The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers and Baylor College of Medicine plan to jointly create a treatment network for children with cancer and blood diseases in three sub-Saharan African countries.
The $100 million initiative, Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence), aims to build the medical capacity needed to diagnose and properly treat these conditions in Botswana, Malawi and Uganda — whose combined population of 54 million is served by only five pediatric oncologists.
The partnership will recruit physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals worldwide to train about 4,800 local healthcare providers to treat kids with cancer and blood disorders such as sickle cell disease (SCD), which is common throughout much of Africa. At least 230,000 children born in Africa each year have the disease, representing 85 percent of all SCD births worldwide. In Africa, SCD is associated with a childhood mortality rate of 50 to 90 percent.
Global HOPE “offers the potential for transformational improvement” in survival and quality of life for these children,” David Poplack, director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, said in a news release. He added that through Global HOPE, at least 5,000 children will receive care in the first five years.
“This project is building on a solid foundation for pediatric cancer treatment in Botswana that began with pediatric oncologists from Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers,” said President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana, where the launching ceremony took place. “The Global HOPE program will bring to Botswana the latest biomedical technologies and the potential to work with local institutions such as the Botswana Innovation Hub and University of Botswana to quickly increase the survival of children with cancer and life threatening blood disorders in Botswana and the region.”
Between now and 2022, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation will donate $50 million to train healthcare providers, while the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital (BIPAI) will raise $50 million toward Global HOPE’s future operating costs.
“We are eager to get started on this critical initiative to help children with blood disorders and cancer. Working with our partners and drawing on our expertise of building sustainable health systems in underserved countries, we will help make a significant difference in the outcomes for children while creating a blueprint for other countries to follow,” said Giovanni Caforio, CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb. “This initiative builds on 18 years of success of the Foundation’s Secure the Future program and will offer new hope to families impacted by pediatric blood disorders and cancer.”
The initiative estimates that every year, Botswana, Malawi and Uganda alone see more than 11,000 new cases of pediatric cancer and 40,000 new cases of serious, life-threatening blood disorders like SCD and hemophilia.
“We look forward to helping patients and their families by embarking on this unchartered area of cancer care in Africa,” said Mark W. Kline, BIPAI’s president and founder. “Working with our partners, we aim to build a self-sustaining infrastructure that changes the tide of these childhood diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.”