US, Switzerland to beef up Dar cancer fight

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CANCER diagnosis and treatment in the country is set to be done more appropriately and at the right time following new partnership for improving intervention on the disease.

The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), Novartis from Switzerland and the American Cancer Society (ACS) on Wednesday announced to choose Tanzania among three Sub-Saharan countries to benefit from their programme for improvement of cancer intervention. Others are Uganda and Ethiopia.

Dr Edda Vuhahula, Senior Lecturer with the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), who is coordinator of the partnership in Tanzania, told the ‘Daily News’ yesterday that the two-year partnership will see the reduced time in testing and diagnosing a patient with cancer and start treatment early.

“For instance, breast cancer patient will be examined in a short time, get accurate results and proper treatment,” Dr Vuhahula explained. The three organizations pledged to support the country in improving supply chain of the reagents for proper cancer diagnosis.

She explained that the reagents will enable the laboratories diagnose each cancer with its behaviours for prescribing proper treatment. Dr Vuhahula noted that currently, the challenge is lack of enough reagents to diagnose a type of cancer and its manners.

“Each cancer has its different behaviours, so you need to know each behaviour in order to provide the right therapy,” she said when speaking in a telephone interview.

The ASCP said it would build healthcare capacity for chemistry analysis of cancer tissues (immuno-histochemistry (IHC)) in two hospital laboratories in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

“Immuno-histochemistry is required for oncologists to treat many cancers,” said the CEO of ASCP, Blair Holladay.

The ACS said it would support the training of healthcare professionals in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda to ensure quality processes in the transportation of tissue samples and in the administration of chemotherapy whereas Novartis is expected to provide funding to support the technical work.

ACS is already working with oncologists at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) through the African Cancer Coalition project to adapt the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s cancer treatment guidelines for SubSaharan Africa.

The focus in the coming years will be on strengthening forecasting and procurement of chemotherapy. The organisations will also work with Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), a 1,500-bed hospital which, although staffed with pathologists and technicians, access to sustained reagents for immuno-histochemistry is an ongoing challenge.

According to the joint announcement from the three organisations, the initiative is expected to serve as a pilot programme for the future rollout of similar activities to other countries as they target relieving Sub-Saharan Africa of the Cancer burden.

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

Tanzania has seen a soaring number of cancer cases in recent years, whereby 5,529 cancer patients reported to the country’s largest cancer facility, the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) based in Dar es Salaam, whereas in 2015, the number stood at 5,244 while in 2014 it was at 4,195. Back in 2013, the cancer patients were 3,776.

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