Improving Cancer Care in Resource-Constrained Countries

A new grant program to help build cancer care capacity

As people around the world are living longer, cancer rates are increasing.[i]  Parts of the world have responded to this with medical research and medical care, but in some countries with limited economic resources, health care systems are not well equipped to care for cancer patients. These countries are spread around the world in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. While many organizations have developed programs for cancer patients in these countries, this continues to be a problem. For instance, cancer was responsible for the death of 591,000 Africans in 2012 alone.[ii]

To address the gaps in cancer care in resource-constrained countries, Celgene has launched a grant program called Celgene Cancer Care Links™. The program is a joint effort of Celgene Global Health and Celgene Corporate Responsibility. Joseph Camardo, MD, Senior Vice President of Celgene Global Health and Corporate Affairs Medical Strategy, shares why he believes this program will help in improving global cancer care.

Joseph Camardo, MD, Senior Vice President of Celgene Global Health and Corporate Affairs Medical Strategy, Believes the Cancer Care Links Program Could Substantially Improve Global Cancer Care.

Joseph Camardo, MD, Senior Vice President of Celgene Global Health and Corporate Affairs Medical Strategy, Believes the Cancer Care Links Program Could Substantially Improve Global Cancer Care.

Why are there gaps in cancer care in these countries?

“First and foremost, resources are limited in many countries around the world which have competing budget priorities. Countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have taken steps to build their healthcare systems but have had to devote much of their health care resources to problems that are more common than cancer, such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. Cancer has also been less commonly diagnosed in some geographies due to multiple reasons, such as limited cancer expertise and historically lower life expectancy (cancer tends to be diagnosed at an older age). This is changing as cancer rates are rising because of improved longevity, awareness and detection.”

How will the Celgene Cancer Care Links program help?

“It will provide funding to local institutions and initiatives to enhance patient cancer care. We hope that these funds will allow local institutions to bring medical training and technology to patient care. Our aim is to help improve cancer care systems, so that cancer is diagnosed earlier when it’s easier to treat, doctors in areas far from medical centers have a place to refer cancer patients for treatment, and awareness of successful cancer treatments is heightened.”

What types of initiatives will be funded by the program?

“Progams will be considered in a wide range of areas. For example, funds may be used for oncology training programs for doctors, nurses and pharmacists. A training program may, for instance, focus on pharmacists learning how to mix and store cancer medications and accurately forecast demand. Funds may also be used to add medical staff, such as nurses, at cancer care clinics.”

“Other eligible programs may include general medical support for cancer patients. We recognize that many cancer patients will have other medical needs as well, including the infections that may be related to the cancer. Funds may also be used for cancer awareness and education programs. Cancer rates in developing countries are rising in part because of a rise in risk factors such as smoking. So some programs may be focused on counseling people on managing those risk factors.”

“We find it important that although organizations have been donating cancer medicine, it is widely recognized that, along with the medicine, a health system strengthening effort is also required and that is what our grant program is focused on.”

How will the program work?

“We will provide cancer centers with $100,000 grants that are renewable annually based on progess and impact of the programs. We aim to fund centers that have established partnerships and that have built up some cancer care capacity. We’re looking to strengthen existing institutions that already have partners but are seeking additional funding.”

Cancer care is an area of expertise for Celgene, and we have an opportunity to make a difference here.

What do you hope the program will accomplish?

“I’d like to see the majority of our programs lead to sustainable changes, such as ongoing training programs and improved survival rates. For example, 90 percent of people with metastatic breast cancer in the United States survive five years, but just 11 percent do in Gambia.[iii],[iv] And if our program works in successfully improving cancer care, the centers we’ve funded might be eligible for grants from other organizations, including their government.”

How does this program build on Celgene’s other efforts?

“As part of Celgene’s commitment to Global Health and Corporate Responsibility we have already been working with AMPATH (Academic Model Providing Access To Healthcare) to provide support for cancer care in Kenya, and with Access Accelerated, a consortium of biopharmaceutical companies and other partners working together to help address the access barriers to non-communicable diseases, specifically cancer, in low- and lower-middle income countries.”

“Cancer care is an area of expertise for Celgene, and we have an opportunity to make a difference here. So we are using our knowledge and funds and collaborating to improve cancer care for those in certain resource-constrained countries.”

To learn more about the new grant program or how to apply, visit the Celgene Cancer Care Links website.



[i] Torre Lindsey A., Bray Freddie, Siegel Rebecca L., Ferlay Jacques, Lortet-Tieulent Joannie, Jemal Ahmedin. Global cancer statistics, 2012. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians. 2015;65:87-108.http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21262/full

[ii] Parkin D. Maxwell, Bray Freddie, Ferlay Jacques, Jemal Ahmedin. Cancer in Africa 2012 Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers. 2014;23:953-966. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/23/6/953.long

[iii] Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html Accessed November 2017.

[iv] Gambia Cancer Institute. http://afcrn.org/membership/membership-list/104-gambia Accessed November 2017.