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Opening Address at International Conference on Advances in Radiation Oncology (ICARO)

Vienna Austria

Distinguished Guests, Delegates, Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to welcome you to Vienna and to this International Conference on Advances in Radiation Oncology.

Let me say how pleased I am to see such a large number of delegates here: almost 400 delegates have registered, representing 96 Member States and 24 national and international organizations. This high level of interest truly reflects the worldwide importance of radiotherapy in cancer treatment. I´m also pleased to note that the majority of our participants come from low and middle income countries, where transfer from simple to advanced technologies is ongoing.

The field of radiation medicine includes both radiation imaging - by diagnostic radiology or nuclear medicine - and treatment. The world has seen some great advances in cancer diagnostics in the last thirty years with the advent of Computerized Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Positron Emission Tomography (PET). These advances in imaging have enabled great advances in radiotherapy treatment planning, making it more precise, leading to higher cure rates and sparing healthy tissues at the same time. We look forward to hearing in this conference how advanced imaging and radiotherapy techniques should be applied, and what are the new challenges in training and quality assurance for staff working in this field.

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Non-communicable diseases such as cancer are on a steep rise. They can severely burden a country´s economy and cause a drain on development financing. The fact is, cancer treatment is costly, and given pressing challenges many countries will postpone developing a national cancer control strategy. This fact is of great concern to us here at the IAEA. In this regard, we are working with Member States and partners to highlight the need for concerted cancer control strategies that will address the problem before the threat of a cancer epidemic becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the words of our Director General Mr. ElBaradei: health security is linked to political security and international relations. Investment in health represents real input into economic growth and global security. Investment on evidence based treatment, whether for cure or for palliation, improves the quality of care and quality of life of the individual and his/her nearest ones.

We are taking a pragmatic approach to this effort: many of you will have heard of our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy - PACT. An "umbrella programme", we launched PACT three years ago as a unique effort to work with other agencies in partnership to address global cancer issues. Far from being "business as usual" PACT is a liaison point among institutions dedicated to cancer to solve problems related to the disease. More recently, we also signed a joint partnership agreement with the World Health Organization - a real must in tackling the growing cancer crisis on a global scale.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

New technologies represent advances - better ways to diagnose and treat patients. Nevertheless acquiring new technology can be expensive both in terms of needs to improve infrastructure and more training of human resources to take full advantage of the new equipment being developed every day. Without the private sector and its massive investment in this area, this would not be possible. The IAEA is intent in making public-private partnerships more than buzz words, and we are pleased to see the strong representation of the world´s manufacturers of cancer therapy equipment at this Conference.

Besides their commitment to our efforts through the donation of equipment to some of the IAEA-sponsored cancer treatment demonstration sites, called PACT Model Demonstration sites, we are also grateful to the 22 companies whose voluntary contributions were used to support the travel of delegates from developing countries to attend this conference. Without their financial commitment, we would have been unable to ensure the attendance of so many people.

At this point I would like to launch a challenge to our colleagues in the private sector. It would be truly heartening to see the further development of robust and easier to use equipment for cancer therapy that is more easily affordable by any clinic or hospital in a low resource setting.

Scientific meetings sometimes appear distanced from action that would cause impact on strategic directions of the fields they cover - let´s make a committment here to make this one different.

In this meeting, you will have the chance to point to and influence future work in application of advanced technologies in radiation oncology during the summary and recommendations of each session. Where are the gaps in our knowledge and training programmes and how should they be addressed? What needs are there to develop a Quality Assurance culture to enable to adopt new innovations with confidence and safety? What should the priorities be in considering the reality of increasing patient numbers and limited resources? Note that the recommendations should not necessarily be restricted to the work of the IAEA. I wish you success in this important exercise.

During the conference, delegates will also have the opportunity to interact with speakers and to view and discuss posters. On your behalf I would like to thank the session chairs and staff that reviewed the high quality papers presented during this meeting.

Dear colleagues, you have a challenging programme ahead of you for the next three days, thanks to the diligence of the scientific committee. And, the collaboration of the co-sponsoring and co-operating organisations has helped to ensure that this meeting is truly international, consistent with the name and the mandate of the IAEA itself.

I am sure that you will have a stimulating and interesting meeting here in Vienna with its long and distinguished history of both the arts and sciences.

This conference continues those traditions. Please use this opportunity to interact with each other to the full in this unique environment and exchange your experience and create ideas for the future.

I wish you a productive and enjoyable conference.


Last update: 9 March 2017