Rays of Hope: Permanent Missions in Geneva get acquainted with PACT and its partners

1 February 2008

Representatives of leading cancer organizations, NGOs and more than 30 Member States gathered at the United Nations in Geneva on 28 January 2008 for a seminar highlighting the work of the IAEA's Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).

Called “Rays of Hope – Promoting affordable Cancer Therapy for Everyone”, the seminar was opened by IAEA Deputy Director General Dr Werner Burkart, who told participants the IAEA's unique competence in nuclear techniques made it a fitting partner for the World Health Organization (WHO) in a number of health areas, including cancer control. The mandates of the two organizations are complementary, he explained.

Stressing the importance of collaboration in helping developing countries fight cancer, Dr. Burkart said: “Our presence here today is an affirmation of the strong desire on our part to implement PACT in partnership with WHO and other key organizations. We want to proceed under the umbrella of WHO's primary mandate on health and cancer control.”

Dr Peter Boyle, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), highlighted the present burden of cancer, dwelling on specific situations in developing countries. He sketched trends for the future and urged a focussed partnership, such the one spearheaded by PACT, to combat cancer on a global scale.

PACT was presented by its Head, Dr Massoud Samiei, who detailed why the global cancer crisis cannot be approached from the treatment angle alone, and presented the public-private partnership model used by PACT in its six Demonstration Sites (Albania, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam, Yemen). The national cancer control planning framework advocated by the WHO has of course been adopted by PACT.

Dr Paolo Hartmann, WHO's Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion medical officer, recalled WHO milestones in cancer control, such as the Resolution on cancer prevention and control of the 58th World Health Assembly, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and, among others, initiatives in the fields of immunization, diet and physical activity, cervical cancer. Dr Hartmann stressed that WHO and IAEA have complementary mandates and welcomed coordinated work in cancer control.

Dr Franco Cavalli, President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) stressed the importance of civil society in placing cancer on national agendas. He presented the work of the Union, and in particular activities in the field of childhood cancer through the project “My child matters”. Mrs Isabel Mortara, UICC Executive Director, presented the campaign on smoke-free childhood, which will be the theme of this year's World Cancer Day (4 February).

Dr Ian Magrath, President of the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR), focused on the need for capacity building to empower countries to tackle their own cancer problem. In order to counter the problem of brain-drain, he stressed the need for novel approaches for effective knowledge transfer, including research.

Technical and policy issues raised by participants, such as appopriate equipment and tobacco control, were discussed at the end of the seminar. The Ambassador of France presented his country's activities in support of IAEA and PACT activities. The Ambassador of Italy kindly hosted a reception at the Permanent Mission of Italy.

In the afternoon, the IAEA delegation met with Dr Ala Alwan, WHO's newly appointed Assistant Director-General, Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health (as of 1 February 2008). Dr Alwan congratulated the IAEA for its work in addressing key gaps in the developing world and for creating PACT, and stressed the complementary work which the two UN agencies can carry out in a coordinated fashion.