ASCP’s Innovative Immuno-Oncology Education Helps Pathologists and Laboratory Professionals Stay on Top of Their Careers

Aug 17, 2018

Breakthroughs in immuno-oncology (IO) are showing great potential to revolutionize cancer treatment, but keeping up-to-date with new testing protocols, diagnoses, and therapeutic treatments is challenging for many pathologists and laboratory professionals.  

During a 2016 meeting of the ASCP Pathology Informatics Work Group, Michael Feldman, MD, FASCP, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and director of pathology informatics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, identified IO as the next big hub of innovation in health care. ASCP quickly assembled a team of 11 experts representing various facets of pathology, with expertise in immuno-oncology at some of the leading academics centers in the US, including Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, as well as leading laboratories such as Sutter Health and AmeriPath, to form the ASCP IO Work Group.


Given the rapidly evolving nature of the IO field, the ASCP IO Work Group set out to create a comprehensive educational strategy to guide the development of education designed to enhance the knowledge and skills that today's pathologists and laboratory professionals need to stay at the top of their career. This strategy is designed to

  • increase the IO‒related knowledge, skills, and competence of pathologists and laboratory professionals involved in cancer management and treatment;
  • support the implementation and dissemination of best practices in IO testing, treatment options, and communication in multidisciplinary teams to improve quality of care; and
  • raise awareness of new developments in the rapidly changing field of IO therapeutics.

“ASCP believes that we are stronger together when we work as a team to optimize patient care. There are multiple aspects of IO that affect the total lab team effort,” said Dr. Feldman, a member of the IO Work Group and chair of the ASCP Pathology Informatics Committee. “IO is a rapidly evolving topic, and this is a way that pathologists and laboratory professionals can stay on top of it. This work group is developing educational content to enhance the breadth of ASCP’s membership, as well as the multidisciplinary cancer care team.”

Thanks to the generous support of industry, ASCP has begun implementing various components of the IO strategy. In early 2018, ASCP conducted a practice survey to identify existing practice patterns and educational gaps in its membership; results from this survey will be used to shape future education in IO. Last December, the work group launched the first of six online educational modules that focus on hot topics in IO; two additional modules are planned for later this year. Interest in the educational modules has been enormous; nearly 2,000 ASCP members have participated in the modules.

Additionally, four quality improvement projects are under way, and ASCP conducted an “IO ChangeMakers” series to empower pathologists and laboratory professionals to help shape their institutions’ policies, procedures and protocols for patient care around IO. Additional panel discussions are planned for the ASCP Annual Meeting.

Dr. Feldman underscored the importance of ASCP’s role in educating its members about how to implement IO in their practice. “Helping pathologists and lab professionals drive change within their health systems is very exciting. People need to know what to test, how to interpret the results, and how to communicate those results to the cancer care team. Having pathologists and laboratory professionals at the leadership table is key to optimizing patient care and outcomes."

“Leading this charge are ASCP's IO Work Group members, who are leaders in the field. For example, Work Group Chair Robert Anders, MD, PhD, of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins University, led the early trials on MSI/MMR over a decade ago. The collective expertise of our work group members, combined with the education developed by ASCP as a part of our strategy, ensures our members stay ahead of the curve in this rapidly evolving landscape,” he said.

ASCP’s IO Work Group members are listed below.

  • Robert Anders, MD, PhD, of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Johns Hopkins University
  • Feriyl Bhaijee, MD, of Ameripath
  • Mamatha Chivukula, MD, FASCP, of Sutter Health
  • Michael Feldman, MD, FASCP, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Andrew D. Fesnak, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Joseph Kim, MD, MPH, MBA, of QSynthesis, LLC
  • Mike Milone, MD, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine Henry M. Rinder, MD, FASCP, of Yale University School of Medicine
  • Stuti G. Shroff, MC (MBBS) PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • David Spencer, MD, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine Division of Oncology

To learn more about ASCP’s IO efforts and participate in the online modules, visit