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Become a member and receive career-enhancing benefits

Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

Become a Member
Become a member and receive career-enhancing benefits

Our top priority is providing value to members. Your Member Services team is here to ensure you maximize your ACS member benefits, participate in College activities, and engage with your ACS colleagues. It's all here.

Membership Benefits
ACS Cancer Conference

Conference Highlights

Reflecting on the rapidly changing landscape of cancer care and current barriers to care, nearly 500 surgeons, allied health providers, program directors, and accreditation specialists convened in Austin, Texas, February 22–24 to attend this year’s Cancer Conference. Registration increased by about 34% compared to 2023, organizers said. 

Centered on the theme “Improving Cancer Care for All,” attendees heard from more than 50 moderators and panelists who provided real-world examples of local and national quality improvement (QI) projects, as well as thematic discussions on incorporating health equity into the care of cancer patients, advocacy at both the state and national levels, and strategic ways to best engage with key stakeholders when designing a QI project. 

Improving Cancer Care for All

In a keynote address, James L. Gulley, MD, PhD, clinical director of the National Cancer Institute, offered a national perspective on emerging technologies, including vaccinations, multi-cancer detection assays, and cell therapy, to prevent and treat cancer, and described how local programs can become involved in leveraging these new technologies to improve cancer care. 

Dr. Gulley stressed that while overall survival rates of cancer have improved in recent decades, there remain significant gaps in cancer care, and cancer stubbornly remains the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Both preventive efforts through screening and vaccination, and improving access to emerging treatments, are vitally important, emphasized Dr. Gulley.  

Local cancer programs can help improve cancer care by identifying and reducing gaps in screening among at-risk populations, he noted, and effectively leveraging existing and emerging technologies. As two examples, screening for lung cancer—the nation’s deadliest cancer—with a low-dose CT scan is remarkably effective but needs to reach far more people to have a greater impact; and while telehealth can improve healthcare access and quality, large-scale research in diverse clinical settings is needed to optimize its use and sustain it as a mode of cancer care delivery. 

To improve cancer care, we need to address multiple aspects of the cancer continuum—opportunities to decrease cancer death exist through prevention, early detection, and better therapies, Dr. Gulley emphasized.  

“If we can focus on prevention and early-detection strategies and better treatment for patients with metastatic disease, and we also focus on the efficiency of the system using tools such as AI, we can improve the clinical care for patients as well as the clinical outcomes for patients, and maybe decrease the rate of death,” he said. 

Enhancing Cancer Care through Advocacy and Community Engagement

Improving cancer care for all also involves effectively engaging communities and promoting change through policy and local efforts that directly engage at-risk populations. 

In a session on advocacy efforts to improve cancer care, panelists acknowledged that while the federal legislative process doesn’t always work smoothly, advocacy is vital, and there are opportunities to engage at each stage of the process. 

“When you show up to talk to a legislator, you bring with you, much like your lived experiences, a very diverse picture that they need to understand,” said Timothy Mullett, MD, FACS, chair of the CoC. Dr. Mullett has been involved with several local and national efforts focused on improving cancer care and access to lung cancer screening. “I think it’s imperative that our perspective as surgeons not be diluted.” 

Advocacy also involves patience and understanding the needs of community members, panelists noted. 

For a session on incorporating health equity into caring for cancer patients, Shayla Scarlett, MBA, MPA, assistant director of community outreach, engagement, and equity at the George Washington Cancer Center, outlined three research projects her team is leading to improve cancer care from the local angle, including one that aims to increase breast cancer screening by directly training community members to become neighborhood health ambassadors.  

Change starts when you embed a health equity lens in the fabric of everything you do, including policies and communications, she noted.  

“Health equity is intersectional; there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” she said. 

Changes on the Horizon 

Attendees also heard about several emerging ACS Cancer Programs initiatives focused on making quality care more accessible through improved access to data and revised standards. Some notable projects on the horizon include: 

  • Release of new National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC) standards 
  • Upcoming release of American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging online 
  • New pediatric option for CoC sites to target the growing and diverse needs of pediatric cancer patients 

A full write-up of the 2024 Cancer Conference will appear in the April edition of the Bulletin. Save the date for next year’s Cancer Conference March 12–15, in Phoenix, Arizona.