Sapporo: History of a conference

Toshiro Kusakabe outlines how the Sapporo Conference for Palliative and Supportive Care in Cancer (SCPSC) was conceived. In his first blog, he outlines some of the history that has led to these events

Photograph of Higashi Sapporo Hospital
Higashi Sapporo Hospital


History of Higashi Sapporo Hospital and the Progress of the SCPSC

Higashi Sapporo Hospital was founded in 1983 in Sapporo, Japan by Dr. Kunihiko Ishitani as a hospital for cancer palliative care. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the opening of the hospital in April 2023 and here I will trace its history as well as introduce the SCPSC.

In 1988, we formed a sister affiliation with Calvary Hospital in New York and have learned a good deal through that association. In addition, through these relationships, we have acquired knowledge and techniques related to cancer palliative care from many overseas experts, and have contributed to the development of cancer palliative care in Japan.

In 1993, The Hawaii Conference: Cancer Care in the 1990’s Supportive Care Issues was held in Hawaii, USA and co-sponsored by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Calvary Hospital, and Higashi Sapporo Hospital. Participants from Japan at that time played a central role in promoting palliative cancer care in Japan thereafter.

The Start:

In 1996, the first conference of the Japanese Society of Palliative Medicine was held in Sapporo, with the participants of the Hawaii Conference and us as promoters. Along with these activities, Higashi Sapporo Hospital has become very well known in Japan as a hospital specializing in cancer palliative care that is deeply rooted in the community. In 2011, 15% of deaths among cancer patients in Sapporo City, which has a population of 1.9 million, occurred at our hospital.

In July 2014, the Sapporo Conference for Palliative and Supportive Care in Cancer was held to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening of the hospital. With the theme of cancer pain, symptom control, and the future of palliative care, the conference successfully attracted 700 participants from 22 countries, mainly in Asia. The 2nd SCPSC was held in June 2017, with 750 participants from 14 countries discussing recent advances in psycho-oncology and the future of palliative oncology.

Based on the great response from various quarters, the SCPSC was thereafter held as a global conference in 2019 based on palliative oncology and psycho-oncology. In order to deepen the research element, it was reorganized into the International Research Society of Sapporo Conference for Palliative and Supportive Care in Cancer (IRS-SCPSC) and developed as an international research conference.

The founding purpose of this Society was the radical pursuit of palliative care as a science under the principle of “palliative care as a human right (2013)” in the Prague Charter. Science consists of both the natural sciences and humanities, with research on cancer palliative care, in particular, requires a harmonious development of both. In recent years, the integration of standard oncology and palliative care has become a shared concept among cancer medical professionals around the world. This Society further promotes this intent, and advocates the establishment of palliative oncology that emphasizes the scientific element and includes psycho-oncology.

A vision:

Geographically, this Society is centered around Asia, but its ideas reach beyond Asia to the rest of the world. This can be seen from the contents of the archived programs posted on the website of the Society. In addition, the British Medical Journal Supportive and Palliative Care has become the official journal of this society, which is one of the proofs of its openness to the world.

In 2015, the United Nations adopted “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, setting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 3 in the field of health is centered around Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Palliative care is one of the four items comprising UHC. This means that a new healthcare framework for the future has now been set., and discussions in anticipation of this trend will also be held at this Society in the future.


Toshiro Kusakabe
SCPSC Executive Committee Chair,
Vice President, Higashi Sapporo Hospital, Japan.
ORCID: 0000-0002-0106-7958

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