The theme of the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology was: “Partnering with Patients: The Cornerstone of Cancer Care and Research.” Selected by 2022-2023 ASCO President Eric P. Winer, MD, FASCO – he challenges the global oncology community to look at how interactions between clinicians and patients have changed over the years.

“Annual Meeting is a time where we can celebrate the contributions of patients who have participated in clinical trials, which have made possible virtually all cancer progress from the last 50-plus years,” Dr. Winer said. “Let us be energized for the next 50 years by the incredible advances in cancer treatment, research, and care that are to be discovered at the ASCO Annual Meeting.”

The 2023 ASCO featured many opportunities to discuss patient engagement and the patient journey. Rajasree Pia Chowdry, MD discussed, “The Long Road to Equity: Life in Cancer Alley.” In this compelling presentation she reflected on her experience as an oncologist serving patients who are impacted by socioeconomic and health care disparities in access to screening and care, “Ultimately, we cannot change cancer outcomes and statistics until we ensure equal access to all patients. This is of particular importance in the era of the Cancer Moonshot initiative,” she said.

Shalaan Beg, MD, MS gave a talk entitled, “Partnering With Patients for Modern Clinical Trials.” In his talk Dr. Beg challenged the global cancer community to modernize clinical trials so patients can access them regardless of their zip code. “How can we move clinical trial activities to where patients are, whether that is at their homes or their local physician’s office?” he said. “People who live in rural areas, those who are older, lack insurance, or are from minority groups tend to be underrepresented in clinical trials and that’s bad for society, it’s bad for public health, it’s bad for those patients and for drug development.”

Another compelling presentation came from Michael Serzan, MD, who presented, “If You Want to Go Fast, Go Alone; If You Want to Go Far, Go Together.” In this passionate presentation Dr. Serzan shows how joining forces with patients outside the clinical setting—in his case, for a bike race—can renew a sense of purpose and display the resilience that patients can give one another and their physicians.
“I was drawn to a career in oncology because of the opportunity to serve patients who were often vulnerable and suffering,” he said. “I found it incredibly rewarding to use medicine as a tool to transform suffering into hope.”

These and countless other presentations provided the more than 50,000 attendees with a renewed hope and refreshed attitude toward the future.To underscore the importance of the cancer patient to everyone attending ASCO, and the world, it was a happy coincidence that National Cancer Survivor’s Day occurred on June 4 – right in the middle of the meeting. We should also be reminded that National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week will take place from June 15 to June 21.

If you or your organization is seeking improved cancer patient engagement and advocacy programs, please call us for a free consultation.