A press conference was held marking the launch of ‘Hand-in-Hand against cancer’ a transformational cancer initiative, in attendees the Central Administration for Pharmaceutical Affairs (CAPA) and the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR-Egypt).
The event highlighted challenges facing cancer patients in Egypt, particularly breast cancer and chronic myeloid leukemia, which have experienced major breakthrough with the development of second generation therapies.
The event emphasized the importance of community efforts – including government and civil society –to fight cancer in Egypt. Renowned oncology experts as well as Health Insurance Organization (HIO) and CAPA representatives discussed how patients could effectively access best treatments available. The conference also focused on healthcare economics by hosting international expert, Dr Zoltán Kaló, Professor of Health Economics at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest.
Dr Hussein Khaled, Professor of Oncology at Cairo University and Former Minister of Higher Education said: “Cancer is a major domestic and international challenge, representing the 2nd biggest cause of death following cardiovascular disease. Latest data released by the National Cancer Registry showed 113 new cancer cases for every 100,000 people in Egypt every year. The data also confirmed that the most widespread cancer among men was liver cancer, with rates approaching 39 cases for every 100,000 people annually, while breast cancer is Egyptian women’s greatest enemy, with 35 cases in every 100,000 people.”
“The Ministry of Health’s High Commission on Cancer put in place a five-pillar strategy to fight cancer in Egypt: prevention and early detection, treatment including palliative care, specialized medical training, scientific research and finally support for the National Cancer Registry.” Dr Hussein added.
On another note Dr. Hamdy Abdel Azim, Professor of Clinical Oncology at Cairo University stated: “In light of the rise in cancer incidence rates in Egypt, cooperation between doctors, pharmaceutical companies, civil society organizations and decision makers has become vital. We gravely need to achieve better cure rates similar to those achieved in more advanced nations,” and added: “Over the past 20 years cancer cure rates have risen from 50% to 65% due to early detection and significant improvement in the development of various treatments.”
Dr. Hamdy stressed the importance of international pharmaceuticals’ role in providing cancer patients with treatment options. “While we appreciate the efforts undertaken by the healthcare sector in Egypt to modernize treatment protocols in line with international guidelines, the Ministry of Health should not be solely responsible for providing patients with alternative treatments.”
“To achieve these goals, we have taken our first step today with the launch of “Hand-in-Hand against Cancer” amongst specialized doctors and Key decision makers,” Dr. Hamdy noted.
“All stakeholders must be part of this initiative to benefit cancer patients via the application of international treatment directives recommending the treatment of breast cancer with targeted and hormonal therapies that achieve significant cure rates.”
Dr. Hamdy highlighted the role of patient organizations in empowering patients’ voice.
“We have to exert all our efforts to allow patients and their advocates to have a role in improving the safety and the quality of healthcare provided, bringing together leading clinicians, healthcare professionals, policy-makers and parliamentarians to discuss cancer issues and developments and to enhance accessibility to the best treatment and the highest level cancer care services available.”
In terms of chronic myeloid leukemia treatment, Dr. Mervat Mattar, Professor of Internal Medicine and Hematology at the Cairo University Faculty of Medicine, said: “Successfully treating this particular disease is a historical achievement. With the development of first generation drugs, this disease has been transformed from a deadly to a curable one. The world then witnessed another breakthrough with the development of second generation drugs– a quantum leap in the treatment of leukemia, increasing survival rates more than 90%, and eliminating the genetic defect much faster compared to the 1st generation.”
“The genetic defect caused by chronic myeloid leukemia is discovered using blood and bone marrow testing. Based on this, patients can monitor their response level throughout their treatment journey and determine their response rate. They have made these tests available for all patients visiting hematology clinics and diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.”
She added “One of the challenges facing CML patients is the delay in the dispensation of consecutive doses to patients which may affect their response to the treatment.”