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WHO-IAEA Join Forces to Fight Cancer

Vienna/Geneva, 26 May 2009 | The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today announced the launch of a Joint Programme on Cancer Control, aimed at strengthening and accelerating efforts to fight cancer in the developing world. The groundbreaking agreement reflects growing international concern over the global cancer burden and its projected increase. Latest statistics indicate that cancer will be among the leading causes of deaths, with more than 70% of all cancer deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. "In low- and middle-income countries, cancer overwhelmingly affects the poor. This has huge implications for human suffering, health systems, health budgets and the drive to reduce poverty," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who signed the Joint Programme agreement together with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. WHO and the IAEA have complementary mandates when it comes to fighting cancer. WHO is the leader amongst the UN family of organizations in terms of health improvement for people, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, while the IAEA´s expertise in radiation medicine is a vital element of cancer diagnosis and treatment. The Joint Programme will provide the framework for the two Organizations to dovetail their work, building on their areas of expertise to create a more coordinated and robust approach to combating cancer in poor countries. In practical terms, this will mean working with Member States to integrate diagnostic and treatment-related activities into cancer control plans of the country based on WHO cancer control guidelines and strategies in each region. "The IAEA has long provided radiation technology and expertise to developing countries, but radiotherapy alone cannot halt the growing global cancer crisis," said IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. "The Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) was created to integrate diagnostic and treatment-related activities into national cancer control plans. The Joint Programme with WHO underlines our conviction that only through combined effort and collaboration can we bring hope and relief to those whose lives are threatened by cancer." Efforts in the joint programme are focusing on six PACT Model Demonstration Sites (PMDS) in Albania, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Viet Nam and Yemen. They will also respond to requests for cancer control assessment and programme development assistance in low- and middle-income countries. Notes for Editors The formation of a WHO-IAEA Joint Programme took root in May 2005 when the World Health Assembly adopted a far-reaching resolution (WHA58.22) in response to the progressive increase in cancer incidence worldwide. Later that year, the IAEA established its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) to help expand radiotherapy capacity in low- and middle-income developing countries and build partnerships to address the huge disparities that exist in cancer care services. Since then PACT, WHO and other key international cancer organizations have enjoyed increasingly productive collaborations. According to the terms of agreement, the WHO-IAEA Joint Programme will "coordinate activities and resources supporting the development and implementation of sustainable comprehensive cancer control programmes in low and medium-income countries." The highly successful collaborative approach with other key international cancer organizations will continue to be a cornerstone of the Joint Programme. WHO and the IAEA aim to work ever more closely to support countries in establishing and strengthening integrated national cancer control programmes (NCCPs). Such programmes include cancer prevention, early detection, and screening treatment and palliative care, as well as monitoring of cancer patterns including cancer registries. NCCPs fit into the broader WHO framework to strengthen health systems with a major focus on primary health care, and are part of the implementation of the Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases which was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2008. For over two decades, WHO has promoted national cancer control programmes (NCCP). The NCCP framework, encompasses the equitable and systematic implementation of evidence-based strategies across the cancer continuum, from prevention to end-of-life care. The IAEA´s expertise in radiation medicine is a vital element of cancer diagnosis, cure and care strategies. These strategies, if developed within the context of NCCPs and linked to other interventions, particularly early detection and palliative care, can be far more effective in improving the survival and quality of life of cancer patients. If current knowledge were put into practice, at least one-third of cancer cases could be prevented, another third could be detected early, treated and cured; and suffering could be alleviated through palliative care for patients with advanced cancers. Related Resources: » World Health Organization (WHO) » Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT)