World Cancer Congress 2012

The World Cancer Congress was held in Montréal, Canada from 27-30 August, where healthcare leaders from around the world discussed a number of important issues about cancer including the global burden of the disease and what can be done to reduce this; cervical cancer, the role that infections play in this and the success of vaccines to prevent it; and how countries can build capacity to tackle cancer and control noncommunicable disease (NCDs), among other issues.

At the congress, ministers of health and leading international figures who took part in the 2012 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit (WCLS) committed to reduce the burden of cancer through supporting wider use of national cancer control plans (NCCPs). They suggested that by doing this it would help alleviate the staggering economic and social costs of the disease.

In a statement, they said: “Cancer imparts on all societies a heavy burden of distress, suffering and death, which is set to have enormous economic impact if governments do not take action now. This is true throughout the world, but particularly in countries lacking the health infrastructure to cope with the increasing number of people affected by the disease. Without sustained action, cancer incidence is projected to increase by 70% in middle-income countries and 82% in lower-income countries by 2030, according to figures from the World Bank.

It is also estimated that cancer and the other NCDs – diabetes, cardiovascular and lung disease – will cause an economic loss of output in low and middle-income economies exceeding US$7 trillion by 2025 – a yearly loss equivalent to 4% of annual output in these countries.

Dr Oleg Chestnov, Assistant Director- General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health, World Health Organization (WHO), explained: “National cancer control programmes evaluate the best ways to control and prevent cancer at country level. Governments who committed early on to address noncommunicable diseases are already seeing progress in reducing cancer, diagnosing sooner and saving lives. Based on these successful examples, more countries should implement similar programmes.”

Delegates at the WCLS, heard how nations which have designed and implemented robust NCCPs are now demonstrating marked progress in reducing the incidence of, and deaths caused by, cancer. They were also shown the value of robust data provided by populationbased cancer registries in guiding and monitoring NCC planning and how governments around the world can articulate the economic case for action. For these reasons, delegates embracing academia, civil society organisations and the private sector, agreed to help support governments in the implementation of strong, action-oriented NCCPs in all countries by sharing best practice and information.

“With cancer incidence set to rise dramatically in low- and middle-income countries in the next 20 years, an unsustainable burden is falling on these nations, both economically and socially. The international cancer community must commit support and expertise to help the developing world combat this trend through measures adapted to the specific cancer patterns occurring in these countries,” said Dr Christopher Wild, International Agency for Research on Cancer.

A 2011 WHO report noted that the introduction of global interventions which will help avoid many millions of premature NCD deaths would cost approximately $11bn per annum to implement and result in many billions of dollars of additional global economic output.

Cervical cancer

There were several speakers at a number of sessions discussing cervical cancer. They pointed out that more than 99% of cervical cancer cases are attributed to human papillomavirus (HPV). They noted that two effective HPV vaccines now exist that prevent the HPV genotypes responsible for most cases of cervical cancer and that may be useful to reduce the number of deaths attributable to this disease. The vaccines have now been registered in 120 countries and 63 countries currently have either national or pilot programmes in place to deliver these vaccines.

They said that GAVI support will also be needed to provide these vaccines to the world’s poorest nations and added that eventually a comprehensive approach that integrates HPV vaccination with HPV DNA testing for screening will be needed. The GAVI Alliance is a public-private partnership that seeks to “introduce lifesaving vaccines into developing countries faster than ever before”.

They emphasised that neither of the two HPV vaccines currently available protect against all oncogenic HPV types and therefore screening will continue to be necessary.

During these sessions the importance of allowing women to make informed decisions with regard to HPV vaccination was highlighted with a call to provide them with all the necessary information. For example, although there are more than 40 anogenital HPV types, only 15 are considered oncogenic and most of the time these infections will clear on their own – only 5% of infections will lead to precancerous lesions, according to a speaker at the session.

Princess Dina calls for action on 25 by 25 goal

HRH Princess Dina Mired, of Jordan, Director General of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation (KHCF), headed a delegation from the King Hussein Cancer Foundation and Center who participated in the World Cancer Congress. Princess Dina called on the international community and all stakeholders to quickly translate the WHO 25 by 25 target into a meaningful Global Action Plan to reduce the risks of developing cancer, improving early detection rates and enhancing treatment and care capabilities around the world. The 25 by 25 target is a United Nations goal on noncommunicable diseases set by the Member States at the World Health Assembly in May seeking an overall reduction in premature deaths by 25% by 2025.

“2025 may seem a long way ahead, but we must act now and insist that all countries place cancer at the heart of their health agenda. In Jordan, the King Hussein Cancer Center has turned what was a severely under-resourced cancer-care setting into a success story. In just 10 years our hard work and comprehensive approach achieved international standards of cancer treatment thereby increasing individuals’ chances of survival. It is imperative we replicate this elsewhere; we do not have time to waste,” Princess Dina said.

Her Royal Highness called for greater partnerships and asked those in low- and middle-income countries to “roll up their sleeves” and take the lead.

During the conference, Princess Dina joined other cancer leaders in lobbying for cancer to be recognised in the Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs). In 2000, world leaders agreed to 10 global targets to help free billions of people from poverty and other deprivations by 2015. With 2015 approaching, the UN is now consulting on a revised framework for these targets and the cancer community believes that cancer and the other NCDs must be included in their replacements in order to receive the commitment and funding needed to erase the rising epidemic.

 Date of upload: 20th Nov 2012


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