Every hour, 665 people die of cancer in low and middle income countries. A full third of these cases could have been prevented and a third could have been cured. These startling facts were presented at a side event to the IAEA General Conference on Thursday, 19 September 2013 by the IAEA Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).
The fundamental service PACT offers is imPACT missions in which the IAEA assembles a group of experts, at the request of the Minister of Health of a Member State, who analyse and identify gaps in cancer control measures. These experts then draft a report, which includes recommendations, which if accepted, leads to a road map being created to support the Member State in its fight against one of the most dreaded global disease - cancer. By the end of 2013 PACT will have completed 59 such missions.
The event was opened with a statement by His Excellency, Mr. Mahmoud Hassan El Amin from Sudan, who introduced a panel of three speakers. Dr. Freddie Bray, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in his presentation discussed at length the power of global partnerships, such as that between the IAEA and World Health Organization (WHO), in promoting cancer control measures, and the need to build and maintain national cancer registries. Cancer registries are a vital tool in creating comprehensive cancer control methods to increase coverage in underrepresented areas of the world and to encourage governments to make registries a priority in their cancer control plans.
Proper cancer control training is difficult to obtain in low and middle income countries resulting in a deficit in human resources. As part of the solution to this challenge PACT has partnered with the Republic of Korea to develop a training program for health care workers from these countries. Dr. Hamoud Al-Hussaini, a paediatric oncologist from the National Oncology Centre in Yemen, during his presentation described his trip to the Republic of Korea where he studied cancer control methods for two months and mentioned that that program in this country stands out as a model for the unique cooperation. PACT hopes more states will follow Korea's example and assist in promoting cancer control education.
In the final presentation by Dr. Charles Isabirye, Principal Health Training Officer in the Ministry of Health of Uganda, emphasis was placed on the critical role that regional cooperation plays in cancer control education as demonstrated by the creation of the Virtual University for Cancer Control (VUCCnet) in Africa. Dr. Isabirye highlighted the regional efforts of six African Member States: Ghana, Zambia, Uganda Tanzania, South Africa and Egypt, in creating a virtual learning environment for health care professionals. The program focuses on prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment and palliative care. The VUCCnet creates an opportunity for learning cancer control measures through long distance education. Dr. Isabirye outlined some milestones the university has recently attained such as establishing a constitution, the creation of a Board and the development of a budget and resource mobilization plan as well as establishing a Secretariat in Uganda. The VUCCnet will foster increased African educational capacity resulting in sustainable comprehensive cancer control.