World Cancer Day 2022: Close the Care Gap
, by Satish Gopal, M.D. M.P.H.
World Cancer Day and its theme ‘Close the care gap’ are especially meaningful to me for many reasons this year. I have the extraordinary privilege of directing the Center for Global Health (CGH) at the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is responsible for coordinating global engagement on behalf of the largest funder of cancer research in the world. World Cancer Day also neatly coincides with my anniversary date of joining the NCI (now 2 years ago!). World Cancer Day allows me to appreciate the opportunity to work at the NCI under an administration that seeks to ‘end cancer as we know it’ and that understands the importance of United States' global health leadership. World Cancer Day allows me to feel grateful for scientific discoveries and public health initiatives that let many of us feel protected from severe illness related to coronavirus, even as we continue to address the pandemic globally and worry about its future effects on cancer morbidity and mortality worldwide.
Perhaps most meaningfully, World Cancer Day allows me to think about the work we’ve done at CGH in 2021 with many partners within and outside the NCI. In 2021, we had the opportunity to simultaneously commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act and the 10th anniversary of the creation of CGH. Just a few highlights from the last year include the following:
- New CGH 5-year strategic plan and NCI recommitment to addressing cancer as a global health priority
- New awards to address tobacco-related harms in HIV-infected populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
- Reissuance of the Affordable Cancer Technologies program to support testing and validation of new technologies for cancer control in LMICs
- New initiatives to support implementation science for cancer control in LMICs
- New supplement awards to support catalytic research in LMICs related to cancer stigma, cancer survivorship, and the intersections between cancer and COVID
- New awards to support institutional training programs for global cancer research in LMICs
- Recruitment of new fellows to CGH to provide support and pathways for early career global cancer researchers along with remarkable new staff
- Support for new or renewed international cancer research collaboration agreements including the ongoing UK-US cancer summit efforts
- Convening of the Annual Symposium on Global Cancer Research with the American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Consortium of Universities for Global Health and NCI-designated cancer centers
- Support for trans-NCI partnership with the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer in convening their biannual meeting
- New Global Cancer Research and Control Seminar Series to bring distinguished speakers to NCI and highlight their work
- Support for countries implementing National Cancer Control Plans through the International Cancer Control Partnership
To ‘close the care gap’ on this World Cancer Day requires us to build on these efforts in the year to come, and I am eager to see the outcomes of many ongoing ideas and collaborative discussions within and outside the NCI. I certainly have a strong personal understanding of how wide the care gap can be globally. As an example, I am currently awed by ongoing studies at the NCI which provide refractory lymphoma patients with chemotherapy-free, rationally designed combinations of biologically targeted agents with amazing results. This awe is in part inspired by having conducted some of the first dedicated studies in sub-Saharan Africa to evaluate the original targeted agent for lymphoma, rituximab, and in part by the knowledge that many patients in clinics where I used to work still don’t have reliable access to essential generic chemotherapy medicines that have been in widespread use for more than 50 years.
This World Cancer Day, we know we can and must do better to ‘close the care gap’ and to ‘end cancer as we know it’ everywhere, such that cancer is viewed as a true global health priority and cancer research anywhere is viewed as benefiting people everywhere. I believe such a world is possible, and I am convinced that we are doing better even if our progress never feels fast or straight enough. At CGH, we’re excited to continue sharing our collective progress with you in the months and years to come.