My Child Matters' Program Shows Measurable Improvement In Cancer Care For Children

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My Child Matters program launched by the International Union Against Cancer and sanofi-aventis is significantly improving pediatric cancer care in developing countries.

While in industrialized countries nearly 80% of children treated for cancer will survive, this survival rate drops to 20% and even 10% in developing countries where access to information, early detection and treatment are often not available. Yet, most childhood cancers can be cured when detected early and treated without delay.

"With such a marked disparity in survival rates between industrialized and developing countries, the need for programs like My Child Matters is pressing" says Dr Franco Cavalli, the President of UICC. "The program raises awareness that childhood cancers respond to treatment and can often be cured. Equally important, the program promotes innovation by facilitating communication within the international oncology community."

My Child Matters encourages hospitals and NGO's to develop pragmatic approaches to improve awareness, early diagnosis, access to care and pain control. The overall goal is better management of the physical, social and cultural aspects of cancer for children and their families.

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In December 2005, 14 pilot projects were selected. Nine hundred health professionals have participated in training sessions on childhood cancer, and more than 4,000 children and 2,100 families have benefited from these programs.

The one-year outcome analysis shows improvement in patient care infrastructure, public and professional education, early detection and access to care. In addition, psychosocial support and patient follow-up rates increased while treatment drop-out rates decreased.

"Eighty percent of the world's children with cancer live in low-income developing countries where misdiagnosis, late diagnosis, lack of access and abandonment of treatment are almost insurmountable obstacles major to improving outcomes," said Dr. Raul Ribeiro, co-author of the report and director of the International Outreach Program, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "Our analysis confirms that modest and targeted financial support as well as external mentoring can help institutions in developing countries build the capability to provide quality pediatric cancer care.

Based on the program's success and the continued need for help, 12 additional projects have been selected in December 2006. My Child Matters encompasses now 26 projects in 16 countries including Bangladesh, Bolivia, Egypt, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Tanzania, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.

"When we created this humanitarian sponsoring program in 2003, our intention was to provide concrete solutions for reducing disparities in the treatment of childhood cancer in developing countries" said Jean-Francois Dehecq, President of sanofi-aventis. "The results presented today at ASCO are extremely encouraging. They show that, thanks to a spirit of initiative and solidarity, it is possible to generate a collaboration mindset among international, national and local institutions that can drive progress in countries where pediatric oncology is still emerging."

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