ATOM logo byline
The Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition

The challenge

In 2020, more than 3.5 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in low-and lower middle-income countries (LLMICs)1 and an estimated 2.3 million premature deaths were caused by cancer. If left unchecked, deaths from cancer in LLMICs are expected to rise to 4 million by 2040.2

Many LLMICs do not have sufficient resources to respond to the needs of people living with cancer and have a limited availability of essential medicines, diagnostics and complementary treatments required for good cancer treatment and care.3 

Increasing access to cancer medicines in LLMICs is challenging. Simply making cancer medicines available does not guarantee that patients will receive the right medicines at the right time. To be truly effective in addressing the problem of access, a new partnership approach is needed. 

Increasing access to essential cancer medicines

Women in the Instanbul Oncology Institute getting cancer treatment

The Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition is a new global initiative established by UICC and its partners to improve access to essential cancer medicines in LLMICs, as well as to increase the capacity for diagnosing cancer and for the proper handling and supply monitoring of these medicines.

Priority will be given to medicines currently on the WHO Essential Medicines List (EML), or those likely to be included in the future, which treat cancers with the highest incidence-to-mortality in LLMICs (lung, colorectal, breast, cervical, prostate and childhood cancers). 

The Coalition brings together numerous partners from civil society organisations as well as the public and private sectors with expertise in implementing cancer-focused access programmes (see full list of partners below). 

The ATOM ambition

 “To reduce suffering and deaths caused by cancer in low- and lower-middle income countries through improved access to and use of essential cancer medicines.”

The ATOM operating model

The ATOM Coalition has two main ambitions:

  1. increase the availability and affordability of cancer medicines
  2. increase the capacity to use these medicines appropriately.  

This implies: 

  • working with governments and other stakeholders in selected ATOM countries to assess their needs and offer targeted training and capacity building support (eg in diagnosing cancer, the proper handling and supply monitoring of cancer medicines);
  • support generic, biosimilar and originator manufacturers to develop, register and supply quality-assured essential cancer medicines at affordable prices in selected ATOM countries;
  • facilitating the successful use of voluntary licenses4 for patented EML medicines and new medicines that are of significant public health importance in ATOM target countries.

Driving results through partnerships

The ATOM Coalition will work with a range of global and country-level partners currently implementing access projects in LLMICs to complement, enhance and amplify their impact. 

It will build on the network, health expertise and experience of all partners. An important added value of ATOM is to address the current lack of connectivity between different health initiatives. ATOM seeks to complement existing access programmes and support their growth by developing synergies and addressing common challenges.  

View the current list of partners 

Further announcements will be made as new partners join the ATOM Coalition.


The ATOM Coalition launched on 22 May 2022 will be structured as an informal alliance comprising all partners and key representatives from ATOM target countries and led by a governing council. The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) serves as Secretariat of the Coalition and coordinates all ATOM activities implemented by Coalition partners at the global and local levels. 

Current list of partners*

*The Access to Medicine Foundation and Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) will be observers in the governance structure and collaborate with the ATOM Coalition to support its ambition to increase the availability of cancer medicines in LLMICs.

ATOM-Partner logos PPT SLIDE.png

1  – The World Bank defines low-income economies as those with a GNI per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method, of $1,045 or less in 2020; lower middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $1,046 and $4,095.

– Globocan 2020: For Low-Income Countries:; for Low Middle Income Countries:

3   – National Library of Medicine (NIH), Essential medicines for cancer: WHO recommendations and national priorities

4   – Voluntary License. A voluntary license is an authorization given by the patent holder to a generic company, allowing it to produce a patented medicine, as if it were a generic. The license usually sets quality requirements and defines the markets in which the licensee can sell the product. The decision to grant a voluntary license, and the terms therein, can be tailored to account for many factors, including the nature of the epidemic/disease, social factors, economic considerations and the capacity of the licensee to meet and maintain quality standards for the product.

Last update: 
Friday 2 December 2022