The UICC World Cancer Congress was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 1 – 4 October 2018. The theme of the conference was Strengthen, Inspire, Deliver and encouraged effective knowledge transfer and best practices exchange amongst 3 500 cancer control and public health experts from 150 countries. It aimed to strengthen action and impact on national, regional and international scales through a multidisciplinary programme that feature the latest successful interventions in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. The conference was run by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and hosted by the National Cancer Society of Malaysia and held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
Palliative Care a central theme
Palliative care was a theme central to the conference, with palliative care sessions being found throughout the programme including plenary sessions, workshops, oral presentations and poster presentations. The opening ceremony was chaired by Prof Sanchia Aranda the President of UICC with presentations by Dr Princess Nothemba Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents at the WHO, Saunthari Somasundaram, Board member of UICC and the Minister of Health of Malaysia H.E. Dr Haji Dzulkefly Bin Ahmed.
The palliative care sessions got off to a good start with a session looking at global access to palliative care and pain relief. Key findings and recommendations of the Lancet Commission report were presented, including an overview of the report, the global burden of cancer-related suffering, an essential package of palliative cancer care, and whether palliative care can reduce healthcare costs and strengthen healthcare systems globally. The session was well attended and set the scene for ongoing palliative care discussions throughout the congress.
Later in the first day of the congress a workshop was organised by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London on the global use of person-cantered outcome measures to drive up quality in advanced cancer. Alongside presentations from South Africa and Jordan, ICPCN’s Chief Executive Prof Julia Downing, presented on the use of outcome data for paediatric and adult patients in low and middle income countries. This was then followed with details of an international collaboration for patient reported outcomes being coordinated by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC).
The African Palliative Care Association (APCA) chaired a session on accelerating the implementation of the World Health Assembly Resolutions on palliative care and cancer looking at the experience of Malaysia, Ghana, and Togo, along with that of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Pain and Policy Research Group at the University of Wisconsin. Dr MR Rajagopal from Pallium India, talked about Palliative care as a human right for cancer patients in the plenary session on improving outcomes through healthcare systems. Alongside specific sessions related to palliative care, palliative care was integrated into the discussions in a wide variety of sessions, workshops and Meet’in café sessions.
ICPCN hosted a workshop on improving quality of life for children with cancer and their families through the provision of quality palliative care. The workshop showcased the work of Hospis Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and Rachel House in Jakarta, along with the work of ICPCN and of Eve Namisango in developing the children’s palliative outcome scale. It was also an opportunity to share ICPCN’s experience of developing and implementing the ICPCN Pain Assessment App and also to hear from our Global Ambassador Lucy Watts MBE on the importance of palliative care for all children and young people, giving examples of how palliative care has helped her and her family. The congress also gave the opportunity for participants to watch the Film Hippocratic: 18 Experiments in Gently Shaking the World – a feature length film exploring the life story of Dr MR Rajagopal.
The emphasis on palliative care at the conference – both for children and adults – was great. It was so encouraging to go to a conference where the value of palliative care was recognised and there was opportunities for discussion with our cancer colleagues. Congratulations go to the UICC for the conference and in particular we thank Dr Ednin Hamzah from Hospis Malaysia for all the work he did in promoting palliative care as a member for the scientific committee for the conference.