Skip to Main Content

ASCO Presentation to Focus on Global Access to Cancer Medications

Dr. Gilberto Lopes will speak on the ATOM Coalition and the organization’s plans to work with 46 countries worldwide.

Gilberto Lopes, M.D., has a passion for equitable cancer care that extends far beyond his home base at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and the South Florida region.

Dr. Lopes, Sylvester’s and the Miller School’s chief of medical oncology, medical director for international programs and associate director for global oncology, has taken a leadership role with the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition, a global initiative established by the Union for International Cancer Control and partners like Sylvester. The aim of ATOM is to reduce suffering and deaths from cancer in low- and lower middle-income countries by improving access to essential cancer medicine.

At this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, June 2-6, in Chicago, Dr. Lopes will highlight his and others’ work with the coalition. The talk, scheduled for June 3, is titled, “The Potential for Using the ATOM Model to Impact Cancer Mortality in Low- and Lower Middle-Income Countries.”

“We have made tremendous advances in recent years, with immunotherapies and targeted treatments against cancer cells that are helping patients live longer with better quality of life,” said Dr. Lopes. “But these therapies are often more expensive than older treatments, limiting access to care in lower- and middle-income countries.”

More Access

Dr. Lopes serves as co-chair for the executive committee that oversees ATOM, a global partnership launched in May 2022 with Sylvester as a founding member. The wide-ranging initiative is supported by more than 30 partners, including the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), National Comprehensive Cancer Network, ASCO, pharmaceutical companies, patient advocacy groups and other institutions.

“Cancer patients everywhere should be able to access the right medications at the right time,” said Dr. Lopes, who serves on the board of the UICC. “Our mission at Sylvester goes beyond developing new treatments to assuring that these therapies can benefit patients around the world.”

Health Disparities

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the majority of cancer deaths in the next 10 years will occur in low- and middle-income countries. However, a recent study estimated that less than 50% of WHO’s “essential medicines” are currently available in those countries.

To address that global health disparity, ATOM Coalition partners will work together with governments and public health leaders in 46 target countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to improve their capacity to access and deliver lifesaving cancer medications.

Along with greater access to cancer medications, ATOM’s partners will focus on addressing gaps in care by supporting the development of sustainable diagnostic and pathology capabilities, as well as training and education programs. Other ATOM goals include increasing the availability of generic and biosimilar cancer medications and securing new patented medications from the biopharmaceutical sector through voluntary licensing, according to Dr. Lopes.

Next Steps

In the past year, the ATOM coalition has received more than $2 million in funding and set up a governance structure, said Dr. Lopes.

“This is just the beginning of the process,” he said. “The next steps will be identifying the first subset of target countries, so we can start working on the ground improving access to medications for breast, lung, cervical, prostate and childhood cancers, which have high mortality rates. In this way, ATOM can bring hope to cancer patients around the world.”

In addition to his global work through Sylvester, Dr. Lopes also serves as the editor-in-chief of JCO Global Oncology, a high-impact ASCO journal focused on cancer care, research and care delivery issues unique to countries and settings with limited health care resources.

Founded in 1964, ASCO represents more than 45,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Through research, education and promotion of the highest-quality patient care, ASCO works to conquer cancer and create a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy. ASCO is supported by its affiliate organization, the Conquer Cancer Foundation.