ASCP and ASCO Forge Ties to Aid Cancer Patients in Kenya and Beyond
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Oncologists and pathologists have to collaborate in Kenya and other developing countries to provide the right diagnoses and treatments for cancer patients. That was the insistent drum roll at the Multidisciplinary Cancer Management Course (MCMC), Feb. 15–17, in Eldoret, Kenya, presented by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in partnership with ASCP and the Academic Model for the Provision of Access to Health Care (AMPATH).
“To deal with the patient’s needs, pathologists and laboratory professionals must recognize the complete role of health services delivery and proactively engage clinicians,” said Dr. Blair Holladay, ASCP Executive Vice President. “We recognize laboratory diagnostics are not the sole equation, however, they are the necessary crucial element for saving lives throughout the third world.”
Pathology in Africa has not evolved like pathology in the United States or Europe. It is focused mostly on anatomic pathology, and pathologists wear several hats and usually do not run the clinical laboratories. Often, hospitals have been built in Africa without much thought about the laboratories and are unprepared to ramp up cancer care with an already strapped pathology department, according to Drucilla Roberts, MD, FASCP, ASCP Representative at MCMC.
“Multidisciplinary care was the main message of this significant three-day course,” said Hugo Villars, MD, FACS, a surgeon based in Tucson, Ariz., who represented ASCO and developed the MCMC in 2004. “The coordination between pathologists and oncologists was outstanding during the meeting. Pathologists are so relevant to any discussions of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and lymphoma in HIV and non-HIV patients. When tumor is the rumor, tissue is the issue.”
“ASCP can provide so much of what is needed: the technical expertise for laboratories, laboratory management, and superior education,” said Michael L. Wilson, MD, FASCP, ASCP representative at the MCMC. “ASCO members have the clinical expertise to treat patients once pathologists have correctly diagnosed, graded, and staged the disease. At this meeting, ASCP and ASCO realized their collaboration was the key to treating cancer patients in resource-limited areas.”
Under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the ongoing collaborative efforts of multiple organizations, multidisciplinary care, and health ministries in sub-Saharan Africa to combat HIV/AIDS have become the model for how to effectively fight other diseases in developing countries. Adopting this model for cancer patients first in western Kenya, the rest of Kenya, and then other countries would be a breakthrough in patient care.
“This conference in western Kenya highlighted the improvements pathologists can make for cancer patients,” said Dr. Roberts, Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School and Associate Pathologist and Chief of Perinatal Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We hope the awareness of issues raised here can lead to improvements in pathology throughout Kenya, Africa, and elsewhere.”
The MCMC was first time that ASCP and ASCO had presented an educational program together. “We hope this will be the beginning of greater collaboration between ASCO and ASCP in the region,” said Vanessa Eaton, ASCO Manager of International Education. “The collaboration of many local and international organizations is the key for conducting a successful intervention in Kenya.”
The meeting provided clear recognition that ASCP could become even more of an international powerhouse and expand beyond its work for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention through PEPFAR. “The healthcare need is growing so fast in Africa, Asia, and South America,” said Dr. Wilson, Laboratory Medical Director at Denver Health, Denver. “The people on these continents have a huge need for access to health care, particularly for noncommunicable diseases. ASCP needs to step in and form partnerships with other groups. Knowledge is easy to export and is one of the biggest needs in these areas.”