Allied Against Cancer: Leveraging technology and multi-sector collaboration to help improve the quality of cancer care in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Dr. Solomon Assefa | 3 minute read | November 5, 2019
Scientists in Africa have co-led the development of new tools to help oncologists in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Since the mid-1980s, infectious diseases, HIV and AIDS have been the main focus of health initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa. But with more than 800,000 new cancer cases each year in the region, and an incidence rate that’s projected to double by 2040, we must help address this growing epidemic.
Our challenge is complicated because cancer is about twice as lethal in Africa as it is in the United States due to limited resources and treatment centers. Yet there is hope. By equipping clinicians and policy makers with information and innovative tools, we can help national and regional medical networks create stronger support systems for cancer treatment and care.
Today, IBM is announcing the creation of a new alliance, Allied Against Cancer, which is established in partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS), National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and African Cancer Coalition. Allied Against Cancer is focused on helping to improve access to quality cancer care, leveraging the expertise and networks of all of our organizations to change the perception that surviving cancer is hopeless in low-resource settings.
To start, we are helping to advance cancer treatment guidelines and safety of chemotherapy:
- The African Cancer Coalition—comprising of 110 African oncologists representing 34 hospitals from 13 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa—worked with experts from NCCN, to adapt cancer treatment guidelines to create the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines™ for Sub-Saharan Africa. These guidelines are designed specifically to be used by oncologists across Sub-Saharan Africa and have been endorsed by leading cancer centers or health ministries in six countries to date. Learn more at nccn.org/harmonized.
- To scale adoption of these guidelines across the region, IBM scientists in Africa developed an online tool called Cancer Guidelines Navigator to provide African oncology professionals with interactive access to the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines™ for Sub-Saharan Africa at no charge. Oncologists based in Sub Saharan Africa can input a clinical description for a cancer patient  – such as tumor type, stage, biomarker status, and prior treatments – into the online tool. The Cancer Guidelines Navigator then points the user to relevant treatment options input from the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines™. At this time, the tool includes NCCN Harmonized Guidelines™ for cervical cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, and Kaposi sarcoma.
- IBM also helped to transform the ACS ChemoSafe Facility Assessment Tool – from an Excel-based document to an interactive, easy to use mobile application – to empower hospitals to improve safety and quality for chemotherapy handling. This tool, which is accessible at no charge on iOS or Android mobile phones or tablets, allows users to review how hazardous drugs are handled across the facility, including at pharmacy and receiving, treatment areas, housekeeping, and waste areas. Upon completion of the assessment, the tool provides recommendations to help improve safe handling of hazardous drugs at potential points of exposure, based on international and national standards. This information could be used by hospitals to create policies and budgets supporting quality improvement.
With the increasing burden of cancer in this part of the world, we must help to ensure that every patient has access to timely and affordable care and is given the chance to survive and thrive. We hope that our model of collaboration, which works to democratize access to information and build a data infrastructure for health systems, will help to bridge the gap where disparities exist.
Visit www.alliedagainstcancer.org to learn more.
 Cancer Guidelines Navigator does not require any patient identifiable information or protected health information (PHI) and is not connected to a hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) system.