A global fund is needed to curb ballooning cancer rates in poor nations, where malignancies already kill more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, according to a report by a coalition of researchers.
Progress against infectious diseases, aided by organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has helped extend life expectancy. As people live longer, other illnesses such as cancer are more likely to develop. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of new cancer cases will double in the next 15 years, straining medical systems there, the researchers said at the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam today.
Cancer is already the biggest drain on the global economy, and costs $895 billion a year in lost productivity alone, the American Cancer Society estimated in 2010. By 2030, there will be about 26 million new cases of cancer a year worldwide, compared with 12.7 million in 2008, and most new cases will be in developing nations, according to a 500-page report presented by the researchers.
“The big problem is that in the low-resource countries, patients present with advanced disease,” said Peter Boyle, who led the coalition and is president of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France. “The case fatality rate is very, very high, and we’re not in a position to do anything about that because we haven’t got our act together.”
Detecting, treating and preventing cancer in developing countries will need a global financing partnership similar to the Geneva-based Global Fund, which has helped combat the world’s three biggest infectious killers since it was created in 2002, Boyle said.
While that fund has received about $28 billion in contributions, mainly from governments, fighting cancer will require a far bigger financial commitment that should be led by the health-care industry, Boyle said. Reducing cancer fatality rates in poor countries to the same level as rich countries would cost an extra $217 billion a year, the Economist Intelligence Unit estimated in 2009.
“There’s no single source of philanthropy, there’s no government, there’s no company, there’s no single institution that can afford that sort of investment,” Boyle said. “New models are necessary to cope with this situation and the situation to come.”
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