Improving access to cancer treatment in developing countries requires strong political commitment and effective public-private strategic partnerships. This was the conclusion of a panel discussion at IAEA Headquarters in Vienna today to mark World Cancer Day 2017. During the discussion, Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow of Belize, and Amadou Diarra of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) shared their perspectives.
It is estimated that, by 2030, over two thirds of all cancer-related deaths will occur in developing countries, said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in his opening address. “The IAEA is doing everything it can to address this crisis. Our focus is on making radiotherapy and nuclear medicine more widely available.”
Providing specialist training for doctors, medical physicists, nurses and researchers is at the heart of what the IAEA does, Mr Amano said.
“We have unique e-learning initiatives such as our Virtual University for Cancer Control, which enables medical professionals in African countries to gain access to high-quality training courses, free of charge,” he added. “Our Human Health Campus website is an information resource for professionals in medical physics, nuclear medicine, radiology, radiation oncology and nutrition, providing insight into modern clinical practice.”
The IAEA estimates that over 5,000 radiotherapy machines will be required in low and middle income countries to meet the current demand for cancer care. In addition to this essential equipment, 10,000 additional radiation oncologists, 6,000 medical physicists, 3,000 dosimetrists and 20,000 radiation therapists would be required for adequate care.
“We need solid practical solutions to help bridge the great divide in cancer control,” said Princess Dina Mired of Jordan. “And we can all contribute. A single act can and will make a difference. From stopping smoking, to advising a friend to do a mammogram, to providing funds, to alerting for a healthy lifestyle — we can all do something individually and as a community.”
The Princess, who is the mother of a cancer survivor, led the King Hussein Cancer Foundation in Jordan as Director General for over 14 years, transforming its cancer care programme and helping thousands of patients. Last year, she was elected President of the Union for International Cancer Control, a network of over 950 organizations in more than 150 countries which is working to reduce the global cancer burden.
Jordan benefits from the support of the IAEA in nuclear medicine and is now assisting countries in the region in this area through IAEA technical cooperation projects.
During the discussion, Princess Dina Mired introduced the C/Can 2025 City Cancer Challenge, an initiative to encourage cities around the world to take the lead on improving the health of their citizens and ensuring access to quality cancer care.
Belize’s First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow, a cancer survivor herself, called for more equitable access to cancer care in Central America and the Caribbean.
“We all share the same goal: to reduce the burden of cancer,” Ms Simplis Barrow said. “But small countries face specific challenges, which is why regional partnerships may be one good way to advance jointly and share resources. We need a broad coalition of government and non-governmental organizations, high-level leadership and commitment. I strongly believe that political leaders can become champions in making a positive change.”
The First Lady of Belize has a long history of working with children and leading the Lifeline Foundation NGO. She was appointed Special Envoy for Women and Children of Belize in 2008 and has worked closely with the Belize Cancer Society.
Last December, a team of experts led by the IAEA assessed Belize’s cancer control capacity. The IAEA and other partners are now supporting the government in its efforts to expand its nuclear medicine services, particularly cancer care. Click here to read more about the mission to Belize.
IFPMA representative Amadou Diarra called for public-private strategic partnerships to effectively address the growing cancer crisis.
“Forging strong partnerships to train health-care professionals and build overall capacity is critical to develop a sustainable health system and help save lives,” he said. “It’s possible to make an impact over a common goal if we join hands, but it is not possible if you’re one stakeholder on your own.”
For more than 30 years, the IAEA has supported Member States in improving capacities to deliver early detection, diagnosis, treatment and palliative cancer care services. It has invested Euro 297 million in cancer projects since 1980.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by world leaders in 2015, include a commitment to reducing early deaths from chronic diseases, including cancer, by one third by 2030. According to The Lancet Oncology 2015, approximately Euro 90 billion (US $97 billion) would be required to enable full access to radiotherapy for all patients in need in low and middle income countries by 2035.