cancer in developing countriesMajor progress has been made in recent years in combating leading threats to global health such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, there is a lesser-discussed global health problem that is growing in developing nations. Eight million cancer cases across the world occur in developing countries, accounting for 57 percent of all reported cancer cases worldwide. Ami Bhatt and her coworkers at the School of Medicine at Stanford University are working to change these numbers by reducing cancer in the developing world.

Background on Ami Bhatt

In 2009, Bhatt became aware of the growing danger of cancer in developing countries through her work at Harvard University. She knew that something had to be done. She started a nonprofit with another fellow in her program, Franklin Huang, who became equally as passionate about this topic. The organization, called Global Oncology (GO), has launched numerous programs and projects since its start in 2012. All of them are aimed at creating better care for cancer patients in low and middle-income countries through new technology, education and medical training. In 2014, Bhatt started her work at the Stanford School of Medicine. Since then she has mobilized her coworkers to further explore the pandemic of cancer in the developing world and find ways to combat it.

Educational and Tracking Resources

Working with a design firm in sub-Saharan Africa, Bhatt was able to develop materials with simple messaging and visuals to help patients in developing nations understand potential treatment options, side effects and complications. Many patients in these low-income areas drop out of treatment because they do not fully understand the process of treatments like chemotherapy. These materials are aimed at solving this problem and keeping more patients in treatment. They are currently being used in cancer wards across Rwanda, Botswana and Haiti.

GO also partnered with the National Cancer Institute to develop an interactive map of cancer researchers and program managers across the world. This resource is the first of its kind and has increased interaction and collaboration between those working in the field. The map gives experts equal access to contemporary knowledge and technology being used to combat cancer in the developing world.

Work in Nigeria and Rwanda

In 2017, Bhatt and her colleagues at GO collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to identify two hospitals that could make a huge impact by taking their cancer care programs to the next level. The northern portion of Nigeria is Muslim-majority while the southern area is Christian majority. For this reason, they chose ABUTH hospital in the north and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in the south.

The programs implemented at these hospitals were aimed toward outlining potential opportunities for hospital faculty to carry out improvements in their cancer programs. After this program had been in place for a few months, Bhatt and a few of her colleagues traveled to Nigeria to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. This formed the foundation for the recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Health that were included in the Nigerian 2018-2023 National Cancer Control Plan.

While teaching classes to physicians in Rwanda, Bhatt discovered that patients with leukemia were being treated with hydroxyurea, a drug that only prolongs a patient’s life for about five years. She found out that the country had lost free access to an alternate drug called Gleevec, which can prolong someone’s life for up to 30 years. Bhatt and her Stanford colleagues spent weeks lobbying the Rwandan Ministry of Health as well as the drug manufacturer to restore free access to Gleevec in Rwanda.

Sixty-five percent of those who die from cancer yearly live in developing countries. Ami Bhatt recognized the existence and implications of this statistic in 2009. She has made it her life’s work to battle cancer in the developing world ever since. As more and more people recognize cancer as a major problem in the developing world, Bhatt and her team get closer and closer to winning the battle.

Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

eight Facts About Breast CancerBreast cancer is a deadly disease caused by cells that grow out of control in the breast. It mostly occurs in women, but men are also at risk of developing the disease as well. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and is one of the leading cancers in the world, and has only gotten worse over the years in many countries. Here are eight facts about breast cancer in developing countries.

8 Facts About Breast Cancer

  1. 600,000 women and men died from breast cancer around the world last year. That is one death every 50 seconds, and since 2012 it has been the leading cause of death from cancer in all of the developing countries.
  2. New breast cancer cases around the world have doubled in the last 30 years. There were two million cases in just 2018 alone. Most cases came from areas in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
  3. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in 140 out of 184 countries. Lack of awareness has proven to be the main reason why women with the disease are often too late to treat it.
  4. Five percent of global spending on cancer is aimed at developing countries. Breast cancer accounted for $26 billion needed in developing countries, with the money going towards healthcare, screening and education.
  5. In developing countries, breast cancer is detected in the later stages. Women do not usually detect it until it reaches Stage III, but it is harder to treat once it reaches that stage due to how much the disease has already spread around the breast. Little access to treatment and lack of awareness are the main reasons why it is too late before the patient is treated. 48 percent of women in Latin America had Stage III breast cancer before they found out.
  6. Since 2016, 70 percent of breast cancer deaths occurred in developing countries. Women have longer lifespans and live a better lifestyle in the more developed countries, which can play a factor as to why women in developing countries can develop the disease earlier.
  7. Breast cancer diagnosis in Australia number 95 per 100,000 people. Australians also have a 10 percent lifetime risk. Genetic mutation and family history are the main reasons why Australia currently has the highest incident rates in the world.
  8. Most breast cancer deaths occur in women 50 years and older. The risk of breast cancer increases with age due to abnormal changes in the cells as someone gets older.

NGOs Helping

The disease has taken many lives and is still the most common cancer in women and in developing countries. However, there are organizations dedicated to stopping the disease for good. The Susan G. Komen foundation is the leading breast cancer organization in the world that is currently using their donations toward research and education for all women with breast cancer. Another example is The Young Survival Coalition, an organization that focuses on treating women under 40 who develop the disease. It uses the donations toward research and life improvement for women who have it and who survived it. All these facts point towards a bright future for the fight against breast cancer.

– Reese Furlow
Photo: Pixabay

Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

Thousands of Nigerians die every year from cancer. Though deaths are mostly preventable, Nigeria lacks the infrastructure, equipment and health care professionals necessary to treat its cancer victims. Furthermore, the high cost of cancer treatment prevents many Nigerians from seeking it soon enough to cure it. Yet the Nigerian government is improving Nigeria’s cancer treatment and making it easier for Nigerians to access it. This article will reveal the future of cancer treatment in Nigeria by first explaining why so many Nigerians die from cancer, and then listing the solutions that people are proposing and implementing to eradicate it.

Cancer in Nigeria

The World Health Organization identifies cancer as the second leading cause of death around the world. It is responsible for 70 percent of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. This is more than the number of deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In Nigeria, around 72,000 Nigerians die each year from cancer among the more than 100,000 cancer diagnoses. The two most common, and often treatable, forms of cancer in Nigeria are breast and cervical cancer.

Specifically, Nigerian men suffer from mostly prostate, colorectal, liver, stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nigerian women suffer from mostly breast, cervical, colorectal, ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian women, 71,022, is greater than the number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian men, 44,928.

Reasons for Nigerian Cancer Deaths

First and foremost, many Nigerians are unable to reach physicians who can diagnose and treat their cancer. Additionally, when they are able to get the treatment they need, their cancer is in such an advanced state that any treatment they receive fails to save their lives. Thirdly, Nigeria has not had a national plan to control cancer or a national registry to track trends about who has cancer and where they live for most of its history.

In addition, Nigerians often do not have the money to pay for cancer treatment. On top of this, many Nigerians who suffer from cancer do not receive enough information about cancer to motivate them to seek immediate medical attention.

There are also infrastructure limitations as Nigeria currently only has four functional cancer treatment centers, which is not enough to treat the immense number of Nigerian citizens who suffer from cancer. Furthermore, in a population of more than 200 million, there are only nine radiation therapy machines. At any time, some or all of these machines might be broken, sometimes for months. Nigeria additionally lacks well-equipped treatment centers and an adequate amount of qualified health professionals.

Goals with Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

The current state of cancer treatment in Nigeria might look dreadful, however, Nigerians are making great efforts to improve the care it provides to Nigeria’s cancer victims with the help of partners like the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society. On April 13, 2015, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health launched the Cancer Control Plan (CCP). This plan sets the course for the Ministry of Health to improve cancer treatment in Nigeria from 2018 to 2022. The goals included in the CCP that Nigeria intends to reach to improve its response to cancer are:

  • ” Increased access to screening and detection of cancer
  • Improved access to quality and cost-effective cancer treatment
  • Improved end-of-life care for patients and their families
  • Increased public awareness about the disease
  • Improved data collection and the process of spreading information
  • Effective coordination of cancer resources for Nigeria”

Progress

A major stepping-stone in the advancement of cancer treatment in Nigeria is the construction of the world-class Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Advanced Cancer Treatment Centre. This facility emerged to ensure that the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer are available to many more Nigerians and is equipped with the most innovative cancer therapy solutions from Varian Medical Systems. This facility can treat 100 patients a day and provide more advanced training for 80 health care professionals. Predictions determine that this facility will serve as a model for future cancer research facilities throughout West Africa.

Even though Nigeria has a long way to travel to create a cancer treatment system on par with those of high-income countries like the United Kingdom or Switzerland. The goals listed above will take a great effort to reach. Yet, the fact that Nigeria is already making progress towards advancing its cancer treatment system proves the bright future of cancer treatment in Nigeria is already here.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr


The UN’s 2016 High-Panel report on global access to medicine opens with an inspiring message: “Never in the past has our knowledge of science been so profound and the possibilities to treat all manner of diseases so great.” It is hard to debate that recent advancements in targeted cancer therapy and HIV drug development indicate a bright future for the Rx world. The potential for positive change may go unrealized, however, if access to medicine remains limited. To serve the 3.5 billion people without basic medical services, along with the 100 million who find themselves in extreme poverty because of high medical costs, governments and organizations have to confront the complex economic forces undermining global access to medicine. This article will discuss two such forces and consider how international actors have responded.

Too Big to Heal?

Economic orthodoxy holds that the equilibrium of a product’s supply and demand will determine its price, but medication prices do not adhere to this rule. This is because firms in the pharmaceutical industry possess the key to market distortion. Monopoly power or the ability for firms with outsized market shares to raise prices without experiencing a corresponding drop in sales. Pharmaceutical companies tend to obtain monopoly power for several reasons, such as:

  1. High entry costs, especially those associated with research and development. This excludes smaller, potentially disruptive firms from the market.
  2. The continuation of company consolidation. In the past 20 years, a group of 60 different pharmaceutical companies shrank to a mere 10.
  3. Large profits. Profits are huge, with the 10 highest-earning companies netting a 20 percent profit margin on average. This allows these companies to fortify their already-large market share. Most importantly, once a company patents a drug, it holds exclusive title to the production and distribution of that drug for 20-25 years.

During that period, no lower-priced, generic substitutes can enter the market. Equipped with this uncontested control, these companies can charge high prices for their products, as those who need them will have no other choice but to bear the cost. Yet some, especially individuals in poorer countries dealing with diseases like Hepatitis C and cancer, simply cannot afford these costs.

There are many individuals and corporations who are attempting to solve this problem, however. For example, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a pharmaceutical company based in London, England, is trying to put an end to exorbitant prices for prescription drugs in low-income countries. In March 2016, it announced that it would not seek patent protection for its drugs in 50 of the world’s poorest countries. By doing this, the company opened the path for smaller companies to bring lower-priced, generic versions of their drugs to the market. So far, the approach has been effective, earning GSK the top spot in the 2018 Access to Medicine Index. The positive publicity it receives from the ranking will hopefully motivate other companies to follow suit.

R&D Incentives

While the economics of monopoly power generates the problem of overpricing, the incentives of research and development make it such that many medicines needed in low-income countries go underproduced. As mentioned above, patents spell large rewards, but it costs $800 million on average for a company to obtain one and to bring a drug to the market. This pressures companies to develop the drugs that are most likely to produce a substantial financial return. Additionally, as the UN High-Panel notes in its report, this means that widespread, treatable diseases can oftentimes go unaddressed. For example, antimicrobial-resistant viruses and parasites threaten to kill as many as 10 million people annually by 2050, yet drug companies worldwide have developed virtually no new antibiotics in the past 25 years. In the absence of this innovation, however, public-private R&D partnerships have proven to be a successful substitute. The Global Fund is an example as it has saved 27 million people that malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis threatened by raising money from both public and private sources and collaborating with domestic task forces and commissions.

A Reconceptualization

Economic barriers to improve global access to medicine remain, but more and more people are starting to conceptualize the problem as an ethical one rather than an economic one. However, ensuring access to health care and maintaining market efficiency are not mutually exclusive. For example, cost-efficient drug production techniques are necessary to disseminate medicines at reduced prices. But other times “policy incoherencies,” as the UN High-Panel report calls them, force decision-makers to choose between the promotion of economic innovation and the provision of public health. Thanks to leading companies like GlaxoSmithKline and compassionate organizations like the Global Fund, the international community is starting to opt for the latter.

James Delegal
Photo: Flickr

Andy Murray's Philanthropy

Scottish tennis player Andy Murray is a 14-time titleholder of ATP Tour Masters 1000, a three-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. He has been able to amass a good amount of money through tournament earnings and sponsorships, and with this, he has been able to help those who need it most. Andy Murray’s philanthropy is based mainly on his partnership with UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador, with which he has taken on many projects; the main ones being related to helping Syrian refugees and improving ways to fight diseases like malaria and cancer.

Andy’s Aces

One of Murray’s first acts of charity as a UNICEF ambassador was by simply playing tennis. In 2015, he vowed to donate £50 every time he hit an ace during his matches throughout the year. He kept his promise and donated over £80,000 with the help of sponsors and fans who matched his contribution, and with this money, UNICEF has been able to send help to over 16,000 children in Syria.

Malaria No More

Since 2009, Murray has been a spokesperson and contributor to Malaria No More alongside retired soccer player, David Beckham. This disease is one of the deadliest for children, killing one child every 30 seconds, according to the UNICEF website, but it is treatable with proper medication. “It costs less than a pack of tennis balls to treat and help save a life,” Murray said. With the birth of his daughter, he has been able to put himself in the shoes of parents less fortunate than himself, and this is why part of Andy Murray’s philanthropy is focused on making sure that malaria is eradicated completely.

Rally for Bally

Following the death of Elena Baltacha, a British tennis player who lost her fight against cancer, Murray created a series of exhibition-type matches where he was joined by other famous players, both active and retired, to raise awareness and money to fight cancer. Some of the well-known faces include Martina Navratilova, James Ward, Petra Kvitová, Agnieszka Radwańska and Ross Hutchins. Hutchins also happens to be one of Murray’s closest friends as well as a cancer survivor himself and was able to join him on the court for the first time since his recovery.

Hutchins was an inspiration for Murray; he claims that when he heard about Hutchins’ diagnosis, he wasn’t able to fully comprehend what his friend had to go through. “And just like that, for the first time, I found myself confronted with the reality of cancer. Here is that reality: Cancer doesn’t discriminate,” Murray wrote. The event now takes place every year and has managed to raise over £80,000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, an organization that promotes life-saving research to help cancer victims across the globe.

Andy Murray Live

Andy Murray Live was created as a series of fundraiser matches in Scotland, where Murray invites some of the best-known players in the world like Roger Federer to play against him. Murray is always thinking of his country, and that is why, aside from his contributions with UNICEF, he also donates half of the proceeds from his Andy Murray Live events to local charity groups like Sunny Sid3 Up, an organization in Glasgow that helps people in need, not only in Scotland where they support low-income communities, but also in Sri Lanka where they work to build shelters and promote children’s education.

The life of an athlete is by no means simple or easy, and there are a lot of sacrifices to be made as well as mastering the mind and body to perform on the court, even during stressful times. Andy Murray knows this better than most, as he himself has had to recover from injuries and surgeries which have currently placed him at the very bottom of the rankings in past years. Despite this, he will continue to lend a helping hand to those who need it most and fight for many causes, especially children’s health and education.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

JCWO and FJC Provide Health Care
Latin America’s abundance of natural resources has been the main source of income for its economies. Production of copper, oil, coffee, sugar and other valuable commodities have made countries in Latin America key players in the global marketplace. Yet, the region faces significant economic challenges and a large part of its population lives in extreme poverty today. Venezuela is a clear example of this. Even with some of the largest oil reserves in the world, its economy has suffered; as of 2018, inflation was at 130,060 percent and its economy shrunk by 22.5 percent since 2017. Infrastructure and public services have deteriorated, and health care has been one of the most affected sectors. The declining state of public health institutions affects the most underprivileged Venezuelan populations since they cannot have access to proper care and treatment. To fill the demand for accessible, reliable medical care, many non-governmental organizations have come to action to help patients in need across the country. In particular, the Jacinto Convit World Organization (JCWO) and Fundación Jacinto Convit (FJC) provide health care to the needy relating to diagnosing and developing treatments for cancer patients.

The Problem

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, rates of extreme poverty rose from 9.9 percent of the Latin American population to 10.2 percent. Access to proper health care is of the utmost importance to all populations, especially those in economic trouble. The survival rate for cancer is highest when those affected receive an early, precise diagnosis. Yet, in many countries in Latin America, the public health care system cannot provide this. This is where organizations like the Jacinto Convit World Organization come into play.

JCWO and FJC

Many organizations around the world, such as the Jacinto Convit World Organization in the United States and Fundación Jacinto Convit in Venezuela, are committed to creating scientific and health-centered programs that target the most underserved and underprivileged populations, mainly in developing countries. The sister organizations received their names from the late Dr. Jacinto Convit, a leading medical researcher and humanist who introduced vaccines and treatments that helped poverty-stricken communities. 

In an interview with Ana Federica Convit, the president of JCWO and granddaughter of Dr. Convit, she described the need to promote scientific solutions and health assisting programs in poor developing countries where patients have limited access to health services. She notes that “JCWO and FJC work to improve the lives of underprivileged and underserved populations that lack access to adequate diagnostics and innovative or even conventional cancer treatments.” The Molecular Diagnostics Program has already reached, “eight of the main health centers in Venezuela,” and outreach continues to spread across the country and eventually to other nations of the region that can benefit from this program.

The Two Programs

JCWO and FJC provide health care to the needy by focussing on providing cancer patients with access to specialized tests through the Molecular Diagnostics Program (MDP) and personalized therapeutic options through the Cancer Immunotherapy Program (CIP). Currently, the MDP has performed 1,950 diagnoses for 390 pediatric and adult patients, indirectly benefiting 1,560 relatives of patients. For the CIP, stage IV breast cancer patients will receive a new therapeutic vaccine in upcoming clinical trials.

The MDP “provides free access to early, precise and personalized diagnosis in various types of cancer and infectious diseases such as HIV.” The program performs highly specialized tests like genetic alterations that medical professionals do not offer anywhere else in Latin America. To date, the program has treated more than 390 patients mainly in extreme poverty.

The CIP “works on advancing the development of a personalized breast cancer immunotherapy designed by Dr. Convit during his last years of life.” This treatment aims to use the patient’s immune system to attack tumors and prevent the disease from recurring. This treatment is currently in process to begin clinical trials. Ana Federica describes the importance of this therapeutic vaccine, saying that “it is a simple, low cost, and potentially safe and effective therapy that is targeted to underprivileged patients who many times cannot access other treatments due to their high costs.”

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a crucial role in solving critical needs around the world, especially in developing countries with poorer conditions. JCWO and FJC provide health care to the needy and have committed to expanding their programs and uniting efforts with all sectors to continue to serve impoverished communities on both a local and international scale. With efforts like these, underserved and underprivileged communities can access the health care they need. 

– Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

tools to prevent cervical cancerCervical cancer continues to be a big problem for developing countries. More than eight out of ten cervical cancer deaths will happen in developing countries, in spite of the fact that the tools to prevent cervical cancer are available now.

How Countries are Addressing the Issue

In May 2018 in Geneva, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance “welcomed the call” issued by the World Health Organization Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for coordinated action against cervical cancer. The first steps on the path to eliminating cervical cancer are sustainable disease control through significant investments and holistic health systems.

Currently, cervical cancer is projected to overtake childbirth as the leading cause of death among women, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Around the world, 266,000 women and girls die each year as a result of cervical cancer. By 2030, that number could increase to more than 380,000.

Eight Gavi-supported countries have launched the vaccine nationally with 30 countries implementing a demonstration program. Ethiopia and Senegal begin nationwide vaccination in 2018. These countries understand that the tools to prevent cervical cancer are available now.

Battling Cervical Cancer in Developing Countries

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, with 80 percent of cases happening in the developing world. It is the leading cause of death among women in developing countries, where it causes about 190,000 deaths each year. Cervical cancer risk is highest in Central America, sub-Saharan Africa and Melanesia.

A lack of effective screening programs used to detect and lead to treatment of pre-cancerous conditions is the major reason for the much higher cervical cancer occurrence in developing countries. Roughly about five percent of women in developing countries have been screened for cervical dysplasia, compared to 40 to 50 percent of women in developed countries.

Of the total number of cases of cervical cancer worldwide, 99 percent were estimated to contain HPV DNA. HPV virus infects the cells of the cervix and slowly causes pre-cancerous cellular changes (dysplasia) that progress. Women are generally at the highest risk of HPV infection in their teens, 20s or 30s. It can take as long as 20 years after the initial HPV infection for cancer to develop.

Using the Proper Tools to Prevent Cervical Cancer

In many developing countries, treatment options are limited. Cervical lesions are often treated with aggressive approaches like cone biopsies or hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) rather than with appropriate outpatient approaches.

Simple outpatient procedures should be used instead to destroy or remove pre-cancerous tissue. A common outpatient method is cryotherapy; another is a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). LEEP does involve more equipment and supplies, but it removes diseased tissue while at the same time providing a specimen for analysis, reducing the possibility of overlooking invasive cancer.

The keys to curing cervical cancer and reducing HPV infections are education, screening and access to vaccines. What is required is the removal of barriers preventing women and girls from accessing the necessary healthcare. From vaccination campaigns to self-administered screenings, many countries are already on the right path to helping stop unnecessary deaths from cervical cancer. The tools to prevent cervical cancer are available now, and women in developing nations have a right to access those tools.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr

children with cancer worldwide
Every year many families are confronted with the difficult diagnosis that their child has cancer. Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee are familiar with this harsh reality and are on a mission to bring needed resources to families of impoverished children with cancer worldwide.

According to pediatric oncology researchers, 80 percent of the 160,000 children that are diagnosed with cancer worldwide have limited access to quality care and thus have a lower chance of surviving the disease. St. Jude is leading the way people understand and treat childhood cancer and have established an initiative named St. Jude Global to help spread their valuable resources overseas to reach children with cancer worldwide.

About St. Jude Global

“St. Jude Global, a major expansion of the former St. Jude International Outreach Program, is a strategic initiative led by the St. Jude Department of Global Pediatric Medicine.”

The initiative is composed of researchers and healthcare providers who have brought together resources including quality facilities, treatment protocols and research programs to address the needs of children with cancer worldwide, especially those living in developing and third-world countries.

Collaborations have been established in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania, as well as include over 28 countries as current beneficiaries.

Easing the Burden for Families

Over the years, St. Jude’s partnership with international organizations has helped reached vulnerable children in developing and third-world countries and brought progress to the sobering statistic of childhood cancer worldwide. Some of these programs include:

  • Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean Group: Formed in 2013, this is a collaboration between physicians, scientists and healthcare professionals from over 50 pediatric cancer centers across the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The initiative aims to “improve pediatric oncology research, training, patient care and advocacy by working in multidisciplinary teams across political and territorial boundaries.”
  • The Asociación de Hemato-Oncología Pediátrica de Centro América: Founded in 2000, “this network provides educational and training opportunities to local health care providers, as well as a framework for collaboration between participating institutions.”
  • National Childhood ALL Study Group in China: Founded in 2005, this study group established the first National Childhood ALL study group after physicians at Beijing Children’s Hospital and Shanghai Children’s Medical Center (SCMC), came together in a joint collaboration with St. Jude to “explore ways to optimize [Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)] treatment in China.”

Progress So Far

As a result of  St. Jude’s global partnerships with international organizations, thousands of children have benefitted from life-saving treatment.

In China, St. Jude’s collaboration with Beijing Children’s Hospital and Shanghai Children’s Medical Center increased the number of treated patients with ALL in mainland China from 10 percent before the year 2000, to over 90 percent as of 2014.

Furthermore, the Asociación de Hemato-Oncología Pediátrica de Centro América (AHOPCA) has been able to successfully fund treatment for thousands of cancer patients since the year 2000. Although there is still progress to be made with the fight against childhood cancer worldwide, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital remains a strong force in the efforts to ensure that no child dies of cancer anywhere.

– Lois Charm

Photo: Flickr

Screening Breast Cancer in EthiopiaBreast cancer is the most common cancer found in females in both developed and developing countries. The occurrence of this cancer is soaring in developing countries due to factors such as increases in life expectancy, the expansion of urbanization and the endorsement of a more Western lifestyle. Breast cancer in Ethiopia is becoming the most prevalent disease among Ethiopian women, surpassing cervical cancer.

Many factors are known to contribute to breast cancer in women, such as the age at which women deliver children, poor diet, lack of physical exercise, uncontrolled consumption of alcohol and the lifestyle a woman lives.

Some of these factors might be reduced with lifestyle changes. However, prevention cannot eliminate the majority of breast cancer diagnosed in very late stages in low and middle-income communities. Early detection is important in order to improve breast cancer outcomes.

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) is a global partnership comprised of national governments, corporations, foundations and NGOs, all working with the same intent: to reduce deaths caused by cervical and breast cancer in low- and middle-income communities.

By mobilizing resources from its cohorts, PRRR and its collaborators work on interventions ranging from prevention to medical care by educating the community about cancer, vaccinating young girls against HPV, screening women for breast cancer and cervical cancer and increasing access to treatments.

PRRR began supporting the government of Ethiopia in 2014 with the formation of a comprehensive cancer control program. With backing from PRRR and the Mathiwos Wondu Ye-Ethiopia Cancer Society, the first National Cancer-Control Plan (NCCP) was launched in October 2015 by Ethiopia’s first lady, Roman Tesfaye.

The plan is to launch five cancer treatment centers in the country, relieving the burden on the Tikur Ambessa Hospital in Addis Ababa. The government has committed $12 million to develop these centers at teaching hospitals in the areas of Mek’ele, Gondar, Jima, Hawassa and Haromaya.

The NCCP also called for cancer screenings to be offered in all of Ethiopia at locations known as “Screen-and-Treat” sites, which will be available in 118 locations. PRRR is pleased to contribute technological and monetary assistance to complement the investments of the Ethiopian government to implement this vision.

PRRR is also backing the government of Ethiopia in opening more cervical and breast cancer screening locations in the two most populated regions and Addis Ababa.

With foundations like Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon breaking ground in Ethiopia where there are not many resources available to most women, the awareness of breast cancer in Ethiopia is becoming much greater. With continued work, more progress will be made in the prevention and early detection of the disease.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Google