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World Cancer Day 2024 Event: Raising Rays of Hope for Cancer Care for All


The IAEA marked World Cancer Day on 1 February with a livestreamed event involving IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. They were joined by Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Ministers of Health in Malawi, and Karina Rando, Minister of Health in Uruguay. Raul Doria, the Head of Paraguay’s National Cancer Institute, also joined the high-level conversation.

Three-time cancer survivor and singer/songwriter Bianca Muñiz also spoke, giving her personal perspective on the complexities of cancer care.

The event helped raise awareness of the IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative and how it is helping countries such as Malawi, Paraguay and Uruguay to tackle an increasing cancer burden by widening access to cancer care. The Ministers of Health of Malawi and Uruguay shared how progress is being made towards new cancer care facilities in their countries. Malawi is one of seven first wave Rays of Hope countries. Uruguay, which has a long history of cancer screening and focusing on early detection of cancer, will soon receive mammography machines and a linear accelerator through the IAEA’s cancer initiative.

The two-day programme organized by the IAEA, is being held to take stock of progress so far under the IAEA’s flagship initiative Rays of Hope: Cancer Care for All, launched on World Cancer Day in 2022 jointly with the then President of Senegal and of the African Union Macky Sall.

Following the livestreamed event, sessions on Donors' Perspective, Preparing Strategic Funding Documents for Resource Mobilization at the National Level, and Partnerships for Hope sought to address cancer care funding issues and deepen new funding avenues, including with development banks and the private sector.  

Through partnerships with governments, international financial institutions and the private sector, Rays of Hope is  helping to increase access to life saving radiotherapy and diagnostic imaging services used in cancer care, focusing on low- and middle- income countries where the need is greatest.

In high-income countries, nearly all patients have access to radiotherapy, but in middle-income countries, however, fewer than 60 percent do. In low-income countries, the figure drops to just one in ten — only ten per cent of cancer patients have access to this life-saving treatment.

Cancer already accounts for one in every six deaths worldwide, and according to estimates from the IARC, the number of global cancer cases is expected to grow significantly in the next two decades, increasing the burden on countries with limited or no access to cancer care.

The Rays of Hope initiative builds on the IAEA’s six decades of experience in working with partners such as the WHO to help countries fight cancer.

Rays of Hope Highlights

  • The first wave countries to receive assistance from Rays of Hope:  Benin, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, and Senegal, have received a range of key radiotherapy and medical imaging machines – as well as training for the medical professionals needed to operate the equipment and provide safe and timely diagnostic and treatment services.
  • In total 76 countries have requested IAEA support through the scheme.
  • Over €60 million has been raised from Member States, development banks, international financial institutions and the private sector.
  • Five anchor centre agreements have been signed in Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Türkiye. A further 20 cancer centres have applied to be anchor centres. Anchor centres will enable research, generate global databases giving insight into cancer care, and advance education and training to strengthen national capacities in cancer care.
  • Over 80 medical professionals have started training in radiotherapy and medical imaging as part of the Rays of Hope initiative.
  • Procurement is underway for 15 specialized radiotherapy and medical imaging machines.
  • The IAEA has signed partnerships with 11 of the world’s largest professional societies in cancer care. Partners will cooperate on research, quality assurance activities, education and training, broadcasting of seminars and webinars, data collection, and dissemination of relevant information.

Malawi is now developing its first radiotherapy centre after becoming one of the first countries to benefit from Rays of Hope support. Previously, cancer patients had to travel to other countries to access radiotherapy treatment. Some 18 000 people in  Malawi suffer from cancer, a figure which is expected to double by 2040 (GLOBOCAN 2020). Training has begun for 13 radiotherapy and medical imaging professionals in the country and procurement is underway for one linear accelerator, an HDR brachytherapy machine, a CT-simulator and dosimetry equipment. Malawi has also begun construction of radiotherapy and brachytherapy bunkers.

“We are a testimony of what Rays of Hope is doing in terms of training young scientists in nuclear related fields, providing expert services and procurement of radiotherapy equipment,” said Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, Malawi’s Minister of Health, speaking at the IAEA’s General Conference last year.

“As a country, we are delighted that very soon we will be able to treat our cancer patients in Malawi.”

The Rays of Hope initiative aims to ensure sustainability by building or strengthening cancer care infrastructure, as well as increasing human resource capacity and training. The IAEA also seeks to enhance and improve countries’ radiation safety legislation and provide quality control to deliver safe, secure and effective cancer services.

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