Over the years, the Clinton Global Initiative has focused on many of the major challenges in the developing world. Education. Clean water. Economic development. On Wednesday, a special session addressed cancer, which often gets overshadowed by HIV/AIDS and malaria. In fact, cancer is the deadliest disease on the planet, and the majority of new cases occur in developing countries, and yet they receive only a fraction of available resources.
"We need a global fund for cancer," said Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health and chair of Harvard Medical School’s global health and social medicine department. "For all layers—prevention, diagnosis and care."
The session and the panel grew out of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, now known as Livestrong. A few years ago, former president Bill Clinton encouraged Armstrong and Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman to think internationally. That discussion eventually led to the CGI-inspired Livestrong Global Summit last year in Dublin, Ireland. Three hundred cancer leaders and policy makers from 65 countries committed to spending $135 million on cancer care and prevention over the next year.
Not bad for an athlete’s foundation that initially focused on testicular cancer, which Armstrong had.
Several summit participants also formed a task force to look at cancer in the Third World. Along with publishing a paper last month in The Lancelet, the group received a coveted CGI slot. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical reporter and a Livestrong board member, moderated a panel that included Farmer, a Livestrong partner; Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, a Livestrong Global Envoy; and Armstrong.
"This is a time bomb waiting to explode," said Mired. Cancer rates are rising in poor countries, where health-care systems are ill-equipped to deliver treatments known to cure breast cancer, lymphoma and other forms of the disease.
The solution, the group, agreed, is funding cancer control around the world like the global health crisis it is.
If the United States is willing to fund a war, someone in the audience asked, why won’t it fund an ambitious campaign to eliminate a disease that kills more people than terrorists do?
"Richard Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971," said Armstrong. "That was a long time ago…[Cancer] just gets old. It subtly clicks away, killing 1,500 Americans today, another 1,500 tomorrow. If the headline in the New York Times every day was ‘Bomb dropped and 1,500 Americans killed,’ you would get attention."