ESMO is an open, dynamic and collaborative Society, not content simply to foresee hurdles, but also finding ways to overcome them
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Dear Colleagues and Friends

Throughout my professional life I have always believed that oncology should know no barriers and I have brought this same belief to my Presidency of our Society.

Over the past two years the Executive Board and I have worked hard to identify and overcome barriers in every possible area of oncology – be they barriers encountered by oncology professionals on account of their age, gender or location, or by patients unable to receive optimal cancer treatment and care.

Broadening our horizons both professionally and geographically will play an important part in breaking down the barriers which still remain and it is for this reason that ESMO has now become ‘Across oncology. Worldwide.’


ESMO membership: changes ahead

As you may already know, ESMO is opening its membership to all professionals involved in cancer research, diagnosis, treatment, care and advocacy worldwide. In parallel with this, we are proposing to streamline our membership structure so that people from all these fields can benefit from membership and participate in our community, which is growing more rapidly than at any other time.

In just two years, ESMO’s membership has nearly doubled from 7,000 to more than 13,000 today. However, it is equally important to note that an increasing proportion of our members are based beyond Europe – with 22% now working in Asia. 


ESMO Asia 2015: first step of our global approach

With this in mind, we will take another significant step forward in our global, no-borders approach to oncology by hosting our first ESMO Asia Congress later this month. The event in Singapore will allow professionals from across the region to participate in an ESMO congress without travelling to Europe. The congress is also recognition of the excellent work and research taking place in Asia and I am delighted that more than half of the scientific committee and speakers are from the region.

I know ESMO Asia 2015 will be a great success – but it is only the beginning. In the years ahead, our aim is to organise educational events in other parts of the world including ESMO Latin America and ESMO Africa, so that as many oncology professionals as possible have the opportunity to meet, collaborate and become part of our extended family.

Reshaping ESMO Activities

With growth and expansion comes greater responsibility to our members and the wider oncology community including, of course, our patients, to whom we are all ultimately accountable. We take those responsibilities seriously and have been re-shaping our activities to meet them.

The needs of our members have been at the forefront of our thinking and the establishment of an annual congress in Europe will be important in helping us all to keep up to date with the increasing pace of developments in oncology across all disciplines.

We have initiated a residential course for medical students providing insights into all aspects of medical oncology which took place in Valencia. It was extremely successful and will continue on an annual basis.

We have also established the ESMO Academy, an intensive, three-day course designed specifically for professionals intending to take the ESMO Examination or requiring a comprehensive update. The first Academy, which took place in Oxford during the summer, was attended by 350 delegates from across the world. As well as being a tremendous event which will also take place annually in the future, it will give all those who attend the best possible opportunity to succeed in the exam or bring their knowledge back to their practice.

In addition, the ESMO Executive Board has been working to develop the leaders of the future – both of ESMO and our profession as a whole. The ESMO Women for Oncology network, which has grown significantly during the past two years, held an excellent session during the European Cancer Congress in Vienna and is now defining future activities to help move towards a gender balanced environment. A new ESMO leadership development programme will begin in 2016 and our Young Oncologists Committee has gone from strength-to-strength throughout the past two years.

We have maintained our focus on core products and services for members by expanding the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines while at the same time embracing new technology to make them available via smartphone apps. Another exciting development is our new open access journal ESMO Open – Cancer Horizons, which will be published online from early next year and will emphasise quality scientific research as well as political and societal issues touching our ESMO community. 

Maintaining the rapid pace of oncology progress 

As well as taking responsibility for the professional development of our members, ESMO is playing its part in maintaining the rapid pace of progress in oncology. Here again, we have been taking a no-borders approach on behalf of our patients.

In an era requiring a deep understanding of the molecular biology and immune mechanisms underlying the development of cancer, it is essential that researchers and clinicians understand and respect each other’s work and collaborate more closely. It is for this reason that we have developed a partnership with the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) which will see us organising joint events such as the Signalling Pathway Symposium in March next year. The ESMO 2017 Congress in Madrid will also be the first of our annual meetings in partnership with the EACR, bringing together professionals from many disciplines to help bridge the gap between the laboratory and the clinic.

Exciting advances are also being made in immunotherapy, which has the potential to benefit patients with a number of tumour types beyond melanoma and lung cancer. We will continue the yearly ESMO Symposium on Immuno-Oncology which was initiated in 2013, and which this year brought together more than 600 professionals from 52 countries to share the results of scientific advances and clinical trials and to discuss how we can best work together to usher in a new era of cancer medicine.

Likewise, ESMO has been instrumental in bringing together a number of organisations within the Clinical Academic Cancer Research Forum (CAREFOR). Along with the EACR, the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), other societies and national groups, ESMO is helping to identify and overcome hurdles to undertaking cross-border academic clinical trials in Europe, while also creating a platform for exchange between stakeholders.

Also of note is ESMO’s decision to redouble its work in the public policy arena which will be co-ordinated by two new committees responsible for European affairs and global affairs. Important initiatives include the development of the Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale (ESMO-MCBS) and the development of reports looking at the accessibility of anti-cancer medicines across Europe and internationally.

Public affairs is also set to be a priority for ECCO and I am proud to have been critically contributing to a path which is leading to its transformation from a congress-focused organisation to one focusing primarily on major policy issues. I wish ECCO’s new President Peter Naredi every success in completing this process.


And to finish, a thank you...

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues on the Executive Board and all the ESMO officers and staff for their invaluable support. I would also like to congratulate Fortunato Ciardiello as he becomes President and takes responsibility for guiding our Society on its continuing journey over the next two years.

ESMO is an open, dynamic and collaborative Society which is not content simply to foresee hurdles, but is finding ways to overcome them. And it is not satisfied only to identify challenges, but is actively seeking solutions.

I have always said that one should only look forward – and never back. I believe that ESMO is well positioned to maximise every opportunity in the years ahead and should look forward with a sense of excitement and optimism.

Rolf A. Stahel
ESMO President

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