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ASCO GI Symposium increasing focus on cancer disparities

January 30, 2023
ASCO GI Symposium

By: Adrian K. Barfield, Cancer Disparities Advocate

January 27, 2023, San Francisco, California

The annual ASCO GI meeting celebrated 20 years of focused presentations on a variety of GI-related tumors and achieved a record attendance with over 4500 attendees. The 20th annual meeting was appropriately kicked off by Dr. Margaret Tempero, who the 2023 chair, Dr. George Chang of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, noted was “the driving force behind this meeting” during her tenure as ASCO President. Encouraged by Dr. Paul Bunn, Dr. Tempero was instrumental in putting the team together and executing the early meetings. This year’s meeting had a theme of Applying Innovation, Transforming Care, and Advancing Equity! The annual meeting, once again in San Francisco, certainly had a big focus on all three areas of the theme, but a noticeable effort is being made to advance and improve equity.

This year’s meeting had over 29 posters highlighting disparities related to specific tumors, and a few focused on the financial burden associated with cancer care. Everyone admits that we have a long way to go to identify and address cancer disparities, but the societies such as ASCO taking the lead will accelerate the progress. Of the associated posters, 11 were focused on colon cancer, 6 focused on pancreatic cancer, and the remainder gastric, esophageal, hepatobiliary, and other. Dr. Lorna McNeill of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center delivered an eye-opening keynote on Equitable Solutions for Reducing Excess Mortality in Minority Populations. Throughout the meeting, clinicians were eager to speak about disparities and the work happening around the country. Institutions are beginning to put people in place to address challenges in getting patients on clinical trials and breaking down obvious access barriers. In speaking with Dr. Sherice Rogers of the University of Florida, her passion for “ensuring diversity in clinical trials” was obvious, and she was vocal about the support and commitment she receives from her leadership. She also mentioned how important it is to “establish trust and show that you care” when interacting with patients. Dr. Howard Hochster, who has made tremendous strides at the Cancer Center of New Jersey, mentioned that over 40% of their population is diverse; however, many aspects of our Healthcare System are “broken” and need to be overhauled, especially as it relates to “cost of care”. Cost has always been a barrier and can be a core reason for disparities in many areas.

As the focus on disparities continues to increase, it will be exciting to watch the diversification of clinical trial participation and the improvement of outcomes for all patient populations.



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