Memorial Sloan Kettering Expert Leads International Effort on Improving Global Health by Expanding Access to Radiology, Nuclear Medicine

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Dr. Hricak

Dr. Hedvig Hricak, Radiology Chair at MSK

An international Commission of nuclear medicine and medical imaging experts led by Dr. Hedvig Hricak, Chair of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Department of Radiology, recently released data from the first ever report that quantified imaging and nuclear medicine resources worldwide. The report highlighted dramatic inequalities in resources and showed that scaling up access to imaging and nuclear medicine for people with cancer in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) would yield substantial health and economic benefits.

The report calls for an overarching global strategy to achieve scale-up of imaging and nuclear medicine resources as part of a comprehensive approach to expanding access to more effective cancer care. It was released by the Lancet Oncology Commission on Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine at this week’s European Congress of Radiology 2021 in Vienna, Austria.

“The aim of our Commission is to provide data and guidance to catalyze sustainable improvement of medical imaging and nuclear medicine services for cancer management, particularly in LMICs,” explained Lead Commissioner Dr. Hricak. “Imaging is an essential tool in the fight against cancer – it helps to provide a timely diagnosis, select and plan appropriate treatment, and monitor for recurrence. Ultimately, it improves cancer survival. Science and technology are not barriers to a worldwide equitable scale-up of effective cancer imaging diagnostics,” added Dr. Hricak. “Rather, as the report emphasizes, achieving equitable scale-up is a matter of vision and political will.”

According to the Commission, by 2030, annual worldwide numbers of new cancer cases and cancer deaths are expected to reach roughly 22 million and 13 million, respectively. Even more concerning, approximately 80 percent of the disability-adjusted life years lost to cancer are in LMICs, where only about 5 percent of the global funding for cancer control and care is applied. Projected estimates from the Commission’s report show that a comprehensive scale-up could avert more than 9 million deaths from 11 of the most common cancers, saving nearly 232 million life-years.

“I’ve always been a strong believer that medicine knows no borders, and throughout my career, I have done my best to promote international collaboration in medicine, particularly with respect to education and research,” said Dr. Hricak. “I am proud to lead this Commission’s ambitious call to action to reduce the cancer burden globally.”

The Commission’s goal is aligned with the aims of the 2017 WHO Cancer Resolution and with UN health targets in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, particularly for reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases and implementing universal health coverage.

The Lancet Oncology Commission on Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine was established in 2018, with the charge of examining global access to imaging and nuclear medicine for cancer care. The Commission brings together 17 leading global experts and the final report is peer reviewed and published in The Lancet Oncology. The report follows two previous Lancet Oncology Commissions in 2015 that assessed the gaps in access to cancer surgery and radiotherapy, and proposed actions to address the growing burden of cancer in LMICs. Find out more here: https://www.thelancet.com/lanonc/commissions.