The day designated to the IAEA´s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) at this year´s General Conference provided ample evidence of the young initiative´s growing role in international efforts to fight cancer in the developing world.
"France salutes the IAEA´s efforts to fight cancer," said French Ambassador S.E. M. François-Xavier Deniau at a special ceremony formalizing the close collaboration between PACT and France´s International Cooperation Net*. Noting that major health issues of our time, such as cancer, require concerted international cooperation, the Ambassador said: "The International Atomic Energy Agency, which acts within the framework of the United Nations, and France, within that of the European Union, share the conviction that the fight against this plague cannot be carried out alone." Earlier, the French Delegation and PACT set up a liaison committee to formulate and oversee future strategies for the new partnership.
The ceremony also showcased a new book About Cancer in Africa, by the Senegalese doctor Adama Ly. With contributions from 136 leading oncologists, epidemiologists, researchers and other health specialists from 32 different countries, the book represents an exhaustive overview and working tool for all those confronting the challenge of cancer in Africa.
Dr. Ly spent three years compiling the book, which was published by the French National Cancer Institute and is available in both French and English. He said: "Cancer is a huge problem in Africa. My book, which includes the work of many cancer experts, is an attempt to tackle this problem." According to Dr. Ly, by 2020 as many as one million new cancer cases each year will occur in sub-Saharan Africa unless action is taken now.
Speaking at the ceremony Werner Burkart, Deputy Director General, Nuclear Applications, hailed the new partnership, saying: "Access to cancer care in Africa is minimal and the need to build capacity is great. What is needed is a holistic and integrated approach. In this respect, it is extremely encouraging to see so many stakeholders here, prepared to collaborate."
Another highlight for PACT was the successful negotiation of the terms of a tripartite agreement for the donation by India of a Bhabhatron II Teletherapy machine to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. India is donating the machine in support of the PACT initiative to implement a comprehensive cancer control programme in Vietnam. Vietnam was launched as one of PACT´s six Model Demonstration Sites (PMDS) in August 2007. The Bhabhatron unit is destined for the cancer therapy unit at Vietnam´s Can Tho General Hospital. The government of India will provide further support in the commissioning, maintenance, and training in its use.
At a signing ceremony to mark the finalization of the terms of the agreement, which was also attended by Le Dinh Tien, Vietnam´s Deputy Minister of Science and Technology and Vuong Huu Tan, Chairman of Vietnam´s Atomic Energy Commission, in addition to IAEA/PACT officials, Amil Kakodkar, Secretary of India´s Department of Atomic Energy, said: "With medical equipment becoming more sophisticated and more expensive, it is impossible for poorer countries to finance the medical technology they need. It is of particular pleasure to us that this machine, developed using Indian expertise, is going to Vietnam. It strengthens our historical ties and cooperation."
Earlier in the week, a delegation from the Republic of Korea presented PACT with a small but significant donation: US $10,000 gathered entirely by voluntary contribution from private individuals. (See story.)
According to Massoud Samiei, Head of the PACT Programme office, Member States have donated more than US $3 million to the PACT initiative since the General Conference of 2006. A further US $50,000 has been collected through the recently-installed "DONATE NOW" option on the PACT website. "We´re delighted at the many expressions of recognition and support that PACT has received from Member States at this year´s General Conference," said Dr. Samiei.
Created by the IAEA in 2004 in response to the developing world´s growing cancer crisis, PACT seeks to raise cancer awareness, assess needs, develop demonstration projects and attract donors. PACT also aims to work with leading cancer organisations to develop joint programmes and raise funds for cancer care where they are most needed.
PACT´s many partners include the French National Institute of Cancer; The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs; The French Ministry of Health; Oncologists without Borders; Medical Physicists without Borders; The World Alliance Against Cancer; and the International Union Against Cancer, among others.