Partnerships on many levels are absolutely critical for an effective cancer prevention and control. No one agency, partner, or government can do this work alone, said Dr. Jon Andrus, PAHO Deputy Director, during the 2012 World Cancer Congress opening ceremony on August 27 in Montreal, Canada.

"PAHO, as a public health agency, recognizes the need for, and the value of, partnering on all these levels," he said. "We must be inclusive and ready to partner effectively in a well-coordinated way."

Photo credit UICC


Held every two years, the World Cancer Congress is a platform for the international cancer control community to meet, discuss, share, learn and connect to find solutions for reducing the impact of cancer on communities around the world. The theme for the 2012 congress is "Connecting for Global Impact" and highlights the need for continued support and momentum in translating knowledge gained through research and practice into benefits for people affected by cancer. Cancer is a leading cause of death in the Americas. In 2008, cancer accounted for 1.2 million deaths in the Western Hemisphere, 45% of them in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In his remarks, Dr. Andrus noted that PAHO has worked through a number of interdisciplinary partnerships to promote cancer prevention and control, involving  disciplines including family medicine, nursing, gynecology, oncology, pathology, radiology, palliative care; as well as allied health professionals such as laboratory and imaging technologists because of their important roles at an individual level.

"PAHO partners with many of these professional associations, assists with capacity building of health human resources and stimulates the interdisciplinary dialogue to improve quality of patient care," Dr. Andrus said.

In the case of cervical cancer, PAHO has created interdisciplinary partnerships across areas including immunization, adolescent health, cancer and health economics, promoting a comprehensive approach to prevention and control. An example is the ProVAC initiative, in which interdisciplinary teams work together to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination strategies and new approaches for cervical cancer screening.

"Our ultimate mission is to enhance national capacity to make evidence-based decisions regarding the introduction of new vaccines. Partnerships are absolutely critical for this to work," said Dr. Andrus, who served as principle investigator for the project. He expressed his gratitude for the support of partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided key financial support.

"We believe we are saving more lives more quickly through the support of this project, including the approach to cervical cancer prevention with integrated cervical cancer screening and vaccination strategies," said Dr. Andrus.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships are also important to get governments, civil society, academia, professional associations, and the private sector working together for NCD and cancer prevention. PAHO has created a Pan American Forum for Action on NCDs as a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue and to create synergies for joint action in media outreach, education, and improved access to care and medicines, among others.

"In terms of multisectoral partnerships, we recognize that NCD and cancer prevention will not be effective without the engagement of sectors outside of health, including agriculture, education, trade and finance, to name a few," he said, adding that this presents a major challenge. "To that end, PAHO has begun to partner with its sister UN agencies from other sectors, such as FAO and UNDP to begin to map out areas of work that are mutually beneficial and can have an impact on NCDs and cancer."

An example of such a partnership is PAHO's Worker's Health program, which has begun to partner with the labor sector to identify and control occupational exposures to carcinogens and to develop a system for surveillance of population exposures to occupational carcinogens, building on Canada's CAREX system.

"We look forward to working together to continue to strengthen our efforts to prevent and control cancer. Together we can do it; we must do it."

Sir George Alleyne, PAHO Director Emeritus, was also a special speaker in the opening ceremony. The World Cancer Congress, organized by the UICC, is hosted this year by McGill University, the University of Montreal, and the Quebec Cancer Foundation. Over one hundred countries are represented in this congress.