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The Islamic Republic of Iran became a permanent member of the INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR RESEARCH ON CANCER (IARC)

According to the Digestive Diseases Research Institute (DDRI) of Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), Iran’s membership as the 26th country in the world, and the 3rd country in Asia, was adopted following a vote by the IACR’s Board of Governors on May 17, 2018.

Writer: Fereshteh Hashemi

Approval of Iran's membership in the Agency was conferred at a meeting of the Board of Governors following a report on the status of cancer research in Iran. Upon approval of Iran’s membership, the documents and certifications were awarded by the Agency.

Dr. Malekzadeh, the Deputy Minister of Health and Medical Education for Research who was present at the meeting and representing Iran took over the membership seat of our country in the IARC.

Dr. Christopher Wild

During the Commencement Ceremony, Dr. Christopher Wild, the Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), announced Iran’s membership and welcomed our representative to the Agency, which was later followed by confirming Iran’s long-term collaborative relationships with the IARC in cancer research.

He emphasized the positive history of collaborations in cancer research between Iranian researchers and their counterparts at the IARC and mentioned that The IR of Iran has demonstrated that it is capable of playing a key role in advancing the objectives of cancer prevention in the region, and is strongly committed to promoting cancer research and strengthening cancer control / management programs; all of which are evident from Iran’s commendable and unique initiative of implementing the "Persian Cohort" study.

The large “Persian Cohort” study which was referenced by the Director of the IARC is the largest and most extensive cohort study in Iran. The “Persian Cohort”, which has been launched in 21 provinces of the country so far is a collection of four studies, including patients from different age groups, namely, the cohorts of infants, adolescents, elderly and adults, in which the various elements of the disease influencing each age group are evaluated. Assessment of the most effective methods for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in different racial and ethnic groups in Iran, providing comprehensive health care packages to increase optimism and life satisfaction among Iranians, creating the largest biobank for basic science and genetic research in Iran, as well as establishment of a comprehensive information center for 200,000 individuals in the country are among the goals and long-term objectives for adult patients in the Persian Cohort study.

Dr. Wild also mentioned that Iran's membership in the IARC represents the Agency's efforts to recruit new members from the region, and noted that the first international collaboration of IARC with Iranian scientists in the field of cancer research dates back to 1968 which began with Tehran University of Medical Sciences. This effort was accompanied with the establishment of the first cancer registry in the northern region of Iran; an initiative which led to the epidemiological study of cancer risk factors in the 1970s.

Moreover, the joint collaboration of Iranian medical scientists with the IARC which aimed to investigate the causes of esophageal cancer in northeast Iran led to the “Golestan Cohort” study in January 2004; this was a collaborative effort between the Digestive Diseases Research Center (DDRC) of Iran, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the US, and the IARC which is affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO). This study investigated lifestyle factors, infections, and genetics in the development of cancers for the gastrointestinal system, including the esophagus, intestines, pancreas and stomach.

The IARC Director recognized the “Golestan Cohort” study as a major success, mentioning that in addition to the important accomplishments in the field of opiate carcinogenesis, the findings of this study has culminated in the publication of numerous articles in internationally-recognized journals as well as educating / training a new generation of Iranian epidemiologists in cancer research.

Dr. Wild also noted that the presentation of the first report on the Cancer Registry in Iran from 30 Iranian provinces which was approved for publication in the global reference of "Cancer Incidence in Five Continents" is among other achievements of Iran in cancer research, which was made possible through collaborations between Iran’s Ministry of Health and the DDRI of TUMS.


Dr. Reza Malekzadeh

Dr. Reza Malekzadeh, the Deputy Minister of Health for Research and Head of the Digestive Diseases Research Institute (DDRI) of Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) also expressed his appreciation to the IARC Director for proposing Iran's membership in this specialized organization. He further mentioned that during the past 20 years, Iran has had extremely beneficial and close partnerships with the IARC, which have resulted in the establishment of a national Cancer Registry and the launch of pilot studies for the prevention of colorectal, breast and cervical cancer in Iran.

As the organizer and coordinator for the largest cohort study in the Middle East and North Africa, Dr. Malekzadeh also made note of the effective collaboration of the Agency with Iran and its support and follow-up in the Golestan Cohort study – which was intended to investigate the causes for high prevalence of esophageal and gastric cancer in northeast Iran – while adding that the important results of this study have been published in more than 100 articles in the world's most prestigious journals and provided critical information relevant to the prevention of esophageal and gastric cancer in Iran.

The 2018 Winner of IARC’s cancer research acknowledged Iran to have the potential and capacity for major cancer research opportunities, including having young research scholars interested in this field, and expressed hope for the development of bilateral collaborations with Iran to conduct global cancer research following Iran’s permanent membership in the Agency.

The IARC was founded as a specialized cancer organization on May 20, 1965. It was a result of an initiative implemented by France to reduce the increasing incidence of cancer which received approval by the World Health Organization (WHO). France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are the founders of this organization and the headquarters office for the Agency is located in Lyon, France. There are currently 26 countries that are permanent members of the IARC: France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, Norway, Qatar, Korea, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Argentina and Iran.

The IR of Iran, which has recently become a permanent member of the IARC, has a long history of extensive and numerous collaborations with this credible international organization through its research centers and institutes; among which the DDRI of TUMS has had the most number of research collaborations with this Agency.

A glance at Iran's major achievements and accomplishments in cancer research:

One of Iran's major achievements in cancer research is the first official report of the “Cancer Registry in Iran” which was developed as a result of the collaborative effort of the three deputies for “Research and Information Technology”, “Health”, and “Treatment” in the Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MOHME) and subsequently approved for publication in the most reputable international reference for cancer: "Cancer Incidence in the Five Continents".

The precise and quality implementation of the cancer registry system in each country is a preliminary requirement for providing reliable international statistics on this disease, which plays an important role in designing and monitoring cancer management programs, including assessment of cancer screening programs, following up with cancer patients, evaluating prognostic indicators and allocating financial and human resources for these purposes. Providing and presenting this report was an important step towards identifying the causes and prevalence of cancer as well as providing early treatment for cancer in Iran

Evidence supporting the carcinogenicity of drinking very hot beverages and consumption of opiates are two of the most important research discoveries of Iran’s research on cancer, which was an outcome of two decades’ worth of teamwork by Iranian researchers with international collaborators, led by Dr. Reza Malekzadeh – a distinguished professor of Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) – during the “Golestan Cohort” – the largest cohort study in the Middle East and North Africa intended to identify the causes of esophageal cancer in the northeastern region of Iran; a region globally known to have the highest incidence for this malignancy. Ultimately, the early research findings of this study were recorded by the IARC and subsequent results were provided to the Agency's Global Registration List.

In addition, receiving the 2018 Honorary Medal from the IARC by Dr. Reza Malekzadeh, the principal investigator for the “Golestan Cohort” study, was an achievement for providing evidence that supported the carcinogenicity of opiates.

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