SIOP Auckland

After spending the last days of October and the first days of November at the 43rd Congress of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) in Auckland New Zealand, I am full of admiration for what the organisers achieved; a balance of scientific advances in the developed world and down-to-earth simple issues directed at developing world countries; with social events and a gala dinner thrown in for good measure.

Such conferences take 2 years to organise, and cater for doctors and nurses with an interest in child cancer from all over the world. This conference had 1,200 delegates, from 97 countries. The highlights for myself representing BTMAT were as follows:

Abandonment of treatment

A subject which greatly concerns all who treat children with cancer. Some parents – for a variety of reasons – fail to complete the required course of anticancer treatment for their sick children, and others fail to return to the treatment centre for follow-up assessment. Both events are liable to have serious consequences for the child. Abandonment is far more common in developing world countries, where parents might be able to afford only one or two treatments for their child, and might have the added difficulty of travelling great distances on poor roads – especially in the rainy season – for hospital follow-up visits.

A lengthy session was devoted to discussion of this problem, and I left this meeting appreciating more regarding the constraints the poor parents of our child patients have to bear. I was able to tell the meeting that our own work in Cameroon is hardly affected by abandonment; that almost 100 percent of our children complete their chemotherapy, and that 90 percent attend for follow-up visits. I was able also to direct the attention of the meeting, to our conference Poster, which was on the very subject of improving our already excellent follow-up rate.

The Poster session

Our own poster presentation was entitled ‘Mobile phone use in rural Cameroon: an increasingly useful tool for the follow up of children with Burkitt lymphoma’. Read about this Study in another Press item. The poster was visited by several doctors, two of whom asked me to send them further details of the subject of mobile phones in child cancer follow-up.

World Child Cancer

This organisation was represented by Prof Tim Eden and his fundraising manager Jo Hopkins. Elsewhere in this website you will read of the collaboration of WCC with BTMAT. It was most refreshing to be greeted by Jo, and to have it confirmed by her, that the joint proposal of Prof Hesseling and BTMAT for financial support from WCC had been agreed by their Trustees, and that we can expect substantial funding from WCC annually for 5 years starting early in 2012. This was indeed great news, and will bring relief to BTMAT Trustees in their plans to fund the following projects:

  1. funding for refurbishment of Children’s ward at Mbingo Baptist Hospital
  2. funding for the cellphone project
  3. funding for the parent support groups at two hospitals
  4. funding for Cameroonian doctors and nurses for conferences

In addition to these matters, we have the comforting thought that there will be a cushion of reserve funds for our day-to-day support of the work at all three hospitals.

It was my pleasure to host Prof and Mrs Eden and Jo, to dinner at my hotel just hours after the good news had reached me!

The International Confederation of Child Cancer Parents Organisations, (ICCCPO)

Quite a mouthful, but always, and rather charmingly, abbreviated by everyone, to ‘Iccy-poo’. Over recent years I have become aware of the importance of the parents of children with cancer; their feelings and fears; their hopes and aspirations; their part in their children’s management; their ideas regarding improving the medical service surrounding their children; the importance of sharing with one another the issues relating to the care of their children.

Geoffrey Thaxter – an English businessman and father of Lisa who developed Leukaemia and died of it – was a prime mover in what ultimately became ICCCPO. Sadly Geoffrey died in 2009, but not before gathering together all high profile people involved in the care of children with cancer from all over the world. From this was born World Child Cancer – with which – as mentioned above, BTMAT is now intimately linked.

In 2011, our colleagues in Cameroon have established two Parent Support groups; one at Banso Baptist Hospital and the other at Mbingo Baptist Hospital. BTMAT has made contributions to each, and will continue to do so.

At the conference I met Mr Kenneth Dollman, an officer in the South African Parent Support Group, called CHOC. Kenneth is also highly placed in ICCCPO; he is also a Trustee in WCC; he is also a friend of Prof Hesseling! We are all thus beautifully interlinked, and have at heart the very best for children with cancer, and their families. It was good to talk with Kenneth, and in particular to discuss what might be possible in the development of the parent groups in our Cameroonian hospitals.

Paediatric Oncology in Developing Countries (PODC)

This is always an important part of SIOP Conferences. It is of course good to hear what remarkable research is being done in the developed world. I am in awe at most of it, for it had not been invented when I was at medical school. But the future seems to be in the hands of molecular biologists, and we admire their work, and we await the time when their research translates into practical help for children with cancer in Africa.

There was a day of PODC presentations which were heart-warming and encouraging. We heard Dr Trijn Israels speak of the work in Malawi, and Dr Lorna Renner speak of the work in Ghana. I believe that under the leadership of Prof Hesselng and Prof Kruger, and with help from WCC, we too will achieve even greater things.

What should be planned for the future of PODC was laid down most elegantly by Prof Eden of WCC, and Dr Scott Howard of St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee. Again I was convinced that BTMAT, in its Memorandum of Understanding with Stellenbosch University and the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board, is well and truly on course for excellent future development.


Several times during this Congress, I heard the following mantra:

Q What is the most important object of PODC?

A To save the lives of children with cancer

Q What is the next most important object of PODC?

A To save the lives of children with cancer

Q What is the NEXT most important object of PODC?

A To save the lives of children with cancer

Q Is there any other object for PODC?

A To make the lives of the incurable pain free, tolerable and dignified.

Peter McCormick

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