By Kirsty Oswald, medwireNews Reporter
Global leaders in cancer research and policy are calling on the scientific community and worldwide governments to unite against the disease.
Writing in Science Translational Research, Harold Varmus (US National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland) and Harpal Kumar (Cancer Research UK, London) say that efforts to tackle cancer have not been made in a globally coordinated way, leading to great heterogeneity between countries in cancer prevention, research, and care provision.
"Successful campaigns to control cancers with existing methods and to improve current strategies through research will increasingly depend on a multi-national consensus and collaborative work," they say in their report of a November 2012 meeting of cancer leaders from 15 countries.
The authors conclude there must be more equal access to skilled professionals such as pathologists, more affordable treatments, and a concerted effort to tackle cancer risk factors.
In particular, Varmus and Kumar say that governments must combat tobacco use, and countries with low prevalence of smoking should act preemptively to protect citizens from tobacco companies' attempts to expand their markets.
"We urge [governments] to recognize the health of their citizens as a more important priority than global trade agreements or the national economic benefits of tobacco farming and trade," they write.
The authors also call for greater expansion of human papillomavirus vaccination, particularly in the USA, where rollout has been limited to only one-third of adolescent girls, and in developing countries. Governments and other organizations should explore ways to produce and distribute low-cost versions of the vaccine, they say.
They also draw attention to the much-debated issue of cancer screening and the risk for overtreatment. More should be done to develop the ability to distinguish malignant from benign lesions and improve strategies for early detection, they say.
The report also calls for greater collaboration in cancer research and open exchange of both negative and positive trial results. Pharmaceutical companies should be encouraged to collaborate to explore the promise of multiple target therapies, it states.
"This is the first time leading research organisations across the world have come together to consider how best to address the rapidly growing global burden of cancer," said Kumar in a press statement.
"The number of people diagnosed with cancer across the world is increasing. But there are clear actions that all countries can take which will go a long way to reducing both the numbers diagnosed from cancer and deaths from the disease."
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