UW News

September 23, 2002

UW co-sponsoring global summit to improve breast cancer care in developing regions of the world

The University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are joining forces with three international foundations to host the Global Summit Consensus Conference, the first international conference on breast care and cancer treatment in countries with limited financial and health care resources. More than 40 health care providers from 16 countries will meet at the Elliott Grand Hyatt Seattle Oct. 2 to 5 to establish breast cancer care guidelines that can be used worldwide to save lives. The conference is not open to the public.

“Women are dying because of a lack of knowledge. We’re going to bring people together to change that,” says Dr. Benjamin Anderson, chairman of the Global Summit Consensus Conference 2002 and associate professor of surgical oncology in the University of Washington School of Medicine. “While women are more likely to survive breast cancer in the United States than before, that’s not true for women in poorer regions of the world, where death rates are increasing or remaining tragically high. We need to come up with practical guidelines that can work in economically challenged regions.”

Anderson is the clinical medical director of the Breast Care and Cancer Research Program at the UW. The co-chairs of the conference are Susan G. Braun, president and CEO of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; Dr. Julie Gralow, associate professor of medical oncology in the UW School of Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and director of the Women’s Cancer Genetics and Risk Reduction Clinic at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; and Dr. Constance Lehman, UW associate professor of radiology and director of breast imaging for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and the third most common cancer around the world, with less than 1 percent of cases occurring in males. Internationally in 1990, 790,000 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed, with 314,000 breast cancer deaths the same year. Breast cancer takes the lives of younger as well as older women, and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in their childbearing years. In the United States, more American lives were lost to breast cancer during the decade of the 1990s than were lost to warfare during the entire 20th century.

Because of the challenges posed by the international scope of the problem, the conference group expects that changes in health-care delivery to breast cancer patients will come incrementally. The group’s first consensus statement, which will be developed during the Seattle conference, will be disseminated globally through world health and medical organizations and publication in Breast Journal. Conference organizers expect these care guidelines to be reviewed and revised at three-year intervals.

“We want to create a new multi-specialty, multi-institutional, multi-organizational collaboration,” Anderson says. “The goal is to define where to begin in breast health care changes, particularly in regions with limited financial resources.”

For more information on conference topics, panel discussions and availability of international experts from places as diverse as Brazil, Cuba, Turkey, Slovenia, Ukraine and other regions for media interviews, contact Leslie Sullivan at (206) 221-2350.