We work on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, at the Southern Philippines Medical Centre (SPMC) and five other Shared Care Centres. We support these centres to increase childhood cancer diagnosis and survival rates by helping to train local healthcare professionals. To remove barriers to accessing - and continuing - treatment, this project also helps to support families most in need by funding medical and travel costs. We expect to see around 350 children being treated this year.
In high-income countries, as many as 80% of children with cancer will survive. This is compared to just 10% in low-and-middle income countries like the Philippines. With just four paediatric oncologist in Mindanao, it is estimated that as few as 30% of all children with cancer on the island will actually be diagnosed. Those who are diagnosed often abandon treatment due to high medication costs or poor transport links - more than 80% of families struggle to reach the main treatment centre (SPMC).
Given the expense and difficulty of the journey to reach SPMC from other parts of a very large island, we have worked with our programme leader, Dr Mae Dolendo and her team to establish the Mindanao Paediatric Cancer Care Network, for which SPMC is the hub. This is made up of five Shared Care Centres in hospitals across Mindanao. Healthcare professionals are being trained at each of these centres to diagnose and treat more types of childhood cancer and refer children to SPMC only when needed.
This project aims to further develop this ground-breaking Shared Care Network by training more staff in cancer diagnosis and treatment and providing more local care to children with cancer. At SPMC alone, childhood cancer survival rates have increased by over 25% in just 5 years - now standing at over 65%. Yet there is still a long way to go- the average childhood cancer survival rate across the Philippines is just 20%. Through the development of the Shared Care Network, we aim to increase this.