Cancer care in the country has received a major boost following the launch of innovative therapy for management of lung cancer.
The project is an initiative by AstraZeneca, in partnership with The Ministry of Health, Kenya Society of Hematology (KESHO), Axios, The National Cancer Institute of Kenya (NCI), various health facilities, and professional societies.
The programme focuses on building capacity, enhancing screening and diagnostics, and empowering patients to make informed decisions.
The targeted therapy treatment is specifically designed to combat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations.
Together, by creating a network that transcends borders, we can fill gaps in the patient care pathway and offer solutions that improve outcomes and transform patient journeysDeepak Arora
Speaking at the launch of the program, Deepak Arora, Interim African cluster President at AstraZeneca, said, to achieve our goal of reimagining cancer treatment, collaboration with the cancer community, healthcare institutions, and governments is essential.
“Together, by creating a network that transcends borders, we can fill gaps in the patient care pathway and offer solutions that improve outcomes and transform patient journeys,” said Arora.
Arora noted that as part of AstraZeneca’s commitment to global oncology, the company has actively engaged in initiatives combating lung cancer in Africa.
“At AstraZeneca, access to healthcare is a priority, and we leverage science to strengthen healthcare systems. The introduction of innovative therapies for management of cancer will greatly improve patient outcomes,” he said.
According to Dr Khomotso Mashilane, Medical Director: African Cluster (SA, SSA, FSA) at AstraZeneca said, the overall survival rate for lung cancer remains low due to delayed diagnosis and metastasis.
He however said the introduction of innovative therapies is a significant milestone in advancing lung cancer treatment options, empowering healthcare professionals to provide personalized care, addressing the unique needs of each patient.
“By specifically targeting non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, it has the potential to enhance treatment outcomes and positively impact the lives of lung cancer patients,” he said.
AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development, and commercialisation of prescription medicines in Oncology, Rare Diseases and BioPharmaceuticals.
With high mortaliy rates and limited access to quality care, lung cancer continues to be a significant health concern globally.
Leading cause of death
According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming nearly 10 million lives in 2020 alone.
Among the various types of cancer, lung cancer stood out as the leading cause of cancer-related fatalities, accounting for approximately 1.8 million deaths in the same year .
In 2020, Globocan estimated 1,435,943 incidences of lung cancer, out of which 794 cases were from Kenya.
On the flipside, quality cancer care remains inaccessible to many Africans due to inadequate diagnostic facilities, low patient awareness, lack of training for healthcare providers, and difficulties accessing preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic resources.
Notably, the Cancer Care Africa (CCA) programme, launched in November 2022 at COP27 in Egypt, and is set to launch in Kenya in 2023.
CCA aids countries in their fight against cancer by advocating for policy changes to improve outcomes for all individuals affected by the disease, irrespective of their demographic, geographic, or socio-economic status.
In an effort to further strengthen health care access in the country, AstraZeneca, through the CCA programme, supported the installation of EGFR testing machine at Aga Khan University Hospital.
By specifically targeting non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations, it has the potential to enhance treatment outcomes and positively impact the lives of lung cancer patientsDr Khomotso Mashilane
A real-time test for the qualitative detection of defined mutations of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients.
Identifying these genetic alterations promptly empowers healthcare providers to make well-informed treatment decisions, tailored to the individual needs of each patient.
Prior to this installation, patients in need of EGFR testing had to rely on laboratories in South Africa, leading to potential delays in receiving critical information for their treatment plans.
The local availability of this advanced testing capability at Aga Khan University Hospital significantly reduces turnaround times, giving patients a better chance at successful outcomes.
And the initiative is however expected to ensure that more patients can benefit from the medication and receive the necessary support.