• His three main lines of action are equal access to cancer diagnosis and treatment, promoting education and scientific dissemination, and international expansion of ESMO
  • ESMO is a leading European scientific society in the field of oncology, bringing together nearly 30,000 professionals

Andrés Cervantes presidente de ESMO

Dr Andrés Cervantes, Scientific Director of INCLIVA Health Research Institute, head of the Medical Oncology Department of the Hospital Clínico Universitario de Valencia and Professor of Medicine at the University of Valencia, takes over as President of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) from January 2023 for the next two years.

ESMO is a preeminent European scientific society in the field of medical oncology that brings together nearly 30,000 professionals in this health area from all over the world. These members come together to facilitate the development of the profession and adapt to the many changes occurring in the field of cancer, considering not only patient care but also the social impact of this disease. Its areas of action are in educating health professionals, disseminating scientific knowledge among members and promoting public policies that facilitate accessible and sustainable cancer treatments in Europe and further afield.

Spanning almost 24 years across different structures and committees, Dr Cervantes’ career at ESMO has afforded him a global vision of society. He has been a member of the Education Committee since 1999, working on continuing education and electronic learning (as head of the e-learning subcommittee), and has chaired the Clinical Guidelines group for six years. He has served as Chairman of the Education Committee and later Director of Education on the ESMO Executive Board. His predecessor as president of ESMO is Dr Solange Peters, and his successor as of January 1, 2025 will be Dr Fabrice André.

Dr Cervantes will bring to ESMO his commitment to training new specialists and young clinical researchers, thus facilitating the connection between science and knowledge and health care, and his conception of research and caregiving as a service to society to guarantee a better future.

Dr Cervantes’s main goals at the helm of ESMO are to guarantee equal access to cancer diagnosis and treatment through public health, intensify educational and dissemination activities, and make ESMO a large global professional community by increasing membership and international expansion.

ESMO’s activity will be aligned with the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, launched in 2021 by the European Commission with funding of 4 billion euro, which sets out the strategy to be followed in this sphere through to 2025. This approach focuses on prevention (40% of cancer cases can be avoided by reducing tobacco and alcohol consumption, promoting healthy lifestyle and reducing air pollution); early cancer detection; equal access to high-quality cancer care, diagnosis and treatment, medicine and the same chance of survival, regardless of country; and improving quality of life in cancer patients and cancer survivors.

Dr Cervantes underlines that advances in prevention, early diagnosis and treatment have altogether prevented 5.9 million cancer deaths in the European Union (EU) between 1989 and 2023, and that the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan aims for a further 35% reduction in the mortality rate by 2035. While in 1990, 190 of every 100,000 deaths in men were from cancer, this number is now at 123, and during in the same period the number of deaths from breast cancer in women has dropped from 115 to 79.3 out of 100,000.

However, although the figures show positive progress in cancer treatment, Dr Cervantes highlights that “it is estimated that there will be over 1.2 million deaths from cancer in 2023 in the EU: a very high mortality rate, and these rates are still highly heterogeneous throughout Europe”, stating as an example: “5-year survival in colorectal cancer (CRC) ranges between 49% and 68% among EU countries, and in breast cancer this figure varies by more than 20%”.

The reduction in mortality has been general across EU countries in all tumours except pancreatic cancer (in both sexes) and lung cancer (in women). As Dr Cervantes specifies: “…the principal challenges in oncology in the coming years will be focused on improving survival in all types of cancer by facilitating equal access to all patients in all countries.”

This will be achieved via “programs being developed in the EU, such as those providing breast, cervix and colorectal cancer screening (already implemented in the Valencian Community and in Spain), aiming for universal application in 2025, and extending these initiatives to other tumours, such as lung, prostate, and in some circumstances gastric cancer”.

Dr Cervantes emphasizes the need for a global approach to cancer, “which requires not only research and patient care, but also a focus on the undeniable social impact of this disease.” He brings attention to the “12 million cancer survivors currently living in the EU, 300,000 of whom are children. They need access to social protection and financial services, including insurance… The issue is not just diagnoses and treatments, but concerns offering them support to deal with the day-to-day problems affecting their life and employment opportunities”.

Education and dissemination of science: annual congress, clinical guidelines and journals

Dr Cervantes considers ESMO’s education and science dissemination initiatives to be paramount, among which the annual congress in September stands out as “an opportunity to disseminate and learn about the most recent innovations in oncology”. The congress will be held this year in Madrid, with 30,000 expected attendees, and in 2024 in Barcelona.

Also noteworthy in this area are the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines, drawn up by a multidisciplinary and multinational team of experts. These are a benchmark for defining treatment standards in various types of tumours, bringing together all the recommendations based on scientific evidence and made after quantifying the clinical benefit provided by each intervention.

In addition, “ESMO is particularly concerned with developing the professional careers of young people, creating scholarships so that any member can complete their training in centres of excellence within the EU”, affirms Dr Cervantes.

Two particularly outstanding EMSO scientific dissemination journals are Annals of Oncology, the journal with the highest impact factor in cancer, and the more recently created ESMO Open. ESMO will soon invest in launching two new journals: one on gastrointestinal cancer and another on digital medicine and real-world data.

International expansion of ESMO to new countries and members

ESMO’s goal in the coming years is to create a large, global professional community with new members from different countries beyond the scope of Europe. Indeed, 45% of current members are from non-European countries.

Following the COVID pandemic, the entry of World Bank-classified low- or medium-income level countries to the organisation is being facilitated by offering free access to new members. In addition, ESMO is holding its Asia Congress in Singapore at the end of the year, an event was attended by 3,000 professionals in 2022, as well as two annual summits, in South Africa and Latin America, with the aim of offering its services to new countries and members.