Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda are set to benefit from a newly announced cancer support initiative by Novartis, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The initiative complements the work the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) is doing to improve access to oncology medicines in the region.

Through the collaboration, the three organisations will work together to devise a common approach to improve access to cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Novartis will provide funding to support the technical work and scaling of the programme.

The ASCP will build healthcare capacity for immunohistochemistry (IHC) analysis in two hospital laboratories in Ethiopia and Tanzania and focus on improving access to diagnostic equipment; provide laboratory-wide training to increase access to therapies for IHC-related diagnosable cancer; and ensure supply chain management for IHC reagents and supplies.

“Immunohistochemistry is required for oncologists to treat many cancers,” said ASCP CEO, Blair Holladay, PhD. “This partnership will allow us to provide high-quality, rapid and accurate screening and diagnosis, taking in-country cancer care to the next level.”

The ACS will be implementing ChemoSafe, a comprehensive approach to promoting the safe handling and administration of chemotherapy. As part of ChemoSafe, the ACS will coordinate the development and implementation of a training and facility-strengthening programme designed with the Oncology Nursing Society to improve safe handling and administration of chemotherapy, including the use of protective equipment like exhaust hoods to protect staff from exposure while mixing chemotherapy drugs.

In addition, the ACS will also be working with peripheral hospitals to strengthen systems for collecting and transporting biopsy specimens to the central IHC labs to improve the quality and sample turnaround time.

“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 Senior Vice President for Global Cancer Control at ACS, Sally Cowal.

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.

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

“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,” concluded Dr Nusser.

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