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Innovation Key in Increasing Access to Cancer Care: IAEA Director General Addresses World Cancer Leaders’ Summit


The IAEA runs a linear accelerator (linac) facility at its laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Key decision makers convened at the annual World Cancer Leaders’ Summit this week to share and debate ways that innovations in cancer care can increase access to care worldwide. The Summit is the world’s main policy meeting dedicated to furthering cancer control, and is hosted by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in partnership with the IAEA, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“By 2040 there will be more than 30 million new [cancer] cases burdening lives, communities and entire health systems,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in his opening video address, stressing that the greatest burden would continue to be borne by developing countries. “They cannot carry it alone and the IAEA is determined to see to it that they do not have to,” he said. The IAEA currently has more than 150 projects in nuclear medicine and diagnostic imaging underway in 120 countries.

“We know that quality care and radiation medicine save lives,” he continued, pointing to research undertaken by the IAEA in collaboration with more than 20 professional organizations, which showed that a comprehensive scale-up of combined imaging, treatment, and care quality could prevent almost 10 million deaths worldwide between 2020 and 2030.

Mr Grossi highlighted the Agency’s six decades of experience working in cancer care, which includes educating and training radiation medicine professionals, offering technical advice, procuring diagnosis and treatment equipment, and supporting radiation safety and quality assurance. While significant progress has been made, “Cancer often seems one step ahead,” he said. “To compete, we must scale the good we do. And that means we must innovate.”

Participants also learned about the IAEA’s innovative approaches in three areas: in determining where help is most needed, through collecting and mapping data; in maximising limited resources for the greatest impact, through the possible use of centres of excellence; and in improving the treatment that patients get, through applying clinical research across areas of expertise and across borders.

The hybrid two-day Summit was held for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and at the event participants discussed lessons learned from the pandemic, including takeaways from the development of the COVID-19 vaccines and how to safeguard and strengthen cancer care in a post COVID-19 world. Attendees also focused on the role of research in innovating for change and in promoting more equitable cancer policy, as well as ways of advancing age-inclusive cancer care and how digital solutions are transforming the delivery of care.

Joining forces

Through its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy and its Human Health Programme, the IAEA works in close partnership with countries that request its services, to strengthen national capacities in health care delivery and throughout the entire continuum of cancer, from prevention to diagnostics, treatment and palliative care. The Agency works with international organizations and funding institutions, as well as private sector and nongovernmental partners.

Stressing the importance of an integrated and multistakeholder approach to targeting cancer, Mr Grossi called on everyone to step up and said: “It is true that cancer is a formidable foe. But together, we are a powerful counterforce.”

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