The first session was on Friday, this was an extended educational session and there were actually two chapters in the educational book that I would encourage those of you interested in global health to read. The first was an invited piece about the history of the non-communicable diseases or NCD movement that led to the UN political declaration for NCDs and has culminated just a week ago in Geneva, Switzerland with the World Health Assembly cancer resolution being passed by all member states. So it’s an exciting time in global oncology.
The other chapter in the book is about global partnerships for cancer control. This was the theme of the educational session on Friday. Dr Peter Yu introduced the session and gave an overview of the global oncology leadership taskforce as well as all the interesting opportunities for people to engage with ASCO on the international stage. He spoke about partnerships, he spoke about ASCO university and the opportunities for volunteers to get more involved. Now, ASCO membership is growing all the time as I understand it and there are more than half of the members outside of the US now. So I would encourage you to look at the website, I believe the slides will be posted, and we can have more about that later.
The second session was by Dr Sana Al Sakhun who is from the University of Jordan. She gave a superb discussion and overview of what we really need to work together towards reducing the global cancer burden. Now, there’s no one person or one agency who can do this but I encourage you to look later, she will be interviewed later on ecancer.tv and she will discuss in much more detail what she presented on Friday. It was mostly about the different elements that have to be brought together in order to really make a difference. For example, if you have equipment and infrastructure but lack human resource capacity you’re not going to get very far. These things may sound like motherhood and apple pie but actually putting them together in this context and getting us all in the room to really think about how we can strategize to bridge those gaps was very fruitful. There was a good Q&A afterwards as well.
The next session was by Dr Mary Gospodarowicz who, as you know, is formerly president of the UICC, the Union for International Cancer Control. She spoke about the challenges of bringing new technologies to low and middle income countries for cancer. The specific example that she highlighted was about radiotherapy, which is her special area of expertise, and she led the radiotherapy taskforce whilst president of UICC. I would encourage you to look at the Lancet Oncology summary of that report.
The third talk was by Dr Gilberto Lopez who many of you know. He gave a very heartfelt and poignant discussion of the problems of access to new treatments. He gave actually his own family story and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that, either on ecancer.tv or in print through ASCO Connection.
Finally I gave an overview of the World Health Organisation and the other UN agencies’ role in global cancer control. In particular I mentioned the different UN agencies that work with the World Health Organisation such as the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is the WHO’s specialised agency for cancer research based in Lyon, France. These three communities of scientists and public health experts have been coming together for many years but in particular now are working towards helping countries at a member state’s request to develop and actually implement and mobilise resources for their national cancer control plan and their national cancer control strategy. Together these three agencies also partnered with four other UN agencies for the Global Joint Programme for Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control. That includes UNAIDS because, as many of you may know, if you’re HIV positive you’re much more likely to develop and die of invasive cervical cancer. So UNAIDS is a pivotal part of this organisation, as is UNICEF because, let’s face it, we’re talking about children and young adolescents who really are the ones who need HPV vaccines the most. Also UN Women who have an important political role, in particular advocating for women’s health and rights and equality for women, and lastly is UNFPA, last but not least, the UN Population Fund, who are actually the administrative agents for this UN Global Joint Programme for Cervical Cancer. So stay tuned for more about that. The updates are that the programme has been able to complete several missions for the first phase of six countries to assist the governments in working with civil society.
This is where the partnerships come in – communities like yours, whether you’re an ASCO member, you have academic affiliation, you may be an individual practitioner with an interest in global health, you might be a public health scientist who happens to be checking out ecancer.tv. The whole point is to try to bring everyone together because it really does take more than a village to make an impact in global oncology.
So I ended by mentioning a bit about the history of the UN process that led to the declaration, political declaration, at the high level meeting on NCDs in September 2011 that led to the Global Action Plan for Non-Communicable Diseases and the target to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by 25% by 2025 and finally, with the World Health Assembly passing of the cancer resolution, which was just a week ago. So we’ll keep you posted on this. I encourage you to look at the World Health Organisation website also for updates.