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Companies, Academic Sector in Japan Support ‘Rays of Hope’ Cancer Initiative


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi invited companies operating in Japan to partner with the IAEA to help scale up the global fight against cancer, at an event in Tokyo on Wednesday. (Photo: D. Candano/IAEA)

For six decades, the IAEA has helped countries fight cancer, in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) – and for the first time an IAEA director general has invited Japanese companies to partner with the IAEA to help scale up the global fight against cancer.

“IAEA assistance has enabled many countries to strengthen safe, secure and effective radiation medicine capabilities,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at an event in Tokyo with senior representatives of over a dozen pharmaceutical, health care and other companies operating in Japan. “However, the IAEA is seeking more resources and help to bridge the enormous shortfall in equipment and personnel in developing countries.”

Mr Grossi, who is on a three-day visit to Japan, presented the IAEA initiative, Rays of Hope, which was launched on World Cancer Day this year, on the margins of the African Union Summit to tackle the global inequity in access to cancer care. President Macky Sall of Senegal, Chairperson of the African Union, and other heads of state and government launched the new initiative alongside Mr Grossi.

The Tokyo event was hosted by the Japanese Society of Nuclear Medicine, the Japan Radiological Society, the Japanese Society of Radiation Oncology and co-sponsored by the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, the Association for Nuclear Technology in Medicine and the Asia Oceania Federation of Nuclear Medicine and Biology.

“Japan welcomes and will actively support Rays of Hope,” said Kentaro Uesugi, Parliamentary Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the event.

The IAEA, which has traditionally relied on funding from its Member States, is forging new partnerships and tapping into diverse sources of funding, including from financial institutions, development banks and the private sector to ensure maximum impact and the sustainability of Rays of Hope. “By organizing a coalition of donors and partners, the IAEA can best support the enhancement of radiation medicine and save lives,” Mr Grossi said. The initiative will employ the breadth of the IAEA’s expertise to support countries in the safe diagnosis and treatment of cancer using radiation medicine.

Rays of Hope will begin supporting seven African countries – Benin, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Niger and Senegal – in its first phase. The initiative will extend to Asia and the Latin America and Caribbean regions later this year.

Japan’s involvement in regional projects

Japan has been a member of the IAEA since the Agency’s inception in 1957. It is currently supporting 29 technical cooperation projects, of which eight projects are focused on cancer control in Asia-Pacific. Japan is leading two of those eight projects, overseeing the implementation of the projects together with the IAEA. As a result of a project led by Japan to promote collaboration among radiotherapy professionals in the region, the Asia-Pacific Radiation Oncology Network (ASPRONET) was established, and a complementary online course has been launched.

In addition, Japan has two collaborating centres in human health to support IAEA activities: Hiroshima International Council for Health Care of the Radiation-Exposed (HICARE) and National Institute for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST). Japanese universities, institutions and researchers have been active in IAEA coordinated research projects, as well.

In the past five years, Japan has hosted 11 training courses for cancer control specialists, and nearly 100 people from 20 countries have visited Japan for scientific visits and fellowships. “Japan has an amazing array of institutions, nuclear medicine providers and availability of the best resources for cancer treatment,” Mr Grossi said. “The IAEA is pleased to continue its fruitful partnership with Japan in cancer control and beyond.”

Mr Grossi will visit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Thursday and meet with high-level government officials in Tokyo on Friday.

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