IARC: 50 years of cancer research for cancer prevention
Wednesday 8 June - 09:10-09:40
photo intervenant Christopher P. WILD
Director, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France

Christopher Paul Wild obtained his PhD in 1984 from the university of Manchester, UK, whilst working on DNA damage and repair. He was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to work in Lyon, France, and subsequently a UK Royal Society european exchange Fellowship to spend a year at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. In 1987 Dr Wild re-joined IARC as a staff scientist and later became Chief of the Unit of Environmental Carcinogenesis. In 1996 he was appointed to the Chair of Molecular epidemiology at the University of Leeds, was Head of the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics and later became Director of the Leeds Institute of Genetics, Health and Therapeutics in December 2005. Dr Wild was elected Director of IARC from 1st January 2009. His main research interest is to understand the interplay between environmental and genetic risk factors in the causation of human cancer. He has particularly sought to apply biomarkers in population-based studies to this end. His specific areas of research have been focused on liver and oesophageal cancers.


IARC was established in 1965 as an autonomous research agency within the framework of the World Health Organization (WHO)1. Its primary purpose was “to promote international collaboration in cancer research”. Through the collaboration of many thousands of colleagues worldwide this vision has become a reality. From the outset, IARC scientists sought to understand the causes of cancer through the study of international variations in incidence. This interest resulted in a long-standing commitment to improve the quality and coverage of cancer registries in order to provide a vital foundation for cancer control planning. Geographic variations in cancer incidence implicitly pointed to opportunities for prevention, by avoiding or reducing exposure to identified carcinogens. IARC took a pioneering approach, bringing laboratory, epidemiology and biostatistics to bear on the questions addressed. In 2015, cancer remains a global health problem. As a result of population growth, increasing life expectancies and changes in underlying incidence, the annual number of cancer cases continues to rise, being expected to increase by around 60% worldwide in the next 20 years. However, by far the largest relative increases are set to occur in developing countries. Therefore, the conduct of “cancer research for cancer prevention”, by necessity, remains at the heart of IARC’s strategy. Fifty years is a long time in cancer research. In 1965 the genetic alterations underlying pathways to cancer were unknown; today our knowledge is transformed. In stark contrast, many of the global disparities in cancer incidence and outcomes, evident in the mid-1960s, are still all too easily recognisable today. As the number of cancer patients and the costs of care spiral, cancer prevention must be prioritized. International studies are increasingly needed to answer national questions. Consequently, looking forward, the Agency finds its mission ever more pertinent, conscious not only of the opportunities but also the responsibilities: much has been done, much remains to be done.

(1) Saracci R, Wild CP. The First Fifty Years, 1965-2015. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2015. http://www.iarc.fr/en/publications/books/iarc50/index.php.