Our Charity – the Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust (BTMAT) – received its UK Charitable status in 2006, although for several years before that I had been trying to address the problem of Burkitt lymphoma (BL) in Cameroon.
Having acquired Registration from the UK Government, our work immediately expanded; a wide range of organisations felt that they could safely donate to us; our three target hospitals in Cameroon welcomed the Trust wholeheartedly; collaboration from Baxter Oncology and, later Genus Pharmaceuticals UK, placed us on a sound basis for providing essential drugs. We now have a total of 7 Trustees, all of whom bring to BTMAT various necessary skills.
Initially we addressed only BL, but we are now in a position to assist in the treatment of several other childhood cancers in Cameroon; Retinoblastoma, Wilms’ tumour and Kaposi sarcoma. We have Protocols accepted by our Institutional Review Board for all these cancers. We have also encountered Hodgkins disease and Rhabdomyosarcoma. So long as our Pharmaceutical partners remain with us, and so long as the people of the UK continue to donate, we will continue to treat children in our three Baptist hospitals.
We are privileged in having the services of Professor Peter Hesseling, of Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Childrens Hospital, South Africa, as our Clinical Director.
From the same University we have collaboration from Professor Mariana Kruger, an expert in the treatment of Retinoblastoma, and also in Medical Ethics.
For the past one year we have become affiliated with World Child Cancer, from which we receive advice and a financial grant.
We are always on the look-out for young doctors who might in some capacity be able and willing to partake in our work. It happens that on October 29th I will be travelling to Cameroon with two interested Italian doctors in order to introduce them to our hospitals.
We also accept medical students to engage in research projects. This aspect of our work was put on a sound footing recently, by offering scholarships to two talented students from Liverpool University Medical School. They will visit our hospitals next summer to experience general tropical paediatrics, and also engage in a research project related to BL.
We are also involved in Palliative Care, for those children we cannot save.
We are also supporting newly established Parent Support Groups at our hospitals.
We also have an input into the nutritional needs of parents and children in our wards.
You will appreciate that we are not simply giving money to our work in Cameroon; we are also involved in teaching and training of young colleagues and students, and engaging in simple research projects.
Many of our students and collaborating doctors have presented their research at SIOP meetings around the world. At SIOP London, a Cameroonian doctor won Best Poster in her category, and a Cameroonian Nurse – in receipt of a SIOP Scholarship – also presented her work – and was well-received.
Finally, it is now recognised that our cure rate for BL is the best in Cameroon.
We know that we have saved the lives of more than 600 children from certain death.
Our cure rate of more than 60% is far superior to the historical rate for sub-Saharan Africa (20% or less). Still there are 40% of our patients who we cannot rescue. Challenges remain.