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UICC President calls on Governments to follow Victorian lead

Tuesday 25 August, 2009

The Victorian Government's commitment to improvements in cancer survival rates has been showcased at the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit in Dublin.

Professor David Hill AO, President of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) and Director of the Cancer Council Victoria, issued a call to action at the summit to all health ministers and health departments around the world to commit to quantitative, time specific targets to improve cancer survival rates at a population level.

He said targets announced by the Victoria Government in its Cancer Action Plan last year, which focussed on increasing the five year survival rate as a measure of success, were aspirational and attainable with additional effort and could be emulated by any health system in the world.

He said targets concentrate the minds of all stakeholders and make them accountable.

"This measure of success responds quickly to effective interventions that health ministers and health departments can realistically implement," he said.

Professor Hill said Governments could show the community how many more people are alive because ‘stretch targets" to lift survival had been met.

At the summit Professor Hill also announced the establishment of a taskforce dedicated to the focus of ending cancer pain globally by 2020.

Speaking at the conference Professor Hill said that when he became aware that more than five million people die each year often with excruciating cancer pain he was angry.

"Are we really such a misguided, bungling, disorganised, heartless species that we can let this continue?" he said.

The UICC taskforce will be called the Global Access to Pain Relief Initiative (GAPRI) and it will promote the case for universal access to adequate pain relief for cancer patients.

The taskforce will be led by UICC President, Professor David Hill and it will aim to escalate the work of achieving one of the 2020 targets set out in the World Cancer Declaration announced at the World Cancer Congress last year in Geneva.

The World Health Organisation estimates that each year nearly five million terminal cancer patients living in countries with low or no access to controlled medicines, suffer without adequate pain treatment.

Globally, cancer deaths are expected to double by 2030 with many people in middle to low income countries dying in pain. In 2020 projections show that there will be more than 16 million news cases of cancer diagnosed.

Professor Hill said the taskforce would look at ways to make cancer pain drugs more accessible to people in countries where today they are dying in moderate to severe pain. It would look at drug costs, restrictive regulations, myths associated with pain relief and drug addiction, bureaucratic policies and other issues associated with global access.