Zafar Gives GI ASCO Keynote: "What's Next After Precision Oncology?"

Yousuf Zafar in ASCO Post
In the ASCO POST: Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS, FASCO, (top left) receives the GI20 Keynote Lecture Award for being the keynote speaker at ASCO's 2020 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium.

Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS, FASCO, gastrointestinal oncologist and associate professor of Medicine, Public Policy, and Population Science, delivered the keynote for the American Society of Clinical Oncology's 2020 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium held in January.

This year’s symposium, themed “Accelerating Personalized Care,” focused on "the role of precision oncology in fueling treatment development and provision breakthroughs with the hope of generating improvements in prognosis, recurrence, and quality of life" and raised questions about patient access, affordability, and data sharing.

Zafar's lecture was titled "What's Next After Precision Oncology? From Biomarker to Better Care."

"I was truly honored to be selected for this ASCO GI keynote address, especially since my topic of discussion fit so well into the background of the tremendous progress we have seen in precision oncology," said Zafar. "I’ve been excited to hear from many colleagues about what they learned about how the precision delivery of cancer care could improve outcomes for our patients."

Zafar became a Fellow of ASCO (FASCO) in 2019. This distinction recognizes ASCO members for their extraordinary volunteer service, dedication, and commitment to ASCO.

In an interview with ASCO Daily News ahead of the symposium, Zafar spoke about the aims of his lecture :

"The objective of my lecture, “What’s Next After Precision Oncology? From Biomarkers to Better Care,” is to help attendees understand where the modern practice of precision oncology falls short and where we need to pick up from where precision oncology ends. We need greater precision delivery of cancer care, and by precision delivery, I mean a focus on what happens to the patient after we prescribe a drug. Without a doubt, precision oncology has changed the way we practice, but to an extent, identifying the targetable pathways in a patient’s cancer has been idealized as the last step of precision oncology. Yet, when we identify targetable pathways, we rely on drugs that are more effective but also much more expensive. We find that patients can’t afford care, and our health care system cannot support these prices indefinitely. Because of the treatments we are prescribing, our patients are spending an unacceptable amount of time in emergency departments and in the hospital. What is missing from today’s practice is precision delivery. My talk centers on how we can move beyond identifying the pathways and biomarkers and focus on how to deliver the right care to the right patient at the right cost. All of this must be done with an eye toward improving outcomes." (Read More from this interview)

[Watch the video of Zafar's keynote lecture (requires a login to ASCO)]

In addition to being a clinician, Zafar is a health services researcher with a focus in improving care delivery for patients with advanced cancer. He has advanced training in health services research and has participated in single-institution, multi-institution and national studies focusing on access to care, cost of care and comparative effectiveness of care delivery between health systems.

He was recently appointed director of Healthcare Innovation at Duke Cancer Institute, a role in which he works within the Duke University Health System and with partners around North Carolina to help identify and implement strategies to introduce value-based care at DCI.