In October 2022, delegates from 120 countries attended the World Cancer Congress (WCC) in Geneva. As the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) decided not to hold a virtual congress during the COVID-19 pandemic, for many attendees this was the first opportunity to reconnect since WCC 2018.

Many presentations at WCC 2022 provided quantitative data demonstrating that the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the ability of most health-care systems to provide adequate cancer management at every stage of the disease. Well-documented examples include prevention (owing to disruption of HPV vaccination programmes), screening (with delays in several colorectal and lung national programmes) and diagnosis (with a confirmed shift towards presentation at later disease stages for several cancer types). Other studies modelled the capacity of oncology services to adapt after the pandemic. The main message is that recovery could be possible, at least to a certain extent, if all stakeholders are committed.

Over 1,500 abstracts were presented at WCC 2022, all featuring initiatives for optimizing limited resources in oncology. These programmes addressed specific community needs across the whole spectrum of oncology care, from targeted screening to the delivery of palliative care.

Finally, WCC 2022 saw an announcement from The Access To Oncology Medicines (ATOM) coalition, which was established in May 2022 to improve access to essential cancer medicines in low and lower-middle income countries. ATOM has now facilitated the first voluntary agreement in which the patent holder of a cancer drug, nilotinib, authorizes its production as a generic. The Medicines Patent Pool will handle this authorization. This public health organization has already sublicensed generic drugs to treat infectious diseases from various patent holders. We await similar announcements from ATOM, hopefully well before the next WCC in 2024.