Tanzania set to benefit from cancer support by American, Swiss organizations

Wednesday November 15 2017
pic cncer

A pharmacist at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute prepares chemotherapy for cancer patients using a drug mixing machine which is in a poor condition. The machine, which used to serve more than 200 patients per day, lacks proper lids, and this could put health workers at risk. PHOTO | FILE

By Syriacus Buguzi

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is set to benefit from a newly announced initiative for cancer support in Sub-Saharan Africa by two American cancer organizations and Novartis, a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company.

The development comes as part of the cancer improvement projects in Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia by the three organizations, a joint statement released November 15 said.

The American Cancer Society(ACS) is working with cancer experts at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute(ORCI) to adapt the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s treatment guidelines for Sub-Saharan Africa, said the statement.

The organizations further stated that they would work together to devise a common approach to improve access to cancer treatment in the Eastern African countries.

The ACS said it would later focus on strengthening of forecasting and procurement of chemotherapy, which is on high demand at the ORCI due to rising number of cancer cases at the facility.

Tanzania has seen a soaring number of cancer cases in recent years, whereby 5,529 cancer patients reported to the country’s largest cancer facility, the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) based in Dar es Salaam, whereas in 2015, the number stood at 5,244 while in 2014 it was at 4, 195. Back in 2013, the number was 3776 cancer patients.


Read: The cancer burden that Dar carries

For its part, the ASCP said it would build healthcare capacity for chemistry analysis of cancer tissues (immuno-histochemistry (IHC) in two hospital laboratories in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

“Immuno-histochemistry is required for oncologists to treat many cancers,”said the CEO of ASCP Blair Holladay.

ACS said further that it would support the training of healthcare professionals in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda to ensure quality processes in the transportation of tissue samples and in the administration of chemotherapy.

For Novartis, a Swiss based health multinational company, it is expected to provide funding to support the technical work, the statement said.

“A medicine is only as good as the system that delivers it,” said Dr Harald Nusser, Head of Novartis Social Business.

Dr Nusser added, “Through our catalytic funding, we target projects that have an impact on healthcare providers and support patients through their journey. We hope this collaboration will provide earlier and more effective diagnosis to cancer patients, improving the likelihood for better health outcomes.”

Read: High cost of medicine impediment to fight against cancer at Muhimbili

Efforts are ongoing by ACS to support Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), which, despite being staffed with pathologists and technicians, access to sustained reagents for immunohistochemistry is an ongoing challenge at the facility.

The newly initiative is expected to serve as a pilot for the future roll-out of similar activities to other countries as they target relieving Sub-Saharan Africa of the Cancer burden.

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, experts on cancer have always suggested.