Jan 05, 2011
A conversation with ASCO Board member and UICC President Eduardo L. Cazap, MD
January 2011 issue: The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) 2010 World Cancer Congress, held in China on August 18-21, consisted of a panel of 360 speakers who presented on issues linked to UICC’s World Cancer Declaration.
The declaration “represents a consensus between government officials, public health experts and cancer advocates from around the world who are committed to eliminating cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations,” as stated on the UICC website. Furthermore, it “outlines 11 targets to be achieved by 2020 including: significant drops in global tobacco consumption, obesity and alcohol intake; universal vaccination programmes for hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV) to prevent liver and cervical cancer; dramatic reductions in the emigration of health workers with specialist cancer training; universal availability of effective pain medication; and dispelling myths and misconceptions about cancer.”
In the interview that follows, ASCO Board of Directors member Eduardo L. Cazap, MD, discusses with ASCO Connection his role as UICC President, the organization’s collaboration with ASCO, and what he envisions for the future of cancer control.
AC: What were your overall impressions of the UICC World Cancer Congress?
Dr. Cazap: The UICC World Cancer Congress is a cancer control meeting with a program comprised of all aspects of cancer control from education, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to rehabilitation, palliative care, and end-of-life issues. The 2010 program also addressed capacity-building, tobacco control, and organizational and policy topics.
My impression was that it was wellbalanced. Attendees were updated with the latest achievements in cancer research and given new information regarding hot topics such as implementation science, translational research, global health disparities, and pain control and morphine access.
AC: China has one of the highest smoking rates in the world and a growing cancer burden, which must have been a factor in UICC’s decision to hold its congress there. What near- or long-term impact do you envision from having the congress in China?
Dr. Cazap: Many oncology congresses are held in the same cities, usually located in high-income countries. As UICC is a global organization comprised of almost 400 organizations in over 100 countries, one of our mandates is to promote cancer control in underserved regions of the world.
China, with a population of 1.3 billion, is a country where cancer—for reasons including population aging, migration to large cities, and degradation of the environment—is becoming an increasingly critical health care problem.
The epidemiology of cancer is changing in China. For example, it is estimated that breast cancer, which was a rather infrequent cancer a few years ago, will become a prevalent cancer for women within the next 20 years.
Two years ago, two leading Chinese medical organizations—the Chinese Anticancer Association and the Chinese Medical Association—proposed holding the UICC congress in China. Although the organization was competing with proposals from around the world, China was selected by the UICC Board of Directors due to the magnitude of the cancer problem and the critical need to develop a modern action plan at a national scale.
AC: What is your vision for your UICC presidency?
Dr. Cazap: The coordination of actions in a more efficient and useful way across organizations and on a global scale is critical for today’s cancer problem. To fulfill this, we must improve collaboration among our strong network of cancer organizations to avoid overlap, duplications, and gaps.
An urgent matter is to put cancer on the global agenda. Cancer is not mentioned in the United Nations’ (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals, and it is inadequately included on the World Health Organization’s and the U.N.’s agendas. As UICC President, I will further my work in political advocacy and in seeing that all stakeholders address the global cancer issue.
AC: What opportunities do you see for ASCO and UICC to collaborate internationally?
Dr. Cazap: ASCO is one of the key members for UICC. Currently, the two organizations are collaborating on several ongoing programs in prevention, education, and other areas. My vision is that, over the coming years, UICC and ASCO will work together more closely, looking for opportunities to improve cancer control actions on a national level. ASCO will participate through its members, and UICC will participate through its member organizations, all working together with local stakeholders from countries around the world.
AC: UICC has successfully spearheaded an effort to get the U.N. to hold a high-level meeting on noncommunicable diseases, including cancer, in 2011. What is the importance of this meeting to UICC, to ASCO, and to the cancer community at large?
Dr. Cazap: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the largest contributing factor to global mortality. Worldwide, NCDs account for 60% (or 35 million) of deaths. The largest burden—80% (or 28 million)—occurs in low- and middle- income countries (LMCs), proving that NCDs are a major factor in poverty and an urgent development issue.
In LMCs, eight million people die prematurely (below the age of 60) each year from preventable causes, including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity. Lack of access to affordable medicines and health care services are also a major cause of these premature deaths. Globally, NCD occurrence will increase by 17% in the next 10 years, and in Africa by 27%. The highest number of deaths will be in the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia.
Governments are key players in the global fight against cancer and other NCDs. Therefore, it is important to put cancer on the global agenda, as this can facilitate funding and action. If this high-level meeting produces a strong document, the U.N. will be sending a mandate to all governments to take action. I believe this sequence of events will produce real and concrete actions at the country level, and this process will benefit healthy individuals, patients with cancer, and societies as a whole.
ASCO has enormous international potential through its network of oncologists around the world, and UICC can act as a facilitator, collaborating with national and international member organizations. We must work jointly, sharing a common strategy, for the benefit of our colleagues and their patients and families throughout the world.
Medical oncologist and UICC President Eduardo L. Cazap, MD, is a member of the ASCO Board of Directors, Cancer Prevention Committee, and Strategic Planning Committee. He is also a Past Chair of the ASCO International Affairs Committee. Dr. Cazap is the founder and served as the first president of the Latin American and Caribbean Society of Medical Oncology (SLACOM).