Annals of Oncology aims to become the first place scientists go to disseminate innovation in cancer care

Prof. Fabrice André sees the journal, which has become one of the most cited oncology publications, as an opportunity to help more doctors improve patient outcomes with new technologies.

Fabrice André

Annals of Oncology, ESMO’s flagship journal, this year saw its impact factor increase to an all-time high of 32.976, making it the seventh most cited oncology journal worldwide. According to its Editor-in-chief Prof. Fabrice André, Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus, France, this metric reflecting the annual average number of citations of the articles published by the journal in the last two years is only the means to an important end: attracting the best scientific papers to help doctors transfer innovation in oncology to cancer patients.

Did you expect to see such a rapid rise in the journal’s impact factor?

It was not even a decade ago that Annals of Oncology still had an impact factor of around 6. Having implemented a strategy to increase this number under the leadership of its previous Editor-in-chief, Prof. Jean-Charles Soria, its steady upwards trend over the years was exactly what we had hoped to achieve with a view to giving ESMO Members and the wider oncology community access to high-quality research that could truly improve patient outcomes. The latest jump, however, from 18 to 32 in the last year alone, did come as somewhat of a surprise.

At the same time, it is important to understand that the impact factor has never been our goal per se: it is just a tool for us to attract better papers to the journal, because article citations are the metric by which research scientists working for universities are evaluated. The impact factor guides their choice of where they want their research to be presented in order to maximise its influence.  

What has driven this ascent?

The decision to reduce the number of published articles by cutting out papers, such as retrospective analyses from hospital databases, which had the potential to be biased and therefore detrimental to patients, was a first important step. Next we clearly defined our scope and mission to “drive innovation in oncology”: our associate editors have been very proactive about securing the best papers in this regard. We also worked with the publisher (Elsevier) to improve the formatting and make our articles more enjoyable to read. In the current digital era, we additionally accompany most of the papers we publish with contextual material to turn them into their own topical content hubs, which we then make widely accessible and visible by promoting them across social media.

In the last two years, we reached a turning point with the trust that authors place in Annals of Oncology to bring their data to a maximum of readers, which has given us the opportunity to publish some of the best research in the field. Thanks to ESMO’s stature, scientists know that submitting a paper to our journal is a guarantee that it will be widely disseminated – and accordingly, we have begun to see more and more investigators running prospective clinical trials turn to us as the first place to send their results.

What have been the major breakthroughs in oncology published in the journal recently?

In 2018 we published the validation set confirming the clinical utility of artificial intelligence as a tool to help doctors detect melanoma more reliably when they diagnose skin lesions (Ann Oncol. 2018;29(8):1836-1842). The article was among the Altmetric Top 100 papers that drew immediate attention upon publication that year – not just in oncology, but across all fields of science. Most recently, we became the very first journal to publish data proving the clinical validity of using a blood-based test interrogating circulating cell-free DNA to detect and locate multiple types of cancer (Ann Oncol. 2020;31(6):745-759) – a topic which met with widespread interest and even reached the mass media.

Many of our best stories relate to precision medicine: true to the journal’s mission to facilitate the transfer of innovation to the patient, we have been very good at disseminating and promoting research on novel technologies that have the potential to change medical practice.

Being among the top 10 most cited oncology journals comes with a new level of prestige. What does this mean for the future of Annals of Oncology?

Our goal for the years ahead is to confirm our standing as the first place where authors go to publish their results. As research becomes increasingly specialised and complex, the way we maximise its impact and readership is by presenting data in a way that is easy to decipher and by further explaining it with supporting editorials, podcasts or topic reviews. Whether it is practice-changing data from prospective clinical trials or innovation through new technologies, Annals of Oncology disseminates science in a way that allows oncologists to implement new knowledge for the benefit of their patients.

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