When Dr Peter McCormick and Prof Peter Hesseling began the childhood cancer treatment programme at Banso Baptist Hospital (BBH) in 2003 there was an urgent need to develop a new treatment protocol for Burkitt’s lymphoma, the common childhood cancer – a protocol which was suited to a resource limited setting.
It was not possible simply to transfer treatment protocols from the UK or other high income countries because at Banso there was no resident paediatric oncologist (or even paediatrician), no intensive care unit and no money for the very expensive supportive treatments used in the UK or USA. A protocol for the treatment of Burkitt’s lymphoma has been developed and the outcomes tested. This same protocol enables us to treat a child with Burkitt’s lymphoma for approx. £100 whereas the equivalent cost at Gt Ormond St hospital would be in excess of £30,000 per child. Our programme is effective, affordable and sustainable in a resource limited setting.
This was only the beginning. We have an effective parent support programme (food and a little money) which ensures that children stay in hospital for a full course of treatment. We have an established outreach programme aimed at raising awareness of the early signs of cancer. We are acutely aware that a hospital treatment programme is of little use if the children never reach the hospital! We have an expanding palliative care outreach programme: those children that we cannot cure are visited at home by our motorbike palliative care nurse. Finally this year we have drawn up plans for our first parent/guardian house at Mbingo Baptist Hospital. At present parents, usually mothers camp out in the hospital grounds for up to one month whilst their child is undergoing treatment.
BTMAT has assisted in the development of a comprehensive childhood cancer treatment service – possibly unique in subSaharan Africa in a resource limited setting.
Paul Wharin (Oct. 2015)