Cancer leaders call for innovations that advance equitable care

Cancer leaders call for innovations that advance equitable care

Global cancer leaders have called for an urgent and comprehensive look at ways to advance health equity, using lessons learned from COVID-19 over the past 20+ months. The 2021 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, a gathering of global cancer leaders that convened this week for the first time since the pandemic began, concluded with a strong call to address inequities in cancer care. Attendees urged other health care leaders, nonprofit organisations and governments across the world to focus and collaborate on efforts to increase equity.

“Inequities and disparities in health and care have always existed, but COVID-19 brought them to the forefront of discussions about global public health,” said Dr Cary Adams, CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). “We, as leaders of the cancer community, must take those experiences and use them to make cancer prevention and care more accessible and equitable.”

Topics discussed by the more than 600 leaders in attendance included:

The impact of delayed diagnoses and treatment on service delivery and future mortality
Increasing innovation and equity in cancer care
Developments in advanced technology (AI, multi-cancer screenings, mRNA vaccines for cancer) to prevent cancer more efficiently, detect it more quickly and treat it more effectively

Organized by UICC and hosted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit brought together global health leaders from more than 100 countries to discuss critical innovations that can drive more equitable cancer care.

“I personally witnessed the horrors of inequitable access to care and its tragic consequences when COVID-19 swept through India,” said Prof. Anil D’Cruz, President of UICC and Director of Oncology at Apollo Hospitals, India. “This is our generation’s ‘never again’ moment. Health care leaders must take what they learned through COVID to address problems in the current global health care system and institute innovations that will make more people safer from the dangers of infectious diseases, and more accessible to treatments and preventive tools.”

People who have survived cancer and become strong advocates for the need to include patient voices in developing efficient cancer control policies also spoke at the Summit. Based on personal experience, they highlighted the importance of a patient’s support network and how the notions of risk and value or quality of life vary for each person. They also emphasised how essential it is to to support people who have been successfully treated, as there are often other health implications as well as psychosocial care needs that must be addressed.