Cary Adams, CEO, Union for International Cancer Control


Cancer is a worldwide issue which requires collaborative, international efforts to control. Cary Adams, CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control, highlights how key meetings such as the World Cancer Congress and the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit bring together individuals and organisations and help to put the disease at the forefront of the global health agenda


To begin, could you explain the motivation behind the World Cancer Congress (WCC) and its main objectives?

World Cancer Congresses have been running for over 50 years with the ambition of bringing together individuals around the world who care about cancer control to exchange best practice globally and become committed to fighting the disease.

Organised by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), what was achieved at the 2011 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit?

The World Cancer Leaders’ Summit runs every year and the 2011 Summit in Dublin last November sought to raise the profile of the United Nations High-level Meeting (HLM) on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and to ensure cancer organisations around the world responded positively in support of national governments to fulfil the commitments of the Political Declaration on NCDs. The Summit also allowed for individuals and organisations to make public commitments on projects and programmes on specific areas of cancer control; for example, the establishment of the global registries programme and a new cancer law centre in Melbourne, Australia.

What advances have the UICC been able to facilitate through its World Cancer Leaders’ Summit?

A progress update regarding all previous commitments made at the 2011 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit was a key focus at the 2012 Summit, which was held during the WCC in Montreal, Canada (27-30 August). The World Cancer Leaders’ Summit and WCC are established to ensure that key factors which can affect and improve cancer control are shared and understood by all parties around the world. Representatives from 150 countries attend the Congress and each gain key insights to help them fight cancer in their respective country.

This year the WCC was hosted by the Fondation québécoise du cancer, McGill University and Université de Montréal, with the theme ‘Connecting for Global Impact’. How are you hoping to highlight the need for continued support and momentum in maximising the benefits of knowledge gained through research and practice to the lives of those living with, and affected by, cancer?

The WCC is attended by organisations committed to improving the lives of those living with cancer and their families. The connections that UICC is able to facilitate as a direct result of the event are vital to encourage the sharing of best practice amongst the international cancer community.

In what way is the Congress addressing the issue of knowledge transfer amongst the international cancer community?

The 2012 WCC featured plenary sessions, symposiums and panel discussions all conducted by world leading experts in cancer control. Through this, and the networking opportunities available at the Congress, we are confident that the WCC represented a unique opportunity for the exchange of knowledge and best practice across the world.

Although cancer has a lot of dedicated research, do you think that it is truly part of the global health agenda? Are there many global programmes?

Yes. Since September 2011 cancer has become part of the global health agenda due to the HLM on NCDs. Many cancer programmes run by the UN and partnership agencies are ongoing to drive improved cancer control across the world, but particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

What are some of the challenges that arise from convening the cancer community?

Inevitably, convening the international cancer community presents logistical challenges. One particular difficulty concerns the availability of funding for attendees from low- and middle-income countries; however, where possible, we do offer travel grants.

Could you explain the role that the Global Village played at the Congress?

This year’s WCC featured the unique addition of a Global Village, a new central space aimed at encouraging networking and delegate interaction in a dynamic environment. The Global Village provided access to poster presentations, e-abstracts and cutting-edge technology, such as the ability to participate in interactive sessions led by internationally renowned experts using smart phone apps. It also provided an informal space to relax and catch-up with other delegates.

For the first time at the WCC, a prevention area was open to the public. What did this involve and were Medical Doctors on hand to answer questions?

The novel WCC 2012 public prevention area aimed to promote earlier detection of cancer, particularly colon cancer. To bring the disease to life the area featured the Giant Colon, a unique educational and interactive replica of a human colon, presented by the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. The 40 ft long by 8 ft high, inflatable walk-through exhibit was specially created to educate the public about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, as well as other diseases of the colon.

By whom are you funded and have you found support difficult to secure in light of the economic downturn?

UICC is funded primarily by our member organisations from around the world, in addition to foundations and the private sector. The economic downturn has not affected our fundraising – people still care about cancer control, and the rising toll of the disease means we must continue to work to improve the lives of people living with cancer.

Why would you say the dissemination of research is so vital for today’s science community?

Research is valuable to all, not just the scientific community, as a vital way to progress in understanding ourselves and the world around us. It also helps drive the agendas and work of patient advocacy groups, non-governmental organisations, politicians and the UN in fighting cancer and other diseases.