The knowledge and tools to cure many cancer patients exist in developed countries but are unavailable to many who live in the developing world, resulting in unnecessary loss of life. Bringing cancer care to the poor, particularly to low-income countries, is a great challenge, but it is one that we believe can be met through partnerships, careful planning and a set of guiding principles. Alongside vaccinations, screening and other cancer-prevention efforts, treatment must be a central component of any cancer programme from the start. It is also critical that these programmes include implementation research to determine programmatic efficacy, where gaps in care still exist and where improvements can be made. This article discusses these issues using the example of Rwanda's expanding national cancer programme.