IAEA Nobel Prize Money Fights Cancer Crisis in Africa & Asia
A cancer patient receiving radiation treatment. (Photo: P. Pavlicek/IAEA)
To fight the looming cancer crisis in Asia and Africa, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is assembling many of the world´ s leading cancer experts in Thailand and South Africa.
On 4-6 December in Bangkok and 11-16 December in Cape Town, leading public figures - including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu - and cancer specialists from around the world will assess the growing cancer burden in Asia and Africa. Sessions will focus on building effective cancer control programmes at the national and regional levels.
Using funds awarded for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, the IAEA is sponsoring the intensive workshops.
Cancer is the second most common cause of death worldwide after cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that cancer will soon reach epidemic proportions, causing up to 10 million deaths a year by 2015. The majority of new cancer cases are now in low- and middle-income countries. Faced with the multiple health challenges posed by AIDS/HIV, malaria and tuberculosis (TB), many poor countries simply do not have the resources to fight cancer.
The WHO estimates that 7.6 million people died of cancer in 2005. The most common cancers worldwide are lung, breast, colon and rectum, stomach and prostate cancer. Either breast or cervix cancer is the most common tumour of women in almost all countries. The cancer that causes the most deaths is lung cancer. The cancers most common in developing countries are those that have a poor prognosis - lung, stomach, liver and oesophagus.
Liver cancer is the most common cancer for men in several African countries, although Kaposi Sarcoma has become the most common cancer in 13 countries that are severely affected by the AIDS epidemic. Numerous African countries have no centre for cancer treatment at all. And many African and Asian countries have just one radiotherapy centre to serve 5 to 10 million people.
New cancer cases in Southeast Asia are projected by WHO to rise from 1.3 million to 2.1 million between 2002 and 2020 - a dramatic 60% jump. New cases in the Western Pacific are expected to rise to nearly 5 million by 2020, an increase of more than 50 percent.
"Across much of Asia and Africa, there is almost no cancer prevention or public education," explains Mr. Massoud Samiei, the Head of IAEA´s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT). "There is almost no screening for breast and cervical cancer in women even though, if detected early, both can be successfully treated. And radiotherapy, which is used effectively on more than 50% of cancer patients in high-income countries, is simply unavailable to millions of cancer sufferers in Asia and Africa."
PACT was established in 2004 to help developing nations combat the growing cancer problem. Building on the IAEA´s 30 years of expertise in promoting radiotherapy, PACT´s goal is to help get more cancer treatment facilities up and running, along with the trained personnel to who can operate them in the world´s developing regions.
"PACT is building partnerships with the WHO and other international cancer-control organisations so that the battle against cancer can be waged at country level. This includes a broad multi-disciplinary and comprehensive needs assessment and a programme development approach that includes cancer prevention, early detection, diagnosis and palliation, and more importantly education and training of professionals," Mr. Samiei says. "PACT also seeks to raise donor awareness of the cancer problem to mobilize new resources and enable developing countries to introduce, expand or improve their cancer care capacity and services in a sustainable manner. This means integrating radiotherapy into cancer control programmes to maximize therapeutic effectiveness and impact".
PACT´s initial funding comes from the IAEA and several bilateral donors. The IAEA´s share of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize award is being devoted to training personnel from developing countries in the fight against cancer and undernutrition. Current estimates suggest that several billion US$ are needed if the cancer crisis in low and middle-income nations is to be contained effectively.
For further information, please see the new PACT brochure [pdf].