Message from the president-elect of AORTIC

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Published: 12 Dec 2011
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Dr Ahmed Elzawawy - ICEDOC & SEMCO, Egypt

 AORTIC (African Organisation for Research & Training In Cancer) is an African based non-governmental organisation dedicated to the promotion of cancer control and palliation in Africa. It has branches across the world and will soon be opening a new branch in Europe. Dr Ahmed Elzawawy, the president-elect, discusses the ‘win-win’ approach being used to bring affordable medication to African patients. It is hoped that this work can help increase early detection and consequently treatment success, can increase availability of palliative care and patient quality of life.


Dr Elzawawy explains how western clinicians could benefit from sharing their expertise with African practitioners but emphasises that rather than attempting to mirror others, African doctors should learn from others and find the best approach for African communities.

AORTIC 2011, Cairo, Egypt 30 November–2 December 2011


Message from the president-elect of AORTIC


Dr Ahmed Elzawawy – ICEDOC & SEMCO, Egypt


One of the things, it was in ICEDOC and ICEDOC is expert in cancer without borders. We were inspired with the idea from Médecins sans Frontières in France and it is based now in Texas, more organisations, and with more than 120 experts in cancer from different specialities – oncologists, nurses, scientists, advocacy and physicists and others, who are interested to serve as volunteers in different parts of the world and carrying a message of love for all. This is very needed, this message of love for all, particularly at this time of the world. In 1996 in Vienna was the founding meeting and before and after I joined many organisations and today we are in AORTIC. AORTIC is the African Organisation for Research and Training In Cancer, I served it as vice-president for North Africa for about six years and today I have the honour that my colleagues in the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer selected me, I’m too honoured with this, I hope to be at the level to deserve this, to be the president-elect of AORTIC starting from this afternoon and then to be president from 2013 to 2015.


AORTIC is the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer, it’s North American branch or office is in New York and it is an NGO in the United States and the other branch is the Africa branch which is based in Cape Town as an NGO. Both parts constitute AORTIC, so AORTIC is in North America and America and Africa and also the council, before this conference, the executive council, we decided to have a Europe branch because many colleagues in Europe and the UK and France and other countries have surely have potentiality to have relations in Africa and everything. So we would like to make the benefit of this for the good of Africans or the good of the fight against cancer.


Also I’m involved in something called the win-win initiative, the win-win scientific initiative. It is a sort of scientific initiative and many distinguished presidents and directors of different scientific organisations in cancer are leading this, including Professor Eduardo Cazap, the president of the International Union against Cancer or as it called now, the Union for International Cancer Control, and Professor David Kerr who is the president of ESMO, the European Society for Medical Oncology, colleagues from ASCO, from other organisations. The objective is to have a sort of win-win scenario, scientific scenario of how to make treatment of cancer more affordable for more millions of cancer. We are in front of a sky-rocketing increase in cancer treatment prices; the objective is not to reduce the cost of drugs per se, this is a very narrow thing, but we would like to have a more scientific approach to reduce the total cost, to increase the effectiveness of cancer treatment without compromising or also increase the cost-effectiveness and what is now called better value for cancer treatment, better value for health, better value for care, better value for chemotherapy, better value for radiotherapy and so on.


It is, as you know now, the quality of care, the quality of the industrial process is not now the main objective since now we are passing to the third health revolution with new concepts, new definitions. One of these is we don’t say quality now, we say better value, we speak about value which is more broader and more realistic also. So how to make this and to be realistic, to have the sort of win-win initiative is not to say that pharmaceutical companies reduce your sales, not to say that equipment to reduce your sales, not to say less treatment but how to include all stakeholders in a win-win scenario and all will gain. You may reduce the total cost but you will have more sales; you will reduce the total cost but then you will treat more patients and you have more access to treatment and then your campaign for early detection will succeed because having campaigned for early detection and screening without available treatment or accessible treatment is torture and frustrating to both healthcare professionals and for patients’ families. You should have after the early diagnosis, if it’s successful, to have access to reasonable treatment. So we should see things in a global view.


Availability of reasonable palliative care is a very important process and an important part of cancer control and also it makes your treatment succeed. Sometimes you spend a lot of money in treatment which is useless, what makes a better quality and better quality of life, better quality of death, better palliative care and good supportive care. So it is a global view in which all would gain and this is the win-win initiative. This concept of win-win, we’d like to introduce it in all these initiatives because it is not confrontations between different parties, it is not competitions. We are living on one planet and there is a place for all to live, to live well provided that we love more each other, we care about each other, respect the interests of all. I’m a clinical oncologist and my interest is to treat my patients but I should like to see the patients get access to treatment, I should not ignore the interests of companies to get money because otherwise it is not realistic, it is not realistic at all. I am not working for profit, I am a volunteer but I should respect this, we should search together for something that will be better in respect to the interest of governments, economy, patients, social dignity of patients, interests of the company because it’s the economy. And going forward in our professions and this is good, and research and science are the only vehicle to do this. Otherwise we’ll be just speaking and just with intention, but intention is very good but it’s not enough. So via science and via research, via reasonable approaches, we can do a lot and we can translate these good intentions in the heart into action and to progress with love for all.


Is there a model of cancer care that African nations should use?


We should not copy one example in one country, to copy it to another, to copy it as it is but we can learn from one example to apply what could be beneficial for a certain community. So we should learn from different communities to apply, what is to tailor and to customise approaches according to not only the local condition but to the expectation of people and the community.


How can doctors help one another across borders?


An exchange of experience is very important. All will gain, scientists in Oxford or Harvard will gain by enriched experiences that may not be found in Harvard and this will give him maybe inspiring things that he can apply in very sophisticated things in Harvard or in Chicago or in Michigan or Cambridge. So it is an exchange of experience and a transfer of technology, tailor it according to local conditions and an exchange of experience and to consider the local expectations and the culture of different peoples. As they say in French, il faut un peu de tout pour faire le monde; this is very nice that the world consists of many small things, cultures, many different tests for everything so it is rich. Fortunately it is not a mono-view or mono-test, one single test, it would be very boring. So it is enriching to have all these things together.