This started eight years ago with a meeting of five National Cancer Institute directors and it’s now up to about ninety. They’re not all cancer institute directors but they’re all leading oncologists, leading cancer doctors in their field and we bring together people from all over the world, from the rich countries, from the very poor countries and people in between, just to share experience and also to look at potential solutions and collaborations to help make the situation better in the low resource countries for doctors and also for their patients. We’re a not for profit organisation, and it’s our aim always to try and raise money to pay all the expenses of people from low or lower-middle income countries. So if we had ten times the budget we could have ten times the people but, no, we’ve got a constraint on that. But we try to revolve it every year who comes and just to get a flavour, to give everyone else a flavour of the situation in those countries, but also to give people from those countries a chance to identify areas where we could find collaboration with people from countries which have got a bit more resources, a bit more income.
So this year we had a very, very interesting opening presentation from Mark Dybul who ran the PEPFAR programme for President Bush and now is the Chief Executive of the Global Fund. And just hearing about that and their work and their structure, the mistakes they’ve made and the way that they’re going forward, has been very, very interesting for the whole audience. We can look to build some chronic disease services onto the concepts that he’s delivered to make the success of the Global Fund and of PEPFAR. So things like that are extraordinarily important. We’ve just seen a remarkable presentation from Seattle, from just a very, very interesting group looking at modern ways of looking at pathology, finding cells, targeting cells, identifying cells, can we find circulating tumour cells as a marker, an early marker for screening. All sorts of exciting things and tomorrow we’ve got a session about the state of oncology. Just a film, Vivienne Parry, it was on the BBC, about the issues of cancer all over the world. We helped her with that and we’re also now going to launch in September at the ECCO meeting a report called The State of Oncology 2013 which investigates the past, the present and the future development of oncology in all regions of the world, all resource levels. So there are a lot of very, very interesting things that we learn from this meeting and it’s nice to come to a meeting where you’re not bored for five days but you actually learn new things and that’s all done in the spirit of science and friendship.
There are two points we’d like to make. When you’re working at a big level you’ve got to realise that first of all health is not just the absence of sickness it’s more than that. We’ve got to learn also that there’s no competition in trying to deliver health; anyone who is doing good work, working in the field, working in an honest and transparent way, who is contributing towards improving health, improving prevention, that’s a very, very important message. And it’s important that it’s not competition - everyone is out to help each other, we’ve all got common goals.
The second thing is the similarity between the situation in the rich countries and the poor countries, the developing world, the developed world, between the risk factors and the strategies for prevention for cancer but also for diabetes and also for cardiovascular disease. We’ve currently got a situation where we’ve got people working in silos – the cancer silo don’t talk to the diabetes silo, don’t talk to the cardiovascular disease silo. In terms of prevention that’s a load of nonsense and that’s a situation that must stop immediately. We’ve got to have a concentrated effort for chronic disease.
The third point is that out of all this, prevention is the key thing. Prevention going forward has got to be the king and we have organised and are in the process of organising a prevention summit that will take place at the Press Club in Washington in November 2014. That’s going to be an opportunity for people working in prevention at all levels of all sorts to come, share experiences and to try and move forward in a co-ordinated manner.