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Doctors Step Up Fight For Cancer Prevention, Treatment In Developing World

“Doctors were at the forefront of the AIDS treatment revolution a decade ago, denouncing stigmatization and inequality from conference platforms and lobbying politicians alongside the activists,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in her “Global Health” blog, asking, “Could we see cancer doctors take up the banners and the slogans on behalf of the poorest in the same way?” She continues, “Until last weekend, I personally did not think so. But in a lakeside hotel in Lugano in Switzerland, at a meeting of the World Oncology Forum, I watched what looked like a process of radicalization take place.” She adds, “Nearly 100 of the world’s leading cancer doctors were there,” noting, “The question for discussion over a day and a half was ‘Are we winning the war on cancer?’”

Boseley continues, “Broadly speaking, the answer seemed to be no, on two fronts. The first was that scientific progress had not delivered hoped-for cures, even for countries with substantial amounts of money to spend on drugs. The second was that people in low- and middle-income countries are dying of cancers that are preventable and curable in the richer world.” She highlights a book by Professors Rifat Atun of the London Business School and Felicia Knaul, director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, called “Closing the Cancer Divide: a blueprint to expand access in low- and middle-income countries.” She continues, “Atun told the meeting that what the AIDS community did, they could and should do too. By the end of it, goaded as much as guided by Lancet editor Richard Horton, they drew up a list of 10 principles for a declaration to be published in the new year” (11/2).