Four African countries have been chosen for the first phase of a new initiative to improve cancer care, as the African Access Initiative (AAI) launch was announced this week.
Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Nigeria will participate in the effort to improve cancer survival by identifying patient care and research needs, and matching them with AAI consortium partners led by BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH). Those partners include African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), and the Pfizer and Takeda pharmaceutical companies.
The initiative aims to reduce barriers to cancer screenings, care and treatment. In a white paper released as part of the AAI launch, BVGH authors noted that cancer is causing far more deaths than malaria, disproportionately affects women, and is diagnosed later and at a more advanced stage.
“The devastating reality in Africa is that cancer is nearly always fatal, and patients and their families have little or no hope for survival and recovery,” said Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade, Director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago, in an AAI launch statement.
Breast cancer survival, for example, shows wide disparities among countries. Data in a 2015 review in the Journal of Global Oncology found that a 5-year survival rate for Europeans was at 82 percent. That falls to 46 percent in Uganda, 39 percent in Algeria and just 12 percent in The Gambia.
The availability of radiation treatment varies across the continent, with no equipment units available in many countries, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Better options for Africans are complicated by a lack of research and treatment focused on uniquely African challenges, with just 2 percent of the continent’s population covered by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) registries in 2014.