139th National Cancer Advisory Board
President, reminded members that the five-fold ASCO mission is to improve cancer care and prevention, advance education and training, foster communication among the subspecialties, advocate public policy, and assist practicing oncologists. ASCO, now in its 42nd year, is the largest professional organization related to oncology professions, having more than 24,000 members. ASCO membership consists primarily of medical oncologists but also serves as the umbrella organization to surgical, radiation, and pediatric oncology services, and head and neck oncologists; urologists, nurses, oncology advocacy group representatives, and other professionals related to oncology.
As an international organization, with more than 29 percent of the members living outside the United States, ASCO has an opportunity to influence oncology practice, research, and policy worldwide. To that end, the International Affairs Department and Committee was organized several years ago with representation from oncology organizations throughout the world. Initiatives developed through this committee include grants such as: (1) the IDEA Award, which brings oncologists from underdeveloped countries to the ASCO annual meeting and for a visit to a comprehensive cancer center; (2) a multidisciplinary cancer management course; (3) the Best of ASCO, a 1- or 2-day review of annual meeting highlights, which is presented in various parts of the world every year; (4) and support for a technology idea transfer fellowship in collaboration with the International Union against Cancer (UICC).
ASCO is governed by an 18-member Board of Directors, and its activities are fostered by 22 committees and a number of task forces, with support from 200 staff members. Dr. Hortobagyi briefly reviewed the rich and longstanding collaboration with the NCI through members who serve on a variety of NCI committees and advisory boards and NCI staff who serve on various ASCO committees and the Board of Directors. In addition, NCI and ASCO leadership and staff meet regularly.
Dr. Hortobagyi highlighted current ASCO research priorities in the areas of translational research, clinical trials, ASCO grants, and legislative advocacy. In the area of translational research, Biomarker and Imaging Task Forces have been created to advise the Board of Directors on strategies to improve the translational content of ASCO educational activities, as well as translational research to be fostered through ASCO. Recommendations of the Task Forces were reviewed in February, and an Implementation Task Force met in early summer to initiate implementation. Some initiatives in this regard are the increase in the translational content of ASCO annual meetings; expansion of support for training and the development of translational investigators; contacts with organizations and societies that represent research in biomarkers and molecular imaging to enhance the ability to incorporate these approaches to new drug development and clinical research; the development of a professorship in translational research within ASCO; interaction with the FDA in the Critical Pathway Initiative; and participation in the Uniform Protocol for Imaging in Clinical Trials (UPICT) to expand the application of PET, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other forms of functional imaging in translational research and clinical trials. Dr. Hortobagyi indicated that ASCO also is working toward reform of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and similar legislation that are roadblocks to effective and efficient clinical research. Factual data are being collected so that the process can be reexamined and solutions proposed. He noted that it has been 10 years since HIPAA was enacted and 3 years since the last review, and that some of the DHHS Secretary’s recommendations have not yet been implemented. He expressed the view that HIPAA could be refined to provide a better approach to both protection of confidential information and effective conduct of research.
In the area of clinical trials, Dr. Hortobagyi emphasized ASCO awareness of and support for the highest level of integrity in the research process. ASCO has paid substantial attention to the avoidance of conflict of interest (COI) policy or effective management when avoidance is impossible. ASCO’s COI policy was first implemented in 1994 and has been updated several times since then. At the most recent Board meeting, the various ASCO COI policies for members, volunteers, and employees have been