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Bold Initiative Launched in Nicaragua for World Cancer Day

2007/02

A ground-breaking project to fight Nicaragua´s growing cancer crisis is being launched by a partnership of international institutions to mark this year´s World Cancer Day (4 February 2007).

The new partnership, coordinated by the IAEA´s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), aims to dramatically reduce cancer deaths in Nicaragua and improve conditions for thousands of people living with cancer by mobilizing experts from across the cancer care community.

"Only a broad alliance can develop the necessary strengths and resources to avoid the cancer disaster that is looming in the developing world," says Franco Cavalli, President of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC). "Swiss doctors have been working to develop cancer care in Nicaragua since the 1980s and UICC is pleased to be a partner in this initiative."

Cancer is one of Latin America´s three major killers – 25,000 women in the region die of cervical cancer every year. Nicaragua was selected as the first PACT Model Demonstration Site in Latin America after the government gave its full support in implementing an integrated cancer control plan.

Many of Nicaragua´s cancer victims are from poor communities with little access to screening and treatment facilities. Cancer strikes people in the prime of their lives, causing personal tragedy and negatively impacting the nation´s future. Yet many of these cancers can be successfully treated if detected early enough.

"Patients with curable cancers are still dying unnecessarily in Nicaragua because cancer is not addressed comprehensively," says Massoud Samiei, Head of the PACT programme at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "We have the know-how and cost-effective technologies to defeat cancer. What is needed are more financial and human resources."

Nicaragua, population 7 million, currently has one radiotherapy centre. The donation through PACT by Canada´s MDS Nordion this year of a $750,000 Equinox cancer therapy system will help the country better meet its radiotherapy needs.

PACT was created by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2004 for the express purpose of helping developing countries combat the growing cancer crisis. In addition to the IAEA, PACT´s partners in Nicaragua currently include: The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, the Cancer Association of Nicaragua (ANICO), the Nicaraguan National Centre for Radiotherapy, the World Health Organisation (WHO)/Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the International Union Against Cancer (UICC), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), and MDS Nordion.

Five further sites have been selected for model projects: Albania, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam and Yemen. The main aim of the three-year initiatives is to demonstrate that public/private alliances can significantly impact health systems in developing countries by improving cancer education, prevention and treatment. Such collaborative efforts raise the profile of cancer, stimulating donor interest. They also place cancer squarely on the international health agenda. For more information on PACT and its Model Demonstration Sites, please visit www.iaea.org/pact.

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