Cycling icon Lance Armstrong took a major step Monday in his bid to ramp up the global fight against cancer by winning support from Australian government officials and campaigners.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor who went on to win the Tour de France a record seven times, has come out of retirement to help fight a disease that killed around 28 million people in the three years he was away from the sport.
AdvertisementThanks to the Lance Armstrong/Livestrong Foundation (LAF) and his status as one of the world's top athletes, Armstrong has been an inspiration to millions of cancer sufferers worldwide.
During a presentation at the Royal Adelaide hospital, complete with emotional testimonies via videolink from cancer sufferers, Armstrong was unforgiving in his assessment of a disease he said deserved more attention.
"Cancer worldwide has become a massive problem, but it has also become a complacent problem, and we're not doing enough for my taste," he told a 300-strong audience of health officials, cancer campaigners and sufferers.
Armstrong was blunt in comparing cancer to the attacks that struck the World Trade Center in New York in 2001.
"On September 11, 2001 over 3,000 people from the United States and around the world died, and the world came to a halt. This disease is true terror."
Armstrong said he believed relaunching his cycling career, and indirectly lobbying national governments to do more to fight the disease, was the best way to get his message across.
"Over 18 months we studied whether the Livestrong Foundation would have an effect (on battling the disease), and the answer was a resounding yes," he added.
Flanked by Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan and top cancer campaigning specialists, Armstrong recounted how he battled testicular cancer from 1996 to 1998 before winning the world's toughest bike race for the first time in 1999.
His story continues to inspire millions worldwide, including Swan.
The Australian politician who has the power to lobby for funds that can be allocated to states to help fight the disease was among those who said Armstrong had provided much needed hope.
"Lance is a modern miracle. This is a battle we can win. We have the means, we just need to have the will," said Swan, who gave firm backing to the roles that cancer foundations worldwide play.
"Governments can't do it all on their own. That is why foundations play such an important role."
A glance at the experts' figures for the global cancer problem provides stark reading.
Cancer expert Professor David Hill said some 12 million people worldwide would be diagnosed with cancer in 2009.
Of that number, five million would die, he said. He added that currently there are 25 million cancer sufferers worldwide.
"Cancer kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined," said Hill, the president of the International Union Against Cancer.
"But compared to some of the other major crises going on in the world, there is a great consensus on what has to be done."