KENYA— Global pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MoH) Kenya & the Aga Khan University Hospital East Africa has launched an innovative treatment therapy for the management of lung cancer in Kenya.

Through AstraZeneca’s Cancer Care Africa (CCA) program, supported the installation of an EGFR testing machine at Aga Khan University Hospital-East Africa in Nairobi.

EGFR testing is 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.

The program was implemented in collaboration with MoH Kenya, Kenya Society of Hematology and Oncology (KESHO), Axios, The National Cancer Institute of Kenya (NCI), various health facilities, and professional societies.

The introduction of innovative therapy is a significant milestone in advancing lung cancer treatment options, empowering healthcare professionals to provide personalized care, and addressing the unique needs of each patient.

At the launch of the treatment therapy, Deepak Arora, Interim African cluster President at AstraZeneca, said “At AstraZeneca, access to healthcare is a priority, and we leverage science to strengthen healthcare systems.

Arora reaffirmed that the introduction of innovative therapies for the management of cancer would greatly improve patient outcomes and to achieve this goal of reimagining cancer treatment, collaboration with the cancer community, healthcare institutions, and governments is essential.

The Interim African Cluster President also emphasized that prioritizing access to healthcare and leveraging scientific advancements were critical to strengthening healthcare systems.

“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,” Arora said.

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.”

The doctor noted that 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,” Dr. Mashilane added.

Dr. Mashilane said that to improve the affordability of this innovative therapy in Kenya, AstraZeneca has partnered with Axios to establish a patient access program that aims to ensure that more patients can benefit from the medication and receive the necessary support.

As part of AstraZeneca’s commitment to global oncology, the company has actively engaged in initiatives combating lung cancer in Africa.

Notably, the Cancer Care Africa (CCA) program, 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.

Lung cancer management in Kenya

With high mortality rates and limited access to quality care, lung cancer continues to be a significant health concern globally.

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 that there were 1,435,943 incidences of lung cancer globally, out of which 794 cases were from Kenya.

Even with these stark figures, 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.

With this latest development, AstraZeneca reaffirms its commitment to advancing oncology and transforming the lives of individuals affected by lung cancer.

With the launch of this innovative therapy and the upcoming implementation of the Cancer Care Africa program in Kenya, there is hope for improved lung cancer management and better prospects for patients in the country.

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