2016 World Cancer Congress: Mobilising Action, Inspiring Change

January 19th, 2017 in Conference Features

Author: Catherine Johnson, Newcastle, Australia

Affiliation:  Calvary Mater Newcastle, Australia


During early November 2016 a global conversation focussed on the theme Mobilising Action, Inspiring Change was held in Paris, France at the World Cancer Congress hosted by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). Over 3200 leaders and experts from 169 countries attended and 500 speakers engaged audiences across 144 multidisciplinary sessions.

The Congress opened with a welcoming and passionate address from the President of France, François Hollande that imbued pride in the work that health care professionals around the globe contribute to cancer care and control. President Hollande focussed on cancer that is preventable through modifiable lifestyle risk factors such as diet, tobacco and alcohol. President Hollande provided thoughtful commentary on preservation of quality of life after a diagnosis of cancer and continued efforts for improvements in prevention and treatment through research on a global scale; providing equity for all who are affected by cancer. He also spoke of the central role women have in society; not only because women are so frequently affected by cancer and experience global inequity in accessing prevention treatment and screening but also because women as the first agents of public health policy are pivotal to any cancer control strategy. These sentiments were echoed in opening addresses by Her Majesty the Queen of Spain, Professor Jacqueline Godet, President – French League Against Cancer and Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under- Secretary-General of the United Nations. Mr Sidibé called for a radical reform of the global health architecture to ensure worldwide health security through universal access to integrated prevention, treatment, care and health management services that are rights-based, equitable, just and efficient and delivered by innovative health systems.

The opening addresses set the tone for the conversations to follow during the 4 days of congress. Delegates discussed innovations central to global cancer control including prevention, screening, detection and treatment and increasing calls to improve cancer control by finding solutions to balancing cost of cancer control and global equity. In 2010 the global annual cost of cancer was $1.16 trillion and rising and unless current trends in incidence are disrupted the largest increases in the burden of cancer will be in low and middle income countries.

Delegates also heard about one of the most vulnerable global populations; 21.3 million refugees. The extreme cancer and Non Communicable Disease (NCD) burden that faces refugees has yet to form a meaningful part of the international humanitarian response. Insufficient access to early diagnosis, a scarcity of oncologists and treatment facilities, a disruption in drug supply and barriers to importing chemotherapy, and a lack of continuity in care after displacement were key issues highlighted that face refugees. Delegates present agreed with the need to treat refugees living with cancer as an emergency issue amidst the ongoing destruction of hospitals and lack of continuity in care. International collaborations such as a priority list of NCDs and cancer medicines, shared experiences of delivering cancer care in conflict scenarios, early diagnoses, and refugee specific cancer policy and control plans are absolutely crucial in ensuring improved results in what is an emerging issue in the fields of both international cancer care and humanitarian crisis response.

The congress had 5 central tracks to engage delegates

  1. Stemming the tide: innovations in prevention and screening
  2. Closing the gap: quality cancer treatment and diagnosis for all
  3. Improving patient and family experiences
  4. Strengthening cancer control: optimising outcomes of health systems
  5. Empowering civil societies: building capacity for change

The congress program provided a unique insight into the global perspective of cancer, beyond the traditional treatment paradigm and while content was at times sobering delegates emerged with a sense of hope that they truly could mobilise action and inspire change through their actions in their own communities.

The next conference will be held in Kuala Lumpur in 2018. More information can be found at http://www.worldcancercongress.org/au-revoir-paris-halo-kuala-lumpur

ICCN 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. Save the date!