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About the Conference

Cancer in Africa: Building Transnational Research Collaborations

Cancer in Africa: Building Transnational Research Collaborations will bring together the world’s leading oncologists and scientists from Africa, Europe, North and South America, including Research Organisations, Governmental policy makers, Health Professionals, Donor Organisations and representatives from the media who are working on collaborative cancer research programmes to help reduce suffering and death from cancer in Africa.

This meeting will be unique, as thus far there has been no such opportunity to bring together leading African, European and US cancer researchers in a meeting of this scale, together with the leading research councils, foundations and other donors.  

The conference is organised by AfrOx, AORTIC, NCI (USA), INCA Brazil and INCA France.

Background: Cancer in Africa

Following the UN High Level Summit in September 2011, there is growing recognition of the enormous health burden that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer place on developing nations. Each year, there are 9.1 million deaths from NCDs in people aged under 60 years, almost 80% of which occurred in low and middle income countries – showing their economic impact.

Cancer is one of the highest causes of death in the world and is on the increase in Africa, as communicable diseases become more manageable.  Cancer accounts for almost 13% of all deaths globally per year, equating to just under eight million people.  This is greater than the combined number of deaths from HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.  Although the world is rightly focused on controlling the spread of acute diseases such as these, a matter of great concern is the lack of focus on cancer – a chronic disease – which is a source of extensive suffering in developing nations such as those in Africa, where resources for treatment and prevention are limited or non-existent.   

The headline data on cancer in Africa is sobering. Each year half a million people die there from cancer, with more than 650,000 new cases arising.  These figures are expected to rise dramatically over the next decade to 900,000 deaths and 1 million new cases a year in Africa, if the current methods of diagnosis and treatment remain the same.  This represents a death rate that is more than double that in Europe or North America. In contrast, in developed countries cancer incidence is expected to decline, as we have improved access to treatment and diagnosis.  

Without dramatic action Africa will be inadequately prepared and be the least able of all to deal with this growing burden.   Many organisations, individual experts, government representatives and health care professionals, both within Africa and elsewhere, are striving to change the outcome by developing strategies to cope with this devastating disease.  However, the challenges are numerous:

  • Insufficient political priority and funding
  • Lack of cancer awareness
  • Lack of screening, diagnostic and treatment capacity
  • Inadequate health-worker training
  • Lack of affordable treatments and palliation
  • Lack of cancer intelligence on patterns of disease
  • Limited opportunities for research

Conference Overview

A number of new research partnerships are beginning to be established to strengthen the capacity for cancer research in Africa, but what appears to be lacking in this approach is a cohesive plan for collaboration and opportunities to bring together all the vested parties, stakeholders, researchers and funders to develop a clear strategy.    This will be the first major discussion meeting between these partners to examine progress to date and to explore opportunities and strategies for future research.

Research partnerships are at the embryonic stage in Africa and it is hoped that by bringing the leading cancer authorities and researchers together, we will present a unique environment where we can facilitate and expedite a co-ordinated approach to research that will allow an open discussion to assess the current and future research priorities.  It will provide an excellent platform for African cancer researchers to debate, network and build lasting relationships with their European and American counterparts enabling clear plans to be African led for on-going collaboration eliminating the possibility of duplication whilst accelerating the possibility for greater opportunities for capacity building training for talented African cancer researchers.

Via research, international alliances and concerted early action, cancer in Africa can be tackled and the current low survival rates will improve along the lines of those in the developed world.