IAEA-French Cancer Network: The Results So Far

4 March 2008

Experts warn that the world is facing a cancer crisis of epidemic proportions. Unless action is taken now, as many as 84 million people will die of the disease over the next 10 years, more than 70% of them in the developing world. A coordinated, international effort to build cancer awareness and capacity in economically disadvantaged nations is essential if they are to combat the threat effectively.

An important initiative to fight cancer in poorer French-speaking nations got underway last year when the IAEA joined forces with France's Cancer Network, a grouping of the country's leading health authorities and cancer organizations. The Network identified Burkino Faso, Mali, Haiti, Madagascar, Niger and Senegal as being in particular need of assistance. With cancer rates soaring, these countries have almost no screening or treatment facilities, lack trained staff and are additionally burdened by ignorance and stigma attached to the disease. Planned measures to tackle this tragic situation range from assisting in the establishment of cancer and radiotherapy treatment centres, to sponsoring the training of health professionals within the framework of organised cancer control.

At a recent meeting in Vienna of the group's liaison committee, members discussed progress made so far in achieving these aims. They included the groundbreaking for a Radiotherapy Centre in Haiti, training courses and workshops in several of the selected countries, and the completion of a number of assessment missions and feasibility studies. For the future, the group stressed the importance of coordination of activities — such as the provision of appropriate technical equipment, the need for shared educational standards, and tackling gaps in national capacity — as well as close collaboration between partners, to achieve maximum impact.

“The IAEA is presently in the process of helping Member States develop sound technical cooperation projects for the programme cycle 2009-11. The need for pooling all efforts to fight cancer has been emphasized with the aim of incorporating into new projects on cancer management possible contributions from all partners, including the French Cancer Network,” said Mokdad Maksoudi, Africa 2 Section Head of the IAEA's Department of Technical Cooperation.

The meeting was attended by members of PACT, the IAEA's Department of Technical Cooperation and the Division of Human Health, as well as representatives from the French Permanent Mission, Physicien Médical sans Frontières and Alliance Mondiale Contre le Cancer. Building on the view that public-private partnerships and the role of civil society are key in the fight against cancer, it is hoped that the group's synergy in technical and educational areas will produce valuable results for the future.

The liaison committee will meet again in Vienna, later in the year.