Picture of Moneeza WaljiMoneeza Walji is the CMAJ Editorial Fellow 2014–2015

In 2012, there were 14.1 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer deaths. Of those, 65% were in the developing world. Yet despite this large toll, the world still does not have a global body to coordinate cancer prevention and management efforts.

On Wednesday, March 25, the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Global Health hosted the Symposium on Global Cancer Research, bringing together leaders to speak about issues at the intersection of global health and cancer.

The day began with a keynote address from Dr. Lawrence Shulman of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He spoke at length about the importance of collecting data to improve what we do and the programs we run. Implementation science, as he called it, is the translation of research into health policy and practice. We often know what to do in a context to control disease, but issues arise translating that knowledge into effective policies and programs.

March 25 also marked the launch of the Global Cancer Project map, an initiative to connect cancer researchers with one another and learn more about what is being done in the field. Developed by Global Oncology and powered by volunteers, the map includes more than 800 projects and allows researchers and project managers to connect with one another. The hope of the map would be to increase collaboration and reduce duplication of efforts in cancer research.

The importance of developing a global fund for cancer to finance and coordinate efforts for disease reduction resonated with many of the symposium’s participants. The idea draws from other global initiatives, such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), which work to coordinate resources from public and private stakeholders. Accessing medications and appropriate interventions for disease management in cancer is difficult enough for people in high-income countries and proves almost impossible for patients who come from low- or middle-income countries. A global fund would not only help key researchers stay connected but could reduce the costs of cancer-preventing vaccines and drugs.

Throughout the day the recognition that cancer is resource-intensive to prevent, manage and hopefully cure became apparent — signaling the need for a change in how we tackle cancer on the global stage.