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Dear Colleagues and Friends,

As you are no doubt aware, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of our esteemed Society and although we have been celebrating this significant milestone all year, it gives me particular pleasure to write to you during July – the very month that ESMO was founded in 1975.

Back then, it would not have been possible to foresee the tremendous progress that has been made in the fight against cancer, nor to anticipate the increasingly important part that medical oncology has played in these advances and continues to play today, within an integrated approach to cancer treatment and care.

Likewise, it would have been impossible to envisage the growth of this Society or predict the pivotal role it would come to play in the most significant and practice changing advances of the past 40 years.

The very first meeting of the Societé de Médicine Interne Cancerologique, as ESMO was originally known, was held at the famous Hotel Negresco in Nice in 1975. Although they may not have realised it at the time, the people who organised that meeting, along with the 100 or so delegates who attended, were visionaries.

From those most humble origins, ESMO has grown into an international society whose members now number more than 10,000, while our most recent Congress in Madrid last year was a truly international meeting, attracting nearly 20,000 delegates from across oncology and from 134 countries worldwide.

Both of these meetings – our very first and most recent – feature at either end of a timeline which you can explore by clicking on the link below. The timeline has been designed to celebrate our development and growth over the past 40 years by providing a snapshot of the major milestones along our journey to date, all of which have played their part in shaping the Society of today.

40 years of supporting oncology professionals in their fight against cancer

Take a walk through the ESMO timeline

ESMO 40 interactive timeline

As you will see, the timeline starts by outlining the Society’s origins, including that first meeting in France and the establishment of our original mission “to nurture new scientific advances in oncology and to support and educate oncologists at all levels, in order to improve the quality of oncology throughout Europe and beyond”, which remains so relevant today as we strive for the very best cancer care for all patients, wherever they may be.
It also charts important developments such as the first ESMO Fellowships in 1989 and publication of the first ESMO Guidelines in 1998, which have been so instrumental in setting common standards of medical practice. It goes on to document the European Commission’s announcement in 2011 formally recognising medical oncology in Europe as a speciality – an important development which followed several years of intense discussion between ESMO, key national societies and EU Member States.

All these achievements, along with many others included on the timeline, have not only contributed to the establishment of ESMO as Europe’s leading oncology society, but have also paved the way for the important decisions being taken today – decisions which are likely to feature prominently on any future timelines in years to come.

In order to fulfil the legacy of those visionaries who established ESMO exactly 40 years ago, we must not simply accommodate today’s rapid pace of progress in oncology, but must create and drive that change so as to quicken the pace of progress still further for the benefit of cancer patients.

With this in mind, one of the most important decisions we have taken recently is to organise an annual Congress in Europe, the first of which will be a partnership meeting with the European Association of Cancer Research (EACR) in 2017.

Also looking ahead, we have developed a set of over-arching values which will guide our future development by ensuring the principles of Integrity, Commitment, Accountability and Excellence are an integral part of our work and lives:

Integrity: We are people of our word. We work honestly, communicate transparently, foster reciprocal trust in all our relations, and judge based on professional merit alone.

Commitment: We give our whole-hearted support to accomplishing our mission and supporting each other. We are always there for our Society, our profession, our colleagues, as well as our patients.

Accountability: We take full responsibility. Each of us stands behind our actions and decisions.

Excellence: We are never satisfied with mediocrity and seek to achieve the highest standards in everything we do.

With a similar goal in mind, we have also developed a new Code of Conduct to ensure the highest standards are maintained across the organisation at all times and that the actions of our officers, staff and representatives are beyond reproach – an essential step in maintaining the trust and confidence of all our stakeholders in an age when transparency is more important than ever before.

I hope this letter demonstrates that, as well as taking the time to celebrate the many achievements of ESMO over its first 40 years and the people whose commitment and dedication made them happen, the Executive Board has maintained its focus on the future.

Like those who went before us, we are committed to building a strong and influential Society which is best placed to accelerate the pace of change in oncology while at the same time representing the interests of oncologists and those from other disciplines who may join us in the future.

Rolf A. Stahel
ESMO President
on behalf of the ESMO Executive Board