It is my pleasure to welcome you in Vienna today on the occasion of this regional meeting jointly organized by the World Health Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, through its Technical Cooperation Department and the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).
Such a meeting illustrates the decision of these two United Nations organizations to join their efforts to combat the cancer epidemic in developing countries; a decision which was formalised last month with the launching of the WHO-IAEA Joint Programme on Cancer Control.
Cancer is often wrongly perceived as a disease of the "rich countries". By the year 2020, the world will have reached 260 million accumulated cancer cases, 150 million of them in developing countries. By the year 2030, according to WHO, cancer will claim the life of about 11.4 million people yearly, 78% of whom are from low to middle income countries.
Because together we can save or improve lives... PACT has spared no effort, since its inception in 2005, to mobilize and build partnerships worldwide with international and national cancer organizations as well as with non-profit organizations, some of which are represented in this meeting. These partnerships are crucial to have a realistic chance of fighting the cancer epidemic effectively.
Although it is generally agreed that cancer prevention is likely to be one of the most effective solutions to combat the growing cancer epidemic, in many low income countries, comprehensive cancer diagnosis and treatment, including the use of radiotherapy, remains a vital necessity. Health systems must be adapted to meet the needs of the healthy and the sick by developing comprehensive cancer control programmes that seek not only to prevent, but also detect early, cure and care for cancer patients. During these three days, you will have the opportunity to learn about the strategies and approaches for such integrated programming.
Out of the six Model Demonstration Sites instituted by PACT, three are in the Asia and Pacific Region, namely Sri Lanka, Viet Nam and Yemen. Significant work has already been carried out by the cancer leadership in those countries, some of which will be reported during this meeting. I am confident that we will all watch with interest as the model demonstrations sites develop and become models for comprehensive cancer care, the mobilisation of donor funds and the raising of awareness of the sheer scale of the cancer crisis in the developing world today.
Building regional capacity is also a critical aspect of any successful public health programme. Experience shows that the critical bottleneck to advancing cancer care capacity, whether in treatment or prevention, is training of staff in all areas of cancer control. So, developing regional strategies for the training of cancer care professionals through the establishment of Regional Cancer Training Networks and, in the longer term the establishment of a Regional Virtual Cancer Control University are central to the IAEA´s efforts.
With the experience and expertise in cancer care represented in this meeting room today, with the support of WHO and other international organizations and NGOs, combined with the IAEA´s expertise in delivering radiation medicine technology and training, and with the commitment of your respective national health authorities, I am confident that we can put together the tools, the knowledge and the political will to fight cancer effectively.
The IAEA is fully committed to this endeavour and I am confident that this meeting will be the foundation of an effective regional and international cooperation for joint programme development in combating cancer in the Asia and Pacific region.