18 March 2013 | EN | ES
Pooling international cancer research could save lives
Researchers from 15 developed and developing countries have called for better global coordination of research and prevention efforts against cancer, which kills 7.5 million people each year.
A joint report published earlier this month (6 March) in Science Translational Medicine focuses on five areas that will help slash cancer cases and deaths. Cancer currently accounts for 15 per cent of all deaths.
These areas are the keeping of better and more coordinated registries, stronger action on prevention, easier and cheaper screening methods, better access to treatment, and the open exchange of research findings.
The call is based on meetings between leading cancer research institutes around the world to look at how the global community can address the harm caused by cancer. It also references the 2011 UN Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases,which included cancer and called on all countries to reduce preventable deaths by a quarter by 2025.
"The biggest dividends would be through cancer awareness and prevention," says Rajiv Sarin, director of India's Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer.
In India, for example, the past year has seen drastic action against gutka, a chewable form of tobacco that has led India to have the highest incidence of oral cancer in the world, he says.
Mexico faces different problems: it lacks trained professionals and funds, according to David Cantu, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute of Mexico.
"We know screening works, but not everyone has access to it because there are few technicians," he says. "We also have lots of research proposals, but very few get funded."
The report notes that each country will prioritise treatment of diseases differently. Sarin points out that economic inequality creates similar inequality within the healthcare system of a country. Another issue is that of widespread use of alternative medicine, which, according to George Thomas, editor of Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, can cause more harm than good.
There are obvious differences between the 15 participating countries, but much can be achieved through a global network to tackle cancer, says Sarin.
"This multinational group has come up with a strategy that could bring sustained synergy between nations and international agencies to fight cancer," he says. "Global cooperation has existed for many years, but in an ad hoc fashion."
Cantu is hopeful too. "With respect to cancer care, Mexico is below the United States and the United Kingdom, but above Latin American countries. There is scope for collaboration at both ends."
Link to full report in Science Translational Medicine
Science Translational Medicine doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3005899 (2013)
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