Uganda Cancer Institute is set to host The International Society of Paediatric Oncology-SIOP Africa Congress from 16th – 18th March 2022 at the Serena Kampala- Hotel. The event will take place under the theme “Innovate for Africa”.
The congress will encompass all persons involved in the fight against childhood cancer. From health workers, survivors, parents, friend of a survivor, to mere well-wishers, everyone has a role to play in improving childhood cancer care.
It is important to note that children with cancers in Africa have survival rates as low as 20 percent. This can be attributed to several reasons such as delayed diagnosis, lack of diagnosis, obstacles to accessing care, treatment abandonment, toxic death, and disease relapse among others. One really important concern is that protocols and guidelines prescribed in higher-income countries are often not feasible in many parts of Africa due to resource constraints.
However, amidst all the challenges, there have been some positives with several efforts being made to ensure not every child with cancer dies. For instance, in Uganda, survival rates for children are at 50 percent for the most common childhood cancers we see which is above the survival rate for the rest of Africa which is at 20 percent. As such numerous often unrecognized innovative things are being done all over the African continent to ensure our children get the best treatment possible within limits of available resources. We believe that SIOP Africa will provide a platform to share these efforts and work together collectively henceforth.
The WHO Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer aims to improve outcomes for children with cancer around the world. The WHO aims at improving the survival rates from 20 percent across Low Income countries to 60 percent of which many of the African countries fall under.
The 14th Congress will be a hybrid (both physical and virtual) congress that will see doctors, nurses and medical experts from all over Africa and beyond share their different ways on how to manage cancer in children and more so during the period of a pandemic.
It is important to note that despite the advent of COVID-19, cancer still remains a leading cause of death worldwide with over 70 percent of this occurring in Low and Medium Income Countries such as those in Africa including Uganda as of 2018. Effective anticancer medicine is the backbone of good treatment especially in children. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic it was anticipated that the worst outcome of the disease would be in Sub-Saharan Africa given the low capacity of the health care system. In the same vein it was thought the shortage of anticancer therapy would be more felt in Africa.
It was therefore advised that governments come up with pre-emptive planning for procurement processes to prevent shortages of cancer drugs. All this being done in line with National Essential Cancer Medicines Lists. With this in place there is assurance of quality anticancer medicines through pharmaceutical supply chains.
With the above background, Uganda has registered tremendous improvements in creating access to quality cancer drugs including those for childhood cancers. We have in place a well-streamlined procurement process, that deals directly with multinationals such as Roche, Novartis-Sandoz, Pfi zer among other manufacturers. This has ensured the availability of quality essential cancer medicines at the Uganda Cancer Institute improving from 28.5% to 90% in one year.
The key essential children’s cancer medicines such as cyclophosphamide, vincristine, daunorubicin, L-asparaginase, cytarabine, 5-fluorouracil, cisplatin, ifosfamide, mesna, chlorambucil, dacarbazine, methotrexate, 6-mercaptopurine among others are now routinely available throughout the year. Our direct engagement with manufacturers has also seen increased availability of target molecules such as Rituximab and Erlotinib which would normally not be available in developing countries. With the highly planned process outlined above, the advent of COVID-19 pandemic found Uganda ready with adequate stock of ant cancer medicines.
Furthermore, treatment has greatly improved with acquisition of new radiotherapy machines such as the true beam linear accelerator, the first of its kind in the region.
The Institute is also training specialists in the region with over 180 fellows in paediatric cancers.
These developments from the Uganda Cancer Institute among many other developments across Africa will be shared at 2022 SIOP Africa Congress in March.
SIOP Africa, is the biggest society of health workers who look after children with Cancer in Africa. It has more than 250 registered members with many more active but unregistered members. These members meet every after two years to share ideas on how to treat and manage cancers in children in Africa.
The aim is it to improve and disseminate knowledge of childhood malignant diseases, and their management, in African countries.