Cameroon, like many other low- and middle-income countries, experiences a high rate of childhood cancer. Although 80 percent of children with cancer in high-income countries survive, only about 10 to 20 percent of children survive up to five years after diagnosis in Cameroon, largely due to limited access to timely care. Even when patients seek care, the medications, equipment, and technical expertise to treat their cancers are often lacking.
CHAI, with support from UBS Optimus Foundation (UBSOF) and The American Cancer Society (ACS), has been working under the leadership of the Cameroonian National Cancer Program to reverse this trend. We have taken an approach that is responsive to the needs of the government and community and builds capacity at multiple points in the care cascade.
The first step was to develop a five-year strategy for cancer prevention and control between 2020 and 2024. CHAI supported a data-driven approach to help the government estimate for the first time its anti-cancer medication needs. The findings led to a government allocation of approximately US$2 million for the procurement of these medications—a five-fold increase in the typical budget for cancer medication procurement. CHAI is now supporting the government to access these products via the Cancer Access Partnership (CAP), which is a collaboration between CHAI, the American Cancer Society, and four pharmaceutical companies—Biocon Biologics, Novartis, Pfizer, and Viatris. Purchasing cancer medications through this partnership is estimated to save 40 percent of the budget which could then be re-invested in other cancer care and treatment services.
Before CHAI started its work in Cameroon, protocols for treating common pediatric cancers varied from one center to another. As a result, the course of treatment for the same cancer varied significantly. To solve this problem, the National Cancer Program in collaboration with CHAI, assembled doctors specializing in childhood cancer treatment to develop common protocols for treating pediatric cancers, built on evidence-based guidelines. These protocols are now being used in all pediatric cancer treatment centers. In addition, CHAI helped train doctors and nurses on the use of the newly developed protocols as well as safe handling of anti-cancer medications during treatment sessions.
In parallel, CHAI is supporting the National Cancer Program and its partner World Child Cancer, to develop educational materials for frontline healthcare workers, caregivers, and survivors of curable childhood cancers. The goal of this work is to improve case finding through the identification of early warning signs at primary healthcare level and linking them to approved childhood cancer treatment centers. In 2022, CHAI will continue to coordinate and utilize a targeted set of data points to evaluate the impact of its interventions on the uptake of cancer medicines and on the survival rates of children diagnosed and treated with cancers.