Earlier this year, we reported that the WHO had just released its Global Breast Cancer Initiative, laying out a roadmap to save 2.5 million women’s lives by 2040. It outlined three pillars of action: “(1) recommending countries to focus on breast cancer early-detection programmes so that at least 60% of the breast cancers are diagnosed and treated as early-stage disease; (2) diagnosing breast cancer within 60 days of initial presentation can improve breast cancer outcomes, with treatment starting within three months of first presentation; and (3) managing breast cancer so that at least 80% of patients complete their recommended treatment.”
In 2020, a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer estimated that 4.4 million women would die from cancer that year, and 250,000 children would be orphaned as a result of their mothers’ breast cancer. Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, commented: “We have the tools and the know-how to prevent breast cancer and save lives. WHO is supporting more than 70 countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to detect breast cancer earlier, diagnose it faster, treat it better and give everyone with breast cancer the hope of a cancer-free future.”
In today’s edition of Science, there was a report on the appointment of British physician Dr Jeremy Farrar (seen left, © AAAS) as the Chief Scientist at the WHO. He had served for almost a decade as the head of one of the world’s wealthiest biomedical foundations, the Wellcome Trust, which has been a major player in global health issues such as infectious diseases, including the recent Covid 19 pandemic. A full version of his exchange with Science is available by clicking here.
He was asked a few pointed questions, the first of which was: Why did you decide to take on this job? He answered, “The world is facing some really big challenges and I think almost all of them are transnational – climate change, pandemics, demographic shifts, and inequality.” He then went on to say, “The WHO needs to anticipate what is coming, and then debate this: data, artificial intelligence, genomics, and so on.”
The final question asked of Farrar was: What would make you feel you made a difference at the end of this job? After remarking that everyone was fed up with Covid-19, he answered: “We need to lift our eyes because I think the future is bright. But it won’t just happen by chance, we have to push our future. And if I can contribute to that, that’s great.”