Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Good morning. It’s my pleasure to join all of you today for this opening session of the Scientific Forum.
And I feel a particular weight in representing President Biden as we discuss the Rays of Hope Initiative.
Many of you may be aware of how deeply personal a matter this is for President Biden.
Not long ago, he lost a son to cancer.
Like many of you in this room, and at the General Conference, and all over the world, he knows all too well the pain that this disease brings.
And I know that he is personally committed to doing everything in his power to protect people from experiencing more of that pain.
Cancer is indiscriminate. It can strike anyone, in any part of the world, at any time.
But it can also be fought, and it can be defeated.
That’s why, earlier this year, President Biden announced a “Cancer Moonshot” initiative.
He has set a goal of cutting cancer deaths in the United States by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years, while improving the quality of life for those battling cancer.
This aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include reducing early deaths from non-communicable diseases—like cancer—by a third by 2030.
Meeting these goals would mean saving literally millions of lives.
And one of the keys to success is expanding access to effective care, so we can give patients a fighting chance.
In the United States, we’re blessed with a world-class medical community, with the tools and know-how needed to detect cancer early and deliver quality treatment.
But we know that cancer care options are often under-resourced, or even non-existent, in low- and middle-income countries.
This care gap is something we must address if we are to overcome the global cancer crisis.
And it will take all of us, working collectively, to bridge that gap.
This is where Rays of Hope can make all the difference.
Through Rays of Hope, we can bring together experts in healthcare, policy, security, and development, from all over the world, and marshal the resources needed to improve and expand global access to crucial radiotherapy technology.
And, just as the United States has contributed to PACT’s efforts since its inception in 2004, we are eager to contribute to the goals of this initiative in any way we can.
For the Department of Energy, that begins with helping low- and middle-income countries replace Cobalt 60 teletherapy equipment with linear accelerators that can improve treatments offered by radiotherapy departments.
This is not only a pathway to improving access to advanced cancer care. It will help us reduce the risk of radiological terrorism and improve radiological security.
In 2021, the United States pledged $5 million to PACT in support of the transition to advanced cancer treatments.
To maximize the impact of that contribution, we are working with fellow IAEA members to share the procurement costs of linear accelerators in several countries. That includes Kenya, Mexico, and Honduras, who are contributing their own funding to this effort.
We have also teamed up with Paraguay and IAEA partners to share the costs of a new linear accelerator in Paraguay.
This year, the United States has pledged an additional $11.5 million to the Rays of Hope initiative, to build on these efforts and drive further improvements to radiation medicine worldwide.
In this context, the Department of Energy is also pledging $10 million to help our friends in Ukraine to modernize their medical infrastructure, through the Rays of Hope Initiative.
We know that no single country, and no one organization, can address the cancer care gap alone.
But we can see that there is great value in partnerships. And we can see that PACT and the Rays of Hope Initiative can produce real improvements in global cancer care through collaboration.
So I applaud the several Member States that have announced generous donations to Rays of Hope this year.
And I ask all who are in attendance this week at the General Conference to join me in pledging support for this initiative’s work to widen access to lifesaving treatment.
No matter what you can offer, your contributions will help make a real difference to millions of people around the world.
I also encourage you to reach out, engage with experts, and learn more about how you can help Rays of Hope take on the global cancer care gap.
Cancer can strike anyone, in any part of the world, at any time. But together, we can help cancer patients everywhere strike back—and beat this disease.