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World Cancer Day 2023: United We're Stronger

, by Satish Gopal, M.D. M.P.H.

Quote from Blog "talent and potential are distributed equally in the world, but access and opportunity are distributed extremely unequally."

As we celebrate World Cancer Day this year, I feel particularly reflective following the loss of my father one month ago. My dad was not in medicine or cancer research but came to Detroit from Chennai in 1966 as a 22-year-old to pursue graduate studies in engineering, which he self-supported through work as a factory laborer. More than anyone, he taught me that talent and potential are distributed equally in the world, but access and opportunity are distributed extremely unequally. His eventual success in America, along with what I learned from his tireless work ethic and commitment to helping others, made my eventual medical studies and global health career possible. Indeed, following his recent death I feel perhaps more committed than ever to close the care gap and more grateful than ever to work toward this at the NCI Center for Global Health, where I have been for exactly three years now. Time really does fly when you feel inspired by the work you do and have the support, expertise, mentorship, and resources of the NCI around you along with our many partners, knowing that united we are stronger.

With the approach of World Cancer Day, start of a new calendar year, and passing of another year milestone in my still somewhat brief NCI tenure, I always like to look back on the year that passed and the one ahead. Some of the accomplishments I feel particularly proud of in 2022 include the following:

  • Summary infographic of NCI CGH activities for 2022. Image of four healthcare workers assisting a woman.
    Continued support for seven exciting new global cancer control technology awards through the Affordable Cancer Technologies program
  • New programs to increase support for global cancer implementation science including eight new awards to leverage HIV infrastructure for cancer control in people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
  • New and continuing programs to support rigorous cancer research training at institutions in LMICs, including eight new institutional training partnerships between LMIC institutions and NCI-designated cancer centers in the US and eight mentored research supplements for LMIC early career scientists working with established NCI-supported investigators
  • Continued catalytic efforts to connect the domestic cancer health disparities and global health research communities including nine new supplements focused on global cancer health disparities with support from the NCI Equity Council
  • 10th anniversary of the International Cancer Control Partnership which has supported countries developing national cancer control plans,  121 countries have plans shared publicly on the ICCP portal
  • 10th anniversary of the Annual Symposium on Global Cancer Research (ASGCR), one of the longest running annual scientific meetings dedicated to cancer research and control in LMICs with 447 participants from 42 countries and 29 speakers from 14 countries in 2022
  • Outstanding talks from global health thought leaders in the NCI Global Cancer Research and Control Seminar Series including nine seminars and over 650 participants
  • Participation in important global health discussions convened through the reignited Cancer Moonshot and recent US-Africa Leaders’ Summit
  • Strong NCI participation in the first in-person World Cancer Congress since 2018
  • US government assuming Governing Council Vice Chair and Scientific Council Member positions for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and hosting the 1st official US visit of the IARC Director
  • Working with 67 of 71 NCI-designated cancer centers to comprehensively survey and share the remarkable depth and breadth of their global oncology activities spanning 86 countries

In the year ahead, we will build on this progress by effectively coordinating and supporting teams and communities working in many of the new initiatives described above. We will also continue to develop ideas and explore new opportunities outlined in our 2021-2025 Center for Global Health Strategic Plan, especially related to cancer clinical trials and health disparities in LMICs. I am excited to connect with colleagues virtually and in person, for example at the upcoming 2023 ASGCR and African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer meetings. CGH looks forward to continuing to provide strategic input related to global health needs and opportunities through the reignited Cancer Moonshot.

Dr. Satish Gopal and his father embrace

Dr. Satish Gopal with his father T.S. Gopalakrishnan.

The loss of a parent is deeply disorienting but also reaffirming as one considers the entire arc, possibility, and impact of a single human life. As I strive to honor my dad’s legacy in our work at the NCI Center for Global Health, I know the NCI has an important role to play in addressing cancer as the urgent global health problem that it is, as the largest funder of cancer research in the world. My dad came to the US in 1966 seeking access and opportunity he did not otherwise have, and I know people affected by cancer worldwide are looking to the US and its world-leading NCI as a similar beacon of hope in 2023.


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