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IAEA Responds to Cancer Crisis in Tanzania

2006/03

On the occasion of World Cancer Day (4 February), the IAEA announced that its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) will establish its first Centre of Excellence in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. This low-income East African country has one of the continent´s highest cancer rates and only one cancer treatment centre.

"Cancer is a growing crisis all across the developing world," explains IAEA Director General and Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei. "We can save thousands of lives if we put together the tools, the knowledge and the political will to fight cancer effectively," he said.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death worldwide after cardiovascular disease. Over 7 million people died of cancer in 2005, and close to 11 million new cancer cases were diagnosed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 70 percent of cancer deaths now occur in low and middle income countries - the very countries least able to address this growing burden. Cancer-related deaths are projected to increase to more than 9 million people annually by 2015. Already cancer claims twice the number of lives worldwide as AIDS. Low income nations now face a dual burden of communicable and chronic diseases such as cancer.

The IAEA spends about $12 million each year for improving cancer treatment in the developing world. Last year, it established the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), to build partnerships with the WHO and other organizations dedicated to controlling cancer. Much of the IAEA's share of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Award has been dedicated to helping the developing world deal with the dramatic rise in cancer that is overwhelming limited health resources and equipment.

The harsh reality of developing nations is one of overburdened health systems with little cancer screening and unnecessarily late cancer diagnosis and non-curative treatment. The IAEA estimates that approximately 5,000 cancer care centres and systems - plus the doctors and other health workers to operate them - are needed to help low and middle income countries fight cancer. Currently, only about 2,500 radiotherapy machines are operating. Moreover, most developing countries lack effective public health policies and comprehensive diagnostic programmes that are essential to managing the growing cancer epidemic.

On World Cancer Day, the IAEA is pleased to announce its decision to install a MDS Nordion Equinox cancer therapy system at the Tanzanian clinic as part of a larger PACT effort to help the country advance its National Cancer Strategy and Action Plan, which will now for the first time include not only curative treatment but also cancer surveillance, prevention, early detection, and palliation.

"The need to respond to this cancer crisis is clear and compelling," MDS Nordion President Steve West said. "We are proud to be part of PACT and the global response to improve cancer care in Tanzania and ultimately throughout the developing world."

The International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and its member organizations in over 80 countries are dedicating World Cancer Day 2006 to fighting childhood cancers by focusing on early detection and equal access to treatment. More than 80% of children affected by cancer live in low-income countries, where the cure rate is very low and most receive no treatment. The UICC advocates a coordinated strategy by the global cancer control community - one that combines innovative science and sound public health policies. This approach can save a large proportion of the 90,000 children lost every year to cancer.

Cancer Treatment in Tanzania

The majority of cancers prevalent in Tanzania today require radiotherapy treatment. PACT will establish its first Centre of Excellence at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The ORCI estimates that each year there are over 20,000 new patients with cancer in Tanzania. Currently, ORCI can treat only about 2,500 patients per year - only a fraction of radiotherapy needs in Tanzania. To meet future needs, Tanzania will need many more machines and a corresponding number of doctors, nurses and technicians to operate them, according to PACT. The additional cancer therapy system from Canadian-based MDS Nordion will allow the Institute to treat another 1,000 patients per year. This is the initial step in building PACT´s first Centre of Excellence.

"We are very delighted that our call for expanded access to cancer treatment in Tanzania has been heard and will ensure that this first PACT project goes a long way to helping save lives in Tanzania," said Dr. Twalib Ngoma, the ORCI Executive Director.

Sound public health policies in cancer care must include cancer prevention, education, as well as early detection programmes. Investing in these areas greatly amplifies the benefits of investing in radiotherapy by ensuring that individuals with curable cancers receive early, lifesaving treatment. During implementation of the Tanzanian National Cancer Strategy and Action Plan, the IAEA will focus on radiotherapy and palliation, while other PACT partners will work with Tanzania on cancer surveillance, prevention, and early detection as well as strengthening civil society and community support for cancer control.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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