Dear friends and colleagues,
It is impossible to start this newsletter without referring to the tragic crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302. The flight crash took the lives of 157 individuals, including 3 delegates who were travelling home from the SIOP Africa meeting that took place in Cairo in early March. The meeting itself had been a wonderful event, interweaving sprightly interactions between delegates with a great scientific program and memorable social moments. The fact that it was so suddenly and unpredictably punctuated with the loss of Jayne Kamau, Isabella Jaboma and Grace Kariuki leaves a huge void in our community. Since, a number of legacy initiatives have been launched in their name, and we too have tried to honour their memory in a dedicated obituary.
We will also focus this newsletter on a phenomenon that all three of these inspiring women were looking to improve: cancer treatment on the African continent. Two recent articles from Nichkhill Bhakta (Lancet Oncology, January 2019) and Catherine Lam (Science Magazine, March 2019) look into disparities in cancer diagnosis, globally. They particularly focus on the massive gap that separates countries in sub-Saharan Africa from those in the West. Remedying this inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing our International Paediatric Oncology community. To this end, we hope that the WHO Global initiative for Childhood Cancer will allow us to raise awareness and work towards bridging a gap that no patient should ever suffer from.
Linked to this disparity is the extreme variety of situations that members of our community face in their daily practice. It is evident that the priorities we each juggle in our work differ wildly across countries like Canada or the United States, and lower or middle-income countries in South America, Asia, Africa or Oceania. While our community’s diversity is a great asset towards innovation or cross-context learning, it can also be challenging when it comes to setting expectations for the role of Continental presidents. Following a request from Continental presidents themselves, the board has agreed to dedicate an extended board meeting next spring to an open discussion on this topic. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that a one size fits all approach is in need of substitution by a more complex and continent-specific definition of this key role.
In closing: a brief reminder that this year is already a year of transition. I am working closely with Dr. Pritchard-Jones, our President-elect, whom I must confess did not need either training or shadowing experience given how deeply cognisant she is of SIOP and SIOP activities. These activities will henceforth focus primarily on the organisation of the 51st Congress in Lyon. Dr. Hunger and the members of the Scientific Committee are working closely with Dr. Bergeron and his team, and I have no doubt that this Congress will be a great success.