Burkitt's Lymphoma Fund for Africa
BLFA has funded two programs aimed at treating over 500 Kenyan and Ugandan children suffering from Burkitt's lymphoma over the next two years.
In Kisumu, Kenya, BLFA has contracted with OGRA Foundation to provide core services throughout western Kenya. In Kampala, Uganda, BLFA is working with the Uganda Program on Cancer and Infectious Diseases and its US partner, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (also of Seattle). In both Kenya and Uganda, BLFA's US partner Direct Relief International is playing a key role in supplying drugs and medical supplies contributed by corporate donors.
We are also working with the SHED Foundation in Shirati, Tanzania, with the hope that BLFA's activities can be expanded into Tanzania soon.
The challenge we face is substantial, but the goal is clear: we seek to improve survival rates among children suffering from BL in East Africa. Our belief is that the current survival rate of 40% can be increased to over 85%, at a cost of less than $600 per child.
WHERE WE'RE WORKING
The BLFA Board has set four goals in priority order for its funding assistance and efforts to fight Burkitt's lymphoma in equatorial Africa:
PRIORITY 1: Ensure a continuous supply of chemotherapy drugs and other critical treatment needs for pediatric cancer patients diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma who may be seeking initial and follow-up treatment.
Treatment of patients with Burkitt's lymphoma in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is often stymied because patients and/or health care institutions cannot consistently fund the chemotherapy regimen that has proven successful in arresting this aggressive cancer. A complete two-year course of treatment is estimated to cost $700 to $900 USD. In rural regions, such as western Kenya, where the median monthly income is $14.50 USD, paying treatment costs is out of the question for most patients. Chemotherapy drugs are often in short supply and only available on an erratic basis. The uncertainty regarding access to treatment exacerbates the situation. New patients are discouraged from making the effort to get to the hospital since "there are no drugs there anyway."
PRIORITY 2: Address underlying barriers to completion of in-patient and outpatient treatment by Burkitt's lymphoma patients.
Social and economic factors present a major barrier to the ability of Burkitt's lymphoma patients to access and adhere to treatment. Possible steps to overcome these barriers might include:
PRIORITY 3: Build capacity for Burkitt's lymphoma care delivery through coordinated use of medical infrastructure.
This may include working with local health officials and other stakeholders to devise and implement a plan for regional clinics and similar facilities to obtain training for personnel and, if necessary, new equipment to deliver outpatient care for Burkitt's lymphoma patients.
PRIORITY 4: Increase the number and quality of pediatric oncologists and/or other medical staff critical to the quality care of patients with Burkitt's lymphoma.
BLFA will seek partners with whom we can collaborate to identify medical professionals in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania who would benefit from training specific to pediatric oncology. Training may be provided in-country or through such mechanisms as the NIH/Fogarty Frameworks in Global Health grants. BLFA is also interested in exploring incentives such as research grants, housing allowances and stipends to encourage those trained to continue practicing in underserved areas.