During the first week of June 2022, a great deal of enthusiasm was noticeable at McCormick Place in Chicago, where around 31,000 oncology professionals attended the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting in person for the first time since 2019. Importantly, a substantial number of attendees (a further 11,500, roughly) joined the meeting online, suggesting that contemporary scientific meetings should be held in hybrid formats to meet the needs of a diverse global community.
In line with ASCO Annual Meetings held in the past few years, equity was a central theme in the scientific programme. This focus was manifest in aspects ranging from the variety of topics covered in sessions to the choice of this year’s recipients of Special Awards. In his opening address, Everett Vokes, this year’s ASCO President, explained that the already existing disparities in cancer care have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and various conflicts; and that ASCO is committed to closing this gap. The Opening Session also featured a sobering talk in which André Ilbawi provided details on the global extent of cancer care disparities, and called for the global oncology community to come together and for the main stakeholders to “invest in people”.
As part of its commitment to improving equity, at this Annual Meeting ASCO and the Association of Community Cancer Centers presented a Joint Research Statement that provides recommendations to improve equity, diversity and inclusion in oncology clinical trials. Indeed, only 4‒6% and 3‒6% of trial participants in the USA describe themselves as Black or Hispanic, respectively, despite representing 15% and 13% of individuals with cancer in this country. The results of this and other initiatives to promote equity in clinical research are eagerly awaited, although improvements are likely to take a few years to materialize.
Finally, this Annual Meeting saw the presentation of results from a variety of potentially practice-changing clinical studies, which are discussed in several Research Highlights published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology. We look forward to learning about initiatives to improve equity and results from clinical research either in person or online at the 2023 ASCO Annual Meeting.
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Romero, D. From ASCO 2022. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 19, 494 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41571-022-00656-8