Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Founder and CEO Says Cooperation, Innovation Needed to Address Women’s Cancers
NEW YORK – September 19, 2011 – Women’s cancers are rising at an alarming rate in countries least able to deal with a growing global cancer burden, and world leaders must make cancer control a global priority, Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, told a United Nations panel today.
“More than 60 percent of all deaths by cancer are expected in low- and middle-income countries, yet only 5 percent of global resources for cancer are spent in the developing world,” Brinker told a United Nations roundtable on non-communicable diseases today.
Brinker, who is the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control, spoke as the United Nations convened a summit on non-communicable diseases. Brinker has long called on global health leaders to include cancer on global health agendas.
Her call takes on new urgency in the wake of a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), funded by Komen and released last week, that shows breast and cervical cancers growing overall. Disturbingly, in developing countries, these cancers are growing faster in women of reproductive age.
IHME said breast cancer cases more than doubled around the world in just three decades, from 641,000 cases in 1980 to 1.6 million cases in 2010. Seventy-six percent of new cervical cancer cases are seen in developing countries.
More troubling, Brinker said, is that cancer is rising in women of reproductive age in these countries. In the Middle East and North Africa, for example, nearly 40 percent of all breast cancer deaths are in women of reproductive age, compared to 10 percent in much of Europe. In countries such as Bangladesh, the fraction is higher than 50 percent, IHME said.
“For women with cancer in these countries, it’s as if the last quarter-century of medical advancement never happened – because it never advanced toward them. Often they’re too afraid to say anything, much less to look for help – which in many cases wouldn’t be there anyway. These women need us, and we must answer their call by expanding breast and cervical cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment programs,” Brinker said.
Last week, Brinker unveiled a new initiative – called Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon – to bring breast and cervical cancer screening to existing programs testing for HIV and AIDS in Africa and Latin America in a partnership with the George W. Bush Institute, the U.S. State Department and UNAIDS. Also last week, Brinker and GE announced a partnership to improve breast cancer screening in rural areas of the United States, in Saudi Arabia and China.
The partnerships bring innovation and collaboration to the mission to reduce cancer deaths, she said, but more is needed.
“We know the challenge,” Brinker told the roundtable today. “We have the resources if we join our efforts. And we have the momentum now to make it happen.”
Brinker is also scheduled to speak Tuesday at a separate panel of global health leaders on non-communicable diseases and HIV. The panel is chaired by WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan and UNAIDS Director Dr. Michel Sidibe, and includes South African Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi; Ambassador Eric Goosby, global AIDS director for the U.S. government; and Dr Tokugha Yepthomi, Civil Society Representative from India.
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization has partnerships in more than 50 countries aimed at improving education and access to cancer treatment, with a focus on developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. In 2009, Brinker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama for her work to end breast cancer. She had previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary and as U.S. Chief of Protocol in the administration of President George W. Bush.