Scientists Urge Global Cancer War, Target Tobacco
LONDON (Reuters) - Cancer experts urged governments around the globe on Wednesday to increase their efforts to defeat the disease, which they predict will kill 10 million people a year by 2020.
Doctors and researchers at the Third Global Conference for Cancer Organizations in Brighton, southern England, said 70 percent of cancer cases in the next two decades will occur in countries with under five percent of world cancer resources.
``We are asking governments to work together because we see cancer as a worldwide problem. There are things that can be done immediately and there are things that we can plan for, in the short and the long-term future,'' Sir Paul Nurse, of Britain's Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), said in an interview.
``But if this is really going to work we have to have a worldwide integrated effort,'' the director general of the medical charity added.
The most immediate and pressing issue is tobacco control, including advertising bans and educational campaigns to reduce the number of people smoking in poor countries.
``In the developing world there is nothing like the control over advertising (in industrialized countries). There is very, very aggressive marketing of tobacco,'' he said.
``We have to get governments to work together to recognize this problem, from China right across the world. That is the first and most immediate thing.''
Nurse and his colleagues stressed the need to develop international guidelines for the best screening methods and treatments for cancer so countries know what they must aim for.
They also urged drug companies to concentrate on developing treatments for cancers which are more prevalent in the developing world.
``We have to look at a government level to deal with those diseases where the market is not considered sufficiently big for the pharmaceutical industry to be interested,'' Nurse added.
Although genetics and improvements in diagnosis and treatments are expected to improve the management of cancer, the latest figures show the equivalent of the population of Greece, 10 million people, will die from cancer each year in 20 years.
Nurse said that as with HIV/AIDS, a global effort was needed to counter cancer. It is not just a question of providing drugs, he said, skilled staff and facilities are needed for radiotherapy and surgery for cancer patients.
As new cancer drugs are developed, access to expensive treatments could become a problem for developing countries, as has happened with anti-AIDS drugs. ``I anticipate it will be the same problem and we will have the same challenge,'' Nurse said.
Dr. John Seffrin, head of the American Cancer Society, said cancer rates and deaths have declined in the United States for the first time ever.
``However, the global incidence of cancer is accelerating, especially for tobacco-related cancers. Our priority now is to share the tools responsible for our success with the rest of the world,'' he told the meeting.
The conference was sponsored by the ICRF, Britain's Cancer Research Campaign and the International Union Against Cancer.