A meeting in London, UK is to offer new transnational collaboration to tackle cancer in Africa. The conference comes at a time when cancer is no longer just a disease of western nations with aging populations. Cancer is afflicting the young and the old alike, and is now clearly a rising concern in the poorest countries on earth, who stand to lose millions of lives unless action is taken.
Cancer already causes more deaths each year worldwide than HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria combined.
By 2020 there are expected to be 15 million new cases of cancer every year, 70 per cent of which will be in developing countries1. Africa will account for over a million new cancer cases a year, and is least able to cope in terms of health infrastructure.
The global response to cancer in Africa will not only require the implementation of effective and affordable cancer control programmes, but it will also require locally relevant research. To begin addressing the challenge, Africa Oxford Cancer Foundation (AfrOx), African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), National Cancer Institute USA, National Cancer Institute (InCa Brazil) and National Cancer Institute (InCa France) have organised a two-day conference to be held at the British Medical Association in London on 15–16 September 2012.
The Rt Hon Alan Milburn Chairman of AfrOx says: “Cancer is no longer a disease of the developed world: it will soon become the newest epidemic in the developing world. Africa will be particularly hard hit because it lacks the basic infrastructure to cope with a big growth in cancer in the years to come. If we can pool expertise and resources we can save tens of thousands of lives.”
"Addressing the Cancer Challenge in Africa requires a strategic partnership that calls for new orientation, critical thinking, investment and plan of action," AORTIC President, Professor Isaac Adewole.
“People don’t perceive cancer as a developing-world problem, but more than 70 per cent of all cancer deaths occur in low and middle income countries,’ says Prof David Kerr of Oxford University and AfrOx. ‘This figure is rising due to increased life expectancy, increased tobacco use and chronic viral infection. Survival rates for cancer in the developing world are often less than half those of more developed countries, and there is little pain relief. In Africa, cancer is a sentence to a painful and distressing death. More research is needed to understand the biology of cancer in Africa, and how we can develop cost effective treatments that can make a difference”.
Four stages of cancer care need to be put in place in African countries: prevention (through vaccination and education to change high-risk behaviours like smoking); early diagnosis and screening; treatment; and finally palliative care for the dying, all evidence based and underpinned by research where possible. Research and the support for research are key element to any plan for cancer control, the genesis of new knowledge to improve our understanding of cancer biology, other risk factors for cancer, dissemination of new ideas and the delivery of better cancer care.
This requires a multi-disciplinary effort which we hope to achieve by bringing together oncologists, researchers, policy makers and activists from Africa, Brazil, Europe and the USA to share their experiences and collective knowledge.
There is no doubt that the global community of cancer researchers will benefit from collaborating with our African colleagues, if we can find an appropriate and sustainable model to support clinical and translational research to the benefit of African patients.
The conference will address issues related to the importance of Cancer Research f or Development in Africa, Best Practices in Research Collaborations, empowering patient perspective in research, the role of industry to drive research forward among others.
More than 100 delegates will be attending, including world leaders from the fields of oncology, research, NGO’s and the pharmaceutical industry.
The vision for cancer control is a model authored by the Member States, with technical, policy support provided by academic inter-agency alliances, industry and governments in the developed world. It is imperative that we close the cancer divide between developed and developing countries as enunciated in the report of the Global Task Team on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control (edited by Felicia M Knaul and co-workers).
Professor Kerr says: ‘We believe that we have a timely opportunity to develop a sustainable model for bringing comprehensive cancer care to African countries.’
Cancer is a leading cause of death globally. From a total of 58 million deaths worldwide in 2005, cancer accounted for 7.6 million (or 13 per cent) of all deaths.
More than 70 per cent of all cancer deaths in 2005 occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Deaths from cancer around the world are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 9 million people dying from cancer in 2015 and 11.4 million dying in 2030. 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented (by a healthy diet, physical activity and not using tobacco).
Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world. Chronic infections account for 20 per cent of cancers worldwide – mainly hepatitis B viruses HBV (causing liver cancer), human papilloma viruses HPV (causing cervical cancer), Helicobacter pylori (causing stomach cancer), schistosomes (causing bladder cancer), the liver fluke (causing bile duct cancer) and HIV (causing Kaposi sarcoma and lymphomas).