Representing and supporting medical oncologists in the UK

Welcome Address from new ACP Chair, Professor Andrew Wardley

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It is a great honour to be appointed the Chair of the Association of Cancer Physicians. 

I would like to thank Professor David Cunningham for his leadership through the extremely turbulent COVID crisis, and the challenges faced by our speciality over the last 5 years.  

I have been an active member of the ACP since 1997. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to successfully lead breast cancer research in Manchester for 20 years and become a leader in national and international trials, many of which have led to major advances in breast cancer outcomes for patients.  

If you are working as a medical oncologist, or a trainee, in the UK then I would highly recommend you join the ACP. The ACP provides a support network for Medical Oncologists, providing education, mentoring support, and knowledge to aid you in your career aspirations. It is extremely important that we unite as clinicians to meet the population health challenges currently faced in healthcare system today. I ask our members to encourage your colleagues to join or renew their membership so that we can unite in numbers, voice and strengthen our community for future generations.  

The ACP averted perhaps the biggest threat to our speciality in the UK in 2022, viz. Medical Oncologists being required to undertake acute unselected take, through successfully working with our clinical oncology colleagues in Royal College of Radiologists (RCR). Dr Jackie Newby led the key work of creating a combined core curriculum which has been a great success with trainees and will continue to be for generations to come. Significant progress has been made, through the leadership of Professor Peter Selby, in the Closer Working Group with RCR where strong foundations have been formed for us to build upon.   

For those of you who know me, you will know I am passionate about improving quality of and access to care for cancer patients. I recognise the need for an integrated partnership approach to delivering oncology services. I have, throughout my career, engaged closely and openly across all communities and professionals, developing strong collaborations and partnerships enabling improvement in the rapidly evolving cancer care domain. From conceiving, developing and leading a fully integrated, patient focussed, research centred, holistic breast cancer service directly improving patient care and access to new treatments, from 2001 to implementation of many of these advances into services developments through commissioning initiatives locally and nationally, and contributed to international breast cancer guidelines. Indeed, the nature of cancer requires all aspects of the health system to be actively engaged to achieve desired outcomes and quality. It is important that we work closely to develop relationships with professionals, other than oncologists, involved in the delivery of cancer care. I am committed to leading innovative changes in treatments and redesigning models of cancer care across cancer systems, especially relating to systemic anti-cancer therapies. 

I am acutely aware of the challenges facing the NHS and cancer medicine particularly with respect to workforce issues and training. I have witnessed and had the pleasure to be part of the enormous changes in cancer medicine over the last 3 decades with unparalleled scientific and therapeutic advances in oncology. Pharmacological treatment of cancer has progressed from chemotherapy and hormonal agents pre-millennium, to the use of targeted treatments, immunotherapies, and chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies today. Between 2012 and 2021, 169 new active substances were successfully developed for treatment of cancer and have come into practice placing an enormous strain on you all. 

It is in our nature as Medical Oncologists to strive to answer questions to improve patient care and outcomes. It saddens me to hear of the difficulties many of you have in not being able to open clinical trials to answer these questions. I acknowledge the UK’s delivery of industry run clinical trials has fallen 44% between 2017/18 and 2021/22 and from 4th to 10th in the world ranking. The UK has not kept pace with the treatment revolution and there are many parts of the UK where oncology staff, services and consequently, our patients are suffering.  

I recognise it is important that these issues are addressed urgently, where I look forward to having those conversations from Council to Commons to evoke a positive change in the interest of research. 

As an enthusiastic advocate of collaborative working, population health and equality, I will continue to strive for a single clinical voice for oncology in the UK.  

Thank you for joining me in this journey, where I hope to represent you well and will always welcome any suggestions.  

Please feel free to contact me.  

Yours Faithfully,  

Andrew Michael Wardley