Global Health

Mobilizing the Global Fight Against Cancer

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After having been in banking for my entire professional life, in 2000 my eyes were opened to an alternative career through my involvement in the UK charity Tomorrow’s People – which helps the long-term unemployed find jobs and gain back their lives and self respect.


So finally in 2009, after 23 years, I left banking. I had outgrown the need to be part of a large international corporation, and was ready to find something else which would allow me to have an impact on society. I didn’t know what that would be or how I would contribute, but I knew that I wanted to do something meaningful.

The chance to run an organisation like The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) was beyond what I could have hoped to find, and following intense and high-pressured interviews I received the call telling me I had secured the role of Chief Executive Officer.
I knew that this job would become my life, and it has proved to be the most rewarding and enjoyable role I have ever had. To run an organisation which contributes to saving lives and ensuring that future generations have a lower chance of developing cancer is a heartfelt and awe-inspiring honour to be part of.

Integral to my role at UICC is engaging individuals, organisations and companies in the global fight against cancer. No organisation (not even my own) can work in isolation
against a disease which affects us all. I’ve lost family and friends to cancer and I am sure that many of you reading this probably have as well. For me, fighting cancer is a personal issue as well as a career choice. It’s a fight in which we all have a role to play, but for many that role can be confusing or even frightening – partly because cancer is such a terrible disease, but also because we often don’t have enough information about detection, treatment and prognoses.

For many people the word “cancer” equals death. The disease is perceived to be random, unpreventable, incurable and (sadly in many cultures) shameful. But the truth is, that many cancers – while still serious – are actually preventable through simple lifestyle changes, and treatable if detected early. Injecting the element of hope into the conversation about cancer is the key message my team and I will be sharing on World Cancer Day 2014. On February 4th, we hope to debunk the myths and misconceptions about cancer so that more people can take control of their lives to avoid and survive the disease.

We’ve also recently announced a collaboration with IBM to create the world’s largest and most comprehensive cancer patient registry – beginning in sub-Saharan Africa, where less than one percent of the population is included in a cancer registry. In addition to helping governments, health workers and researchers develop programs to help control cancer, registries help health care providers save lives by giving them the information they need for earlier detection and treatment of the disease.

I enjoyed my banking career, but running UICC is so much more rewarding. Our goal is to save lives, inspire people and help demystify the detection and treatment of cancer. Our hope is that our efforts will help people around the world face the disease with more information and less fear. And that, in turn, more of us will become proactive in helping reduce the life-threatening aspects of cancer for ourselves and future generations.

Cary Adams is CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

Related Resources:

Closing the Gap in Cancer Prevention and Treatment

How Big Data Can Help Fight Cancer Across the Developing World

Fighting Women’s Cancers in Sub-Saharan Africa

Standardizing Data Collection to Screen for Cancer in Kenya

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