Every day should be World Cancer Day
Our focus should never be diluted in the quest to cure, manage, and improve the lives of those affected by cancer.
According to the World Health Organisation, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020.
It’s a disease, or collective of diseases, that has been at the forefront of medical research for decades, and science has been in a relentless pursuit to improve the quality of care and disease management for patients while also simultaneously seeking cures. We have all been impacted by cancer in one shape or another.
This year, on World Cancer Day, I believe that the time has come to recommit ourselves to the process. To seek solutions for a disease that must become more manageable, or even curable, and to improve the lives of those affected by it.
The global pharmaceutical and scientific community must pursue transformational and precision treatment technologies that deliver on these ideals.
There is also another, important aspect of cancer treatment in its current shape to consider. That is the care gap. Without bridging this we will have fewer victories over cancer and, after all, that is the primary objective.
Cancer requires a national strategy as its sustained demands on a healthcare system need through the line interventions. Often, in less privileged communities, access to diagnosis and treatment are significant challenges a and major stumbling block in combating the condition.
The International Cancer Control Centre has embarked on a process to mend disparities in the socio-economic dichotomy of cancer treatment. It launched a three-year campaign to raise awareness and assist in the implementation of cancer control protocols.
The Centre estimates that about 80% of countries have some form of protocol in place, but that few fully implement it. This could be due to funding challenges, geographic hurdles or simply associated with stigma. Unfortunately, vulnerable populations are mostly at the receiving end of these problems.
Last year, the Centre launched a tele-mentoring programme that debuted with eight countries (Cameroon, Eswatini, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania), working towards finding solutions through the identification of key stakeholder priorities, to create nation-specific cancer control plans.
This is especially key in a post-pandemic world where Covid-19 has overwhelmed healthcare services and on occasion diverted focus from other, longer-term disease control.
It is this kind of work that lays a socio-economic and clinical foundation for disease management. It is also the channel through which new treatments, novel protocols and patient care can be rolled out. Its importance cannot be underestimated.
The role of non-profit organisations is equally as important in the battle against cancer. In South Africa there are organisations and movements such as CANSA (Cancer Association of South Africa), Filotimo, the Breast Health Foundation and the Pink Drive among many others that do tremendous work towards education, diagnosis and support for cancer patients and their families.
There is a need in other developing countries for organisations that do similar work. And here, we must forever show our gratitude in the progress made, every day, in many ways.
But victory over cancer requires a lot more than a national cancer protocol, research and development of treatments and regimes. It takes more than organisations lending support. It also takes the sum of the collective, and that is where strength lies.
The pharma and scientific communities must join hands, collaborate more often, and work towards a holistic approach that satisfies need-based care, in pursuit of every possible solution and positive outcome to assume victory.
While there’s much to be done, let’s use this World Cancer Day to celebrate the progress made thus far while also looking into ways of reducing the global and local impact of cancer.
At the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, our innovative solutions have paved the way in oncology for more than 30 years, and we are determined to meet this public health crisis and transform cancer from a deadly disease to one that is preventable and curable.
- Written by Francisco Plaza, Managing Director for Janssen South Africa.