World Child Cancer collaborates with Amgen to improve childhood cancer survival in Africa and Asia

International NGO World Child Cancer is collaborating with leading biotechnology company Amgen to launch a five-year program aimed at saving and improving the lives of children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in Africa and Asia. This multi-year project will centre its attention on improving outcomes for children with cancer, with a specific focus on those affected by B-cell lymphomas, including Burkitt Lymphoma. 

Children in LMICs face disproportionately low cancer survival rates. According to the World Health Organisation, only 15-45% of children in LMICs survive their cancer, compared with more than 80% in high-income countries. The new collaboration aims to tackle this disparity, focusing on children with Burkitt Lymphoma in five target countries1. The collaboration will fund training for healthcare professionals to deliver treatment as well as holistic psychosocial support for children as they are being diagnosed, in treatment, in recovery and reintegrating into school. Where appropriate, Amgen will also provide relevant oncology medications. The program will help to create sustainable health systems to ensure new medicines can be used safely and effectively.  

Photo: E. Kwame Forson

“Our collaboration with Amgen is game-changing for World Child Cancer and, as an organization with huge ambition, will allow us to significantly improve the chances of survival and quality of life for children with cancer in five of our priority countries. The program will improve early diagnosis rates and overall quality of care, reduce barriers to accessing treatment and care services, and create evidence to advocate for long-term change in the way childhood cancers are treated in global communities. It will also contribute to the knowledge base that informs the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer2 and the Global Platform for Access to Medicines3, which we hope will lead to increased access to rituximab for all young patients with Burkitt Lymphoma.”

Working via a network of treatment and referral centres across Ghana, Cameroon, Malawi, Indonesia and Nepal, the collaboration will develop a model to support children with cancer, with a particular focus on Burkitt Lymphoma. 

“Amgen is delighted to be collaborating with World Child Cancer to develop this multi-year project. It is designed to have sustainable health system impacts in countries that are affected by this very fast-growing cancer, which most typically impacts children. Childhood cancer is not preventable and therefore early diagnosis, effective management and equitable access to high-quality care are critical for a timely and positive outcome. We seek to demonstrate clear improvements in health outcomes as a result of this program, and to show that integrated psychosocial support, including supported reintegration into school and society following their cancer treatment, can make a huge difference in the ongoing quality of a child’s life.”

Each year, an estimated 400,000 children and young people4 develop cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, most childhood cancers can be effectively treated with generic or biosimilar medicines and other forms of treatment and, with the right support, treatment of childhood cancer can be cost-effective in all income settings. Burkitt Lymphoma is one of six target cancers the WHO is currently focusing on within its Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer (GICC), launched in 2018, with the aim of doubling global childhood cancer survival to 60% by 2030. Given this, there is urgency to prioritise funding for projects in low- and middle-income countries where there is high unmet need for effective treatment. The new program, designed and delivered by World Child Cancer and Amgen, is closely aligned with the priorities of the WHO GICC and translates policies into practical action. 

The holistic program will invest in training for healthcare workers nationally – both in recognising potential signs of cancer and especially Burkitt Lymphoma, and referring children for further investigation, and in accurately diagnosing the cancer. It will address many barriers that prevent children from reaching and completing treatment for their cancer and invest in strengthening and improving access to psychosocial services to support families of children with cancer. 

The collaboration will also work to sensitise communities and schools and to provide further support to build confidence in young survivors and help them make the very best of the lives they have won back. The goal is to demonstrably increase the survival rate of children with cancer in the focus countries while reducing their suffering and improving their quality of life. 

“The heart-breaking thing is that most pediatric cancers are curable, but they do have to come in good time. Most of our patients come from rural areas, so things like the cost of transportation for them to come in for treatment has always been a big problem. Also, the scarcity of resources – things like chemotherapy drugs, blood and IV fluids – is an issue. If we didn’t have the support such as this coming from Amgen and were only relying on the public sector, then I think we’d be in big trouble.”

For media information, please contact Ali.Sheer@worldchildcancer.org  

Notes for Editors: 

*Burkitt Lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). NHL is a cancer of the lymphatic system. It develops when the body makes abnormal B lymphocytes. These lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that normally help to fight infections. 

 

About World Child Cancer  

World Child Cancer has been working since 2007 to raise survival rates of children with cancer in low and middle-income countries by increasing children’s access to and quality of treatment, supportive care, and psychosocial support available. Its global network of partners include the childhood cancer treatment centres in its countries of operation, as well as renowned paediatric oncology centres in high-income countries who share expertise and collaborate to raise standards of treatment and care. World Child Cancer also partners with leading global organisations including the World Health Organisation, the International Society of Paediatric Oncologists (SIOP), and the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). Find out more at: https://worldchildcancer.org/  

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