA grants that target global oncology.

I’d say that important things that we’ve learned here at AORTIC ’23 is that some of the review criteria for grants, we really have to think about what have been the opportunities, what has been the mentorship. So I think you’ll see ASCO’s continued investment in our grant program. This is what we see as a vital role for our professional society, to really ensure a healthy, vibrant research workforce.

What courses have been developed for ASCO to help investigators?

So we’ve developed at ASCO a number of clinical programs. This includes multidisciplinary training. So we know, as we care for patients with cancer, that requires a team. Multiple disciplines, yes – medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgeons – but teams that include palliative care providers, social workers, nurses. So we’ve done trainings in multidisciplinary care, we have workshops in palliative care. Really importantly are some of our leadership development courses that we’ve held here in Africa and around the world. There are specific skills to learn: how to be a leader, how to implement new programmes. So we’re really proud of these programmes and we partner with our colleagues here in Africa to see what are going to be the most important trainings that we can offer and that would be valuable to you.

Could you tell us about the MOU that ASCO has been working on?

So we’re really excited that last year ASCO and AORTIC signed an MOU, a memorandum of understanding. The purpose of this is for us to work together, for us to meet with AORTIC. How can ASCO help in terms of developing educational opportunities, training, meetings? So this is a really exciting partnership. We met last year at our annual meeting in Chicago and we met this meeting. We are excited about the growth of AORTIC. This is record attendance at AORTIC ’23, with over a thousand participants and this is a really important relationship with AORTIC. What we can feel at this meeting is how hungry everybody is to share their knowledge and learn how to collaborate, how to apply and implement all the learnings to really help patients with cancer.