WONCA Special Interest Group: Cancer & Palliative care

Cancer & Palliative care

Why we need a SIG on Cancer and Palliative Care

This SIG was formed in 2010 in response to a growing worldwide interest in the role of primary care in cancer diagnosis and management. Primary care plays a vital role in early diagnosis of cancer yet this is a very significant challenge given the frequency of potential cancer symptoms in primary care and the relative rarity of a diagnosis. Primary care also has a key role in promoting uptake and informed choice in cancer screening programmes; it has the potential to work closely with the public health sector in achieving the best possible outcomes in cancer screening. 

There is a growing recognition that primary care has a vital role in cancer follow-up and survivorship; there is an emerging body of evidence supporting the role of primary care in managing and supporting patients with cancer. Primary care has long had a well recognised role in end of life care in cancer patients and also palliative care for non-cancer patients is of growing importance. Primary care is in an unique position to provide care for all patients with cancer throughout the world.

The SIG is closely aligned with the Cancer and Primary Care Research International group (Ca-PRI) and the International Primary Palliative Care Network

Interested family doctors are welcome to contact the convenor,

Convenor / Chair

Convenor - Dr. Shrikant Atreya (India)

MBBS, MD, Fellowship in Palliative Medicine

email convenor
I am a Senior Consultant in Palliative Medicine and In-charge of Palliative Medicine Unit at Tata Medical Center, Kolkata, India. I completed two years residential Fellowship program in Palliative Medicine in 2013 after graduating as a Doctor of Medicine in Community and Family Medicine in 2010. At Tata Medical Center, I have had the opportunity to develop the palliative medicine unit that provides outpatient care, inpatient care including acute palliative care and terminal/hospice care. In collaboration with Government of West Bengal, India, I have been able to empower doctors and nurses in District Hospitals to provide primary palliative care. I convened the primary palliative care network to empower Family and Community Medicine physicians in India and successfully integrated primary palliative care into the post graduate curriculum for Family Medicine. I am now convening the primary palliative care program for General practitioners and Community and Family Medicine physicians. This is a five year program and hope to empower general physicians to provide primary palliative care in the community.

My special interest lies in respiratory palliative care and community-based palliative care. 

Co-Convenor or other office bearers

Past Convenor - Prof Annette Berendsen (The Netherlands)

After almost 30 years of practice Annette stopped working as a GP in 2012. For 26 years she worked at the Department of General Practice of the University of Groningen. Her PhD was aimed at the collaboration between general practitioners and medical specialists. At the moment, she is head of research in oncology in primary care at the department of General Practice of the University of Groningen and a teacher (vocational training).

Past Co-convenor - Cancer lead -Professor David Weller

Professor David Weller, an academic general practitioner, graduated from the University of Adelaide Medical School in 1982. He undertook PhD studies in Adelaide and Nottingham, and from 1995 to 2000 was senior lecturer, Department of General Practice, Flinders University of South Australia. He has been James Mackenzie Professor of General Practice at the University of Edinburgh since 2000, and Head of the School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health since 2005. Current research interests include primary care oncology and medically unexplained symptoms in primary care. He leads the Cancer and Primary Care Research International Network (CA-PRI) promoting international research collaboration, and is actively engaged in activities to build capacity in primary care and cancer research in the UK.

Areas of interest - primary care, screening, early diagnosis, follow-up, survivorship and prevention.

Past Co-convenor - Palliative care lead -Prof Scott Murray (UK)

Scott leads the first Primary Palliative Care Research Group based in an academic department of family medicine, at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. This group has undertaken a wide range of high impact research studies focusing on the experiences of people with advanced illnesses, and how their care might be improved. He with Kirsty Boyd helped develop a validated tool to identify people with deteriorating health who are at risk of dying so that they and their families can be offered an holistic review of their needs and care planning. The Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators Tool is freely available to download from our website in several languages.

Scott also chairs the International Primary Palliative Care Network which seeks to encourage research and advocacy for palliative care internationally in primary care. He recently led a EAPC Taskforce to produce a Toolkit for national palliative care development in the community, now translated to French and German. This group is now known as the EAPC Primary Care Reference Group, and looks forward to meeting at WONCA Europe meeting in 2017

Executive Members

  • Dr. Alan Barnard, ex-chair of WONCA Palliative Care and Cancer (South Africa)
  • Dr. Scott Murray (Edinburgh); ex-chair of WONCA Palliative Care and Cancer
  • Dr. Raman Kumar (India)
  • Dr. Dan Munday (Nepal)
  • Dr. Chamath Fernando (Sri Lanka)
  • Dr. Kaye Garcia (Phillipines)
  • Dr. Paul Muñoz Aguirre (Peru)
  • Dr. Spyridon Antonios Giannakis (Malawi)
  • Dr. Marinda Asiah Nuril Haya (Indonesia)

Membership Open?

Vision and Mission of WONCA SIG on Cancer & Palliative care

Objectives of the WONCA SIG on Cancer & Palliative care

Aims of the WONCA SIG on Cancer and Palliative Care

  • To provide a forum for WONCA members to discuss clinical and research issues in cancer and palliative care.
  • To promote best practice in cancer and primary care, from early diagnosis through to survivorship and palliative care.
  • To promote the role of primary care in cancer early diagnosis and management in both developed and resource poor countries.
  • To encourage education and training in care for patients with cancer and in palliative care for all primary care physicians and health professionals
  • To help utilise the very significant potential that primary care has to improve cancer outcomes and to improve palliative care in a range of international contexts.

Publications & Documents


Every year we organize a symposium at WONCA Europe. These symposia are very well attended.

We ran a jointly-badged Ca-PRI - WONCA all-day workshop at the European Cancer Congress (ECCO) in Amsterdam at the end of January 2017. This was a very successful event, and well-attended.

The group meets in Rio 2016

The Rio pre-conference of the WONCA SIG on Cancer and Palliative care attracted a large group, including many Brazilians eager to hear about palliative care in the community internationally.

Prof Geoff Mitchell first welcomed everyone and explained the vision of the SIG and of the International Primary Palliative Care Network which had members in every continent.

Prof Scott Murray then highlighted the recent WHO manual on integrating palliative care in all settings, especially the community. He had contributed to this very useful manual which spells out how palliative care can be integrated in primary care in various high, middle and low income countries.

Then Dr Santiago Correa illustrated how his project in Brazil works so that others could learn from it. See link to EAPC blog. This was received very enthusiastically. The new President of WONCA, Professor Amanda Howe, visited the special interest group and encouraged us to continue over the next few years in this priority area for primary care.

During the WONCA conference itself we held a “basics of palliative care” session for GPs which lasted three hours. Daniel Azevedo and Claudia Buria, both from Brazil, presented in a very dynamic= fashion key issues about identifying and helping people with frailty and dementia. Geoff Mitchell then gave a clear basic talk on symptom control. Again there was much enthusiasm around this. Slides will be available on www.ippcn.org see picture attached.

On the last day of WONCA Brazil there was a special panel on palliative care when we heard presentations from Geoff Mitchell (summarising palliative care in Latin America using a presentation from Dr Liliana deLima (USA), Maria Goretti Sales (Brazil), Thomas Martin (Costa Rica), and Santiago Correa (Brazil) In closing, Scott Murray (UK) who showed a four minute video giving a four dimensional rationale for early palliative care which was well received, and which soon should be available as a teaching aid for students and postgraduate teaching for nurses, doctors and allied health professionals.

There will be great opportunities for further palliative care input at WONCA in Seoul in 2018 and in regional conferences before then. Meanwhile the SIG and International palliative Care Network are going ahead to help different countries to integrate palliative care in primary care, using the Toolkit developed by the EAPC Taskforce and WONCA in 2016.

Scott A Murray (SIG Co-chair) [email protected]