City by night - Photo by Magnus Larsson Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cities as key drivers of change in cancer control

13 November 2017

Cary Adams, Chief Executive Officer
Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)

The World Cancer Leaders’ Summit is a high profile annual event, bringing together the global cancer community. In Mexico City today, we have more than 300 leaders from the health community who are considering the ways in which cities around the world can accelerate action against cancer. Heads of State, delegates from the World Health Organization (WHO), prominent members of royal families and cancer leaders from civil society and the private sector are speaking about the roles each of us can play in engaging cities and working with them to drive national action towards achieving the global commitments on cancer prevention and care.

Changing the future of cancer in urban populations

Several cities have already declared their intention to make cancer a priority in the coming years. Cali in Colombia, Asunción in Paraguay and Yangon in Myanmar are in the process of working with the international community to identify how they can improve cancer treatment and care for their citizens. This is the start of a long-term commitment from UICC and its partners to support city action through the flagship initiative C/Can 2025: City Cancer Challenge which has garnered much support since it was launched at Davos in January 2017. Later today, a fourth city will be announced as joining the City Cancer Challenge and delegates at the Summit will be asked to encourage cities in their own countries to join this global movement upon their return home.

One of the great things about the Summit is that it gives our community the chance to reflect on a global issue face-to-face in a safe and open environment. Leaders from 60 countries can meet each other, share best practice ideas and commit to working together to address the global challenges of cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and care.

For several years now the Summit has focused on a particular theme, providing attendees with new insights and challenging perceptions with the help of outstanding speakers from around the world. This year’s theme “Cities driving change” was agreed with our partners WHO, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over a year ago and we have been diligently designing the day (although to be fair, with all the side events the day before and after, it’s actually more like three days!) to emphasise the important role cities play in cancer control specifically and health in general. We have taken inspiration from the way in which cities have come together to address environmental issues with the leadership of the C40 Cities initiative run out of London. Today, more than 80 cities work together on the implementation of green policies and concerted action, so why can’t we do the same for cancer? Could Liverpool in the UK work with Asunción in Paraguay? Could Boston in the US work closely with an African city? Can the world’s experts in oncology direct their attention to cities willing to invest in cancer treatment and work as a collective, as opposed to individually?

Well, I think the answer to all these questions is yes! It’s just a question of us getting organised, being inspired by the achievements of others and accepting that, as a community, we will be better placed to help cities improve the treatment cancer patients receive in their city if we work together and not alone.

I love the Summits. It is simply awesome to stand in front of 300 of the world’s leading people who together have the capacity to drive change in cancer control. Each attendee brings with them experience, knowledge, networks, influence, views and perspectives and as the Summit evolves during an intense day, we see consensus emerge around critical themes. I know that the majority of people who attend a Summit take something positive away with them. Friendships are forged. Partnerships are explored. Knowledge is shared. It’s a platform which gives us all time to reflect and triggers our enthusiasm to take action on a topic which is critical to us all.

Join the discussions taking place in Mexico City by following #2017WCLS on Twitter or watch it live at

About the author

In 2009, Cary Adams made a career change, moving from the management of international businesses in the banking sector to become CEO of UICC based in Geneva. Cary and his team focus on global advocacy, convening the cancer community (through World Cancer Day, the World Cancer Congress and the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit) and running significant global capacity building projects that address global cancer issues.

Last update: 
Friday 7 June 2019