I have been lucky enough to be involved in influencing how each of the last three World Cancer Congresses (Montreal, Melbourne and Paris) have been run as the co-chair of the Prevention and Early Detection track. I have now been offered the challenge and privilege of co-chairing the scientific programme along with my colleague Dr Anil D’Cruz, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) Board Member and Director at the Tata Memorial Hospital in India.
In that time, participation in the Congress has now grown 20%, the programme has evolved and the demand for speaking slots has exploded.
However, what drives the decisions about “what’s in and what’s out” for the World Cancer Congress and how do we make it work? It’s more of an art than science – however evidence, careful thinking consultation with peers as well as hard work are at the bedrock of this internationally recognised biennial conference.
Indeed, the Congress won the awards for the 'Best Conference Development' at the 2016 International & European Associations Awards and the 'Best use of social media' at the 2017 Association Excellence Awards respectively, and the underlying principles that achieved that recognition remain unmoved.
Dozens of people help shape the World Cancer Congress programme. Advising the programme chairs are ten excellent track co-chairs from around the world. They bring specialist expertise to the thinking behind the content in each of the five specialised tracks.
Additional input comes from the organising committee members, current and past UICC presidents and Board Members, staff of leading agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and of course the experienced and wonderful UICC staff.
It is a fascinating and organic process that sees the programme evolve into something that – we hope at least, provides meaning and insight for delegates all over the world.
There is a dual challenge for the programme. The first is to ensure that cutting edge programmes, interventions, experiences and science collide in a timely way to ensure delegates experience the best possible up to date cancer control intelligence. The second is to ensure that there is accessible and locally relevant material that will be of immediate practical value to every delegate, whether they come from a large well resources agency – or the smallest and newest cancer control organisation from a low resource setting. These dual challenges arise in almost every conversation I have ever had when thinking about the World Cancer Congress, and 2018 is no different.
At the heart of the meeting is the sharing of experiences that inspires us all to do better.
This is not about “who is the cleverest” or “who is the most privileged". It is genuinely about how we all can share their benefit of their experience and expertise so as to assist anyone present who has their heart in cancer control, with the aim to best serve their local community to deal with the scourge that is cancer.
Here is where the money angle comes in. This year the boundary we wish to push is that of money.
Access to adequate resources is a constant challenge in any endeavour. Cancer control is no different. The 2018 WCC will put the economics of cancer in the spotlight.
The new track five is focused on attracting resources for cancer control - that ranges from the experiences of people responsible for effective local fundraising, though to more complex models of financing cancer control in low income settings. In addition, Professor Frank Chaloupka from the Division of Health Policy and Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, USA will tackle the issue of the economics of cancer prevention during his plenary talk on 4 October. In total, about 15 interactive sessions among the 90 that are currently scheduled will be dedicated to this major topic.
Other prominent themes such as obesity, alcohol consumption, women’s cancers, complimentary medicines as well as dedicated IARC’s sessions that will shine a light on new research perspectives, feature amongst the novelties of the 2018 Congress.
For me this is a privilege and an honour to contribute to the thinking that will hopefully make the 2018 Congress the best conference yet. Each Congress aims to step up the gear, empowering colleagues around the world to be more successful today than yesterday.
Please search the online programme and discover the great diversity of the Kuala Lumpur offer.
I hope I have given you enough reasons to consider joining us for an unforgettable experience in Malaysia – by the way, early registration fees are still running until the end of June.
As a post script, I should confess I wrote this post from the beautiful Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, a short flight from Kuala Lumpur. I was taking a short break before taking up my new post as Chief Executive Officer of the Public Health Association of Australia, after 24 years of service at the Cancer Council in Western Australia. This was indeed a beautiful and friendly country, and the 2018 World Cancer Congress seems the perfect chance for you, your colleagues and friends to see this spectacular and inspiring part of the world.