Guest Update by Dr. Mark B. Clanton
Continuing the Legacy of a Great Leader
Last week, the world lost one of its most important public health leaders, Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). It's not often that the passing of a single individual is mourned by people worldwide, but in the case of Dr. Lee, it's absolutely true.
And that's because his work touched so many. Dr. Lee dedicated his life to improving the health of children and adults on every continent - orchestrating programs that have had a substantial impact on reducing the rates of diseases such as tuberculosis and polio, and have led to the proliferation of new and better vaccines to protect children from preventable but often deadly diseases.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Lee's reach extended directly into the global prevention of cancer. In 2004, he helped oversee the development and ratification of the global Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. More recently, during last year's WHO World Health Assembly (WHA), he was instrumental in the passage of the first-of-its-kind global cancer prevention and control resolution.
Resolution WHA58.22 (cancer control) calls for improved cancer prevention measures, improved early detection and treatment, and more palliative care in all WHO Member State countries. Dr. Lee was charged with developing and implementing this global strategy and, over the course of the last year, created two groups within WHO to help do so: the Director-General's Cancer Advisory Committee and the Cancer Technical Working Group, on both of which I have the privilege of serving as the NCI representative.
The Cancer Technical Working Group, which includes some of the world's leading cancer control researchers, was charged with writing a global comprehensive cancer control plan. Over the past year, the group has drafted modules that span cancer control planning, prevention, early detection, treatment, and palliative care.
These modules currently are in various stages of review. In addition to the scientific expertise that NCI is providing to WHO in this initiative, NCI also has provided a grant to support the eventual publication and dissemination of the entire strategy document.
I'm also the NCI lead for another important project with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as part of a program called the Program of Action for Cancer Therapy, or PACT. IAEA has provided radiation therapy machines in low-resource settings for the last decade, giving support to treatment centers in developing countries so they can deliver appropriate radiation therapy to patients. Using the funds it received for winning the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, IAEA is now greatly expanding these cancer control activities through the launch of the PACT Alliance - an alliance of cancer organizations from across the globe to help develop and implement cancer control programs in developing countries.
NCI will help support a pilot of this expanded PACT program, including bringing together a team of experts in cancer control from the United States to assist in its development and implementation.
Dr. Lee's death is a sad and unfortunate event. The impact of his life and work will be felt for decades to come, and his legacy is one of a tireless drive to improve the health of all humans, regardless of race, gender, age, or religion. I'm honored to be part of any effort associated with Dr. Lee and am proud - as I believe the entire U.S. cancer community should be - of NCI's continued commitment to reducing the global cancer burden.