December 18th, 2006 08:38 EST
Nobel laureates Mandela, Tutu back UN efforts for cancer therapy in developing world
South African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have thrown their support behind a United Nations programme to promote cancer radiation therapy in developing countries, where every day thousands of patients go without the radiotherapy necessary to save their lives or relieve their pain.
The Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) was created within the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2004 to build upon the Agency’s experience in radiation medicine and technology, and enable developing countries to integrate radiotherapy into a comprehensive cancer control plan.
“With like-minded bodies, the IAEA is active in mobilizing public awareness and financial support for improving cancer treatment in countries where there is a great need,” Mr. Mandela said in a message to some of the world’s leading cancer experts at a meting Cape Town, South Africa, that ended this weekend.
“In these countries, improved access to skill and technology can often make the difference between life and death,” he added.
The workshops and sessions discussing the way forward for PACT were supported by the IAEA Nobel Peace Prize Fund after the agency won the honour in 2005.
In his message, Arbishop Tutu said he was “deeply moved” that the IAEA invested some of its Nobel peace prize money in cancer management. “This is a magnificent gesture and as someone who has fallen victim to this disease [prostate cancer] I am doubly enthusiastic of your efforts.”
The IAEA, which more often gets headlines for its efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their falling into the hands of terrorists, has a mandate to oversee peaceful uses of nuclear technology ranging from medical uses to agriculture to energy production.
PACT addresses the clinical, financial, legal, regulatory, technical and human resources needed to establish, improve, or expand radiotherapy treatment programmes in the context of sound national cancer control programmes. Member States, international organizations and others from the public and private sectors are key partners.