Novartis, ASCP and ACS join forces to fight cancer in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania

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Novartis the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) announced they will work together to devise a common approach to improve access to cancer treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Each partner brings unique expertise in cancer diagnosis and treatment. This complements the work the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) is doing to improve access to affordable, quality-approved oncology medicines in the region.

ASCP will build healthcare capacity for immuno-histochemistry (IHC) analysis in two hospital laboratories in Ethiopia and Tanzania. ACS will support training of healthcare professionals in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda to ensure quality processes in the transportation of biopsy samples and in the administration of chemotherapy. Novartis will provide funding to support the technical work. This initiative will serve as a pilot for the future roll-out of similar activities to other countries.

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“The American Cancer Society is pleased to be a part of this initiative to make high-quality cancer treatment available to people with cancer in Ethiopia and Tanzania. We’ll be addressing some of the most pressing challenges patients face in getting access to high-quality cancer treatment,” said Sally Cowal, Senior Vice President for Global Cancer Control at ACS.

Cancer is on the rise in Sub-Saharan Africa. Approximately 650,000 people in Africa develop cancer annually, and about 510,000 cancer deaths occur annually due to limited treatment. More than one third of cancer deaths in Africa are from cancers that are easily preventable and/or treatable, if detected early.

Cancer care in Africa is still fragmented. Through this initiative, partners are being connected to national health priorities, strengthening the whole continuum of care for cancer patients, from training for better diagnosis and care and improved access to treatment, through to advocacy for national cancer treatment guidelines.

The funding from Novartis will support the program pilot launch in Ethiopia and scaling of the program in Uganda and Tanzania.

Targeted hospitals

The plan is to implement these initiatives in the following hospitals in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda:

In Ethiopia, Tikur Anbessa Teaching Hospital (Black Lion) in Addis Ababa is the only comprehensive cancer center in the country. To address the lack of access to cancer services, the government has reactivated its immunohistochemistry program, and has launched an ambitious breast cancer treatment expansion program for twelve additional hospitals. The model is expected to be an essential stepping stone toward Ethiopia’s plan to open five new comprehensive cancer centers by 2020.

In Tanzania, the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) is the only specialty cancer center in the country. ACS is working with oncologists at ORCI through the African Cancer Coalition project to adapt the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s cancer treatment guidelines for Sub-Saharan Africa.

A focus in the coming years will be on strengthening forecasting and procurement of chemotherapy. Muhimbili National Hospital is a 1,500-bed, tertiary care center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, serving more than 5 million people. It is the primary public hospital that is responsible for diagnosing patients with cancer prior to treatment. Although staffed with pathologists and technicians, access to sustained reagents for immunohistochemistry is an ongoing challenge.

The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) is the only comprehensive cancer center in the country. Uganda plans to develop four additional public cancer treatment centers. UCI plays a leadership role in the region and has been recently designated by the East Africa Community as the center of excellence for oncology. As a large volume hospital and a regional leader, it is essential that UCI establishes a strong foundation of safe, quality chemotherapy delivery. ASCP and ACS are both supporting UCI’s new telepathology program.

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