The ESMO President discusses the congress and future plans for developing countries

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Published: 22 Oct 2010
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Prof David Kerr - President of ESMO
Managing Editor Prof Gordon McVie interviews the current president of the European Society of Medical Oncology about the 35th annual conference held in Milan 8-12th October 2010. 16,000 attendees and top quality science.

ESMO 2010


Professor David Kerr – President of ESMO


The ESMO President discusses the congress and future plans for developing countries



David, congratulations on a great ESMO meeting, everybody is buzzing about it. 15,000 people they say, it was really quite extraordinary; you’re well on your way to getting your 10,000 new members for ESMO and so on. What’s your reaction been to the meeting?


Fantastic. The best ESMO meeting, no matter how you cut it – quality of science, number of people coming, attendance by patients – the best ESMO meeting ever. It’s actually 16,000 people came, more than 500 patients, more than 12,000 docs. Attendance good, quality of science better. The Presidential Symposium in which there were at last some practice-changing large phase III trials presented here in Europe, their home, for the first time. So I think the buzz is real, there’s a momentum behind us and I just feel that ESMO is really in a strong ascendancy just now.


And nice to see some of the Americans come in with the phase III trials.


Wasn’t it brilliant? Some fantastic American discussants, some primary data, and I’ve got to say I had a delightful meeting with George Sledge who’s the president of ASCO. There’s been a lot of stuff about trying to drive wedges between European and American medicine – “We don’t like ASCO”, no, we love it. George Sledge is a fantastic chap, we co-chaired a great symposium on angiogenesis, science interaction and it’s good. So ESMO is a meeting place for the world, the global cancer community, to come together.


So that takes me into post-ESMO in Milan and your third declaration of intent which I wrote up in the ESMO newspaper was developing countries. Now, the last time you were on was from Tanzania, it was the pan-Africa congress which you were very much involved in and we were there filming you and a lot of the other African leaders. What are you going to do?


Three important things have emerged from this meeting: one is that George Sledge and I have decided that the next ASCO/ESMO symposium in ASCO in the States will be around cancer in the developing world. I think that the more we talk about it, the more we spread the message, the more our… and I mean this, the global village of cancer physicians can get involved. We believe that American doctors don’t know enough about cancer in the developing world, it’s a big tick against that. We had the first meeting of our Chronic Disease Alliance; as you know, all the WHO/UN Millennium Development goals are around infectious disease. We know that by 2020 there will be more cancer deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined and next year, 2011, in September the UN is going to have a special health day. I’m working with the President of the European Society of Cardiology, of Diabetology, of Pulmonology, so that we can get chronic diseases as one of the Millennium Development goals. Our African colleagues are crying out for this, big tick there.


The third thing is our developing countries taskforce in ESMO. What a gang. Chaired by Håkan Mellstedt, former President of ESMO, and Adamos Adamou, quite the most passionate oncologist politician I’ve ever come across.


Ex-MEP? Cypriot, as I recall.


Ex-MEP, Cypriot, may at some stage become the Health Minister of his own country. But a fantastic leader and has political connections everywhere, supported by, I think, some of the best oncologists in the developing world. They’ve got some great ideas about awareness raising, minimum treatment guidelines, palliative care. So we at ESMO have managed to breathe real life into it and empower our colleagues out there. So it’s been a great meeting from that point of view, and we’ll build on it, that’s a promise.


Well, will go with you because we’re already being watched from 203 countries which is, for us, one of the reasons we’re setting this free site up. We’ll maybe be sitting in on the back of the ESMO/ASCO meeting on developing country oncology.


It makes a difference, Gordon, because if we’re embarked upon a journey, and we are, if we travel together then we travel more safely, more certainly, so let’s do that.


David, thanks very much and safe home.


Thank you Gordon. Thanks very much indeed.