By THE AFRICA BAZAAR Staff Writer
The International Business Machines said it plans to help build a cancer registry for Africa to improve cancer registration and, in time, treatment for patients on the continent while enriching knowledge about cancer for patients worldwide.
The initiative, part of a new collaborative effort the company is undertaking with Union for International Cancer Control to build cancer registries in developing nations to create the world’s largest and most comprehensive clinical dataset on cancer patients, will begin in two to three Sub-Saharan Africa countries and continue throughout the region and extend to Southeast Asia and Latin America.
IBM Africa chairman Gary Cohen made the announcement last week at the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit in Cape Town.
“IBM’s objective is to help find ways to level the field of access through innovation and knowledge, so that we can bridge the divide between the discovery of cancer and the delivery of treatment with positive outcomes—regardless of geography,” Cohen said.
According to the World Health Organization, about 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in developing nations. Sub-Saharan Africa has more than a billion people in the region; however, less than 1 percent of the region’s population is covered by a cancer registry.
Experts predict that the Sub-Saharan region alone will see more than an 85 percent increase in its cancer burden by 2030.
Cancer registries provide governments with incidence and mortality data so that effective policies for cancer control can be developed, implemented and evaluated. They also provide clinicians with information about patient’s outcomes to help identify tailored treatment options. Reliable and comprehensive data leads to the most effective interventions for saving lives.
“Improved cancer registry data will reveal the population based trends that are so important in shaping and adapting a cancer strategy,” said Dr. Isaac Adewole, a gynecologist in Nigeria and president of the African Organisation for the Research & Training in Cancer. “This will inform my daily practice in ways that my hospital data alone cannot.”
IBM’s next steps in the project will be collaborating with the UICC and its GICR partners to plan and design the cancer registry in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the services, hardware, software, technical support and expertise to support the plan.
The IBM collaboration will support UICC’s work with the Global Initiative for Cancer Registries in low- and middle-income countries ). IBM will donate Big Data and analytics technology.
“With IBM’s expertise in Big Data and analytics, I can imagine a world in which the very latest scientifically proven means of detecting and treating cancer is available in all countries, benefitting patients wherever they are in the world,” said Cary Adams, CEO of UICC. “This information will provide unique and compelling insights on cancer, the likes of which we have not seen before.”
More than 12 million people worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and approximately eight million will die, according to the WHO. Yet, Adams continues, this number is drawn from a database that is increasingly weak as the cancer burden moves as predicted from developed to developing countries.
“Much of the world is tracking a growing burden of cancer with very incomplete information,” he said. “Improving the collection of data is critical to our ability to address cancer around the world.”
Collecting data about cancer incidence in many Africa countries is achieved through a paper-based system, which can consume hours to gather information for just a single patient.
The U.S., Canada and nearly all of Western Europe and Australia each have a cancer registry, according to information from the GICR initiative.
“IBM has always contributed its best assets and thinking to the world’s biggest challenges, and there are few more serious than cancer,” said Dan Pelino, general manager, IBM Global Public Sector. “By helping UICC build cancer registries, we can shorten the time between discovery and treatment to save lives.”
IBM joined UICC in 2012 to help the organization address the increasing data collection and analysis needs of the cancer community. It later awarded an initial consulting grant that determined the business and technology plans required to build cancer registries.
IBM, with its deep knowledge of Africa and history teaming up with clinicians, researchers and public health organizations to help fight cancer through Big Data, cloud, analytics and other innovations is the perfect firm to help lead the charge in Africa.
IBM, for example, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, has developed a plan to promote cervical cancer screening.