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July 11, 2006 • Volume 3 / Number 28 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Guest Commentary by Dr. John R. Seffrin

Bridging the Gap: Turning What We Know About Cancer into What We Do About Cancer

Dr. John R. Seffrin The growing gap between what is and what could be in cancer control and care is the most important issue facing the cancer community today and, while the hopeful side of cancer has never been more hopeful, we do have our work cut out for us.

So much of what we know about cancer is not being adequately translated into what we do. If current trends persist, by 2020, the number of new cancer cases worldwide will grow to 15 million, and the number of deaths will increase to more than 10 million. An estimated 70 percent of these deaths will occur in developing countries, which are least prepared to address their growing cancer burdens.

These tens of millions of people continue to experience unnecessary cancer suffering and death, not because we don't know how to prevent, detect, or treat it, but because we refuse to ensure that all people worldwide have equal access to lifesaving cancer advances.

That's why the American Cancer Society (ACS) is proud to work with critical global partners like UICC and NCI to do something that hasn't been done before - to unite the world's cancer community to advance the fight against this disease. We will bring together two world conferences that have rarely been held in the same year, and never in the same country: the World Cancer Congress and the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health (www.2006conferences.org).

These conferences will convene 5,500 participants from more than 130 countries: oncologists, public health leaders, tobacco control advocates, cancer association leaders, health ministries, and journalists. The meetings will focus energy and attention not just on talking about cancer, but also on identifying and sharing practical solutions that can make a lifesaving difference in communities around the world.

Why is it so critical to unite the global cancer and tobacco control communities? As the only consumer product proven to kill more than half of its regular users, tobacco killed 100 million people in the last century. Left unchecked, it will kill more than one billion people in this century.

Fortunately, many nations are taking a stand against tobacco by supporting the world's first global public health treaty - the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). As of July 1, 2006, 131 countries have ratified the treaty, making it the most rapidly embraced treaty in United Nations history, but the United States is lagging behind. U.S. ratification and implementation of the treaty is essential to turning the tide of the global tobacco pandemic.

Another area of untapped potential is cervical cancer. In nations where early detection is standard practice, screening and follow-up treatment have reduced cervical cancer deaths by 80 percent. Despite these advances in prevention, in many parts of the world, cervical cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death in women.

FDA approval of the HPV vaccine is one of the most important advances in women's health in recent decades. Successful global implementation of an HPV vaccine offers an unprecedented opportunity to prevent millions of deaths and dramatically reduce the world's cancer burden.

The FCTC and the HPV vaccine are two of many critical topics on which the brightest lights of the global cancer and tobacco control communities will converge in Washington, D.C., on July 8-15. ACS is grateful to NCI for its partnership in making this unique opportunity a reality. NCI's partnership demonstrates a deep commitment to capacity-building and to collaborating with public health professionals worldwide to advance and implement these and other lifesaving cancer solutions. Together, through this unique forum, we will make significant progress toward transforming what is into what could be.

Dr. John R. Seffrin
Chief Executive Officer
American Cancer Society