The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) is about to start conducting bone marrow transplant treatment for children who present with blood cancers.
This is according to the Executive Director, Dr. Jackson Orem.
He said this while speaking during a pre-conference meeting for an upcoming International Society of Pediatric Oncology Conference where experts from fifty African countries will gather in Uganda to discuss among others advances in treatment for childhood cancers.
Dr. Orem said the bone marrow treatment will start early next year as they plan to open as a regional center of excellence for oncology in December.
A bone marrow transplant involves taking cells that are normally found in the bone marrow called stem cells, filtering those cells, and giving them back to the patient or sometimes they are donated to the patient by another person.
Once this is successfully done, a patient is cured from the cancer.
In Uganda, Dr. Joyce Balagadde Kambugu, a childhood cancer specialist says this treatment will help them save more children since leukemia is among the top four cancers received at the institute.
So far, she says the cure rate for children who present with the commonest cancer such that include leukemia, cancer of the muscles, Wilms’ tumor and lymphomas is just 50% yet childhood cancers are a 90% curable if a child presents early to care and gets appropriate treatment.
In addition to this treatment, Dr. Kambugu explains that they have already introduced targeted treatment where children no longer have to endure the old type of chemotherapy that kills both normal and sick cells especially for leukemia and cancer of the lymph nodes.
Dr. Kambugu who is also the Continental President of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP Africa) says the advances Uganda has made in cancer care with very limited resources and the fact that they quickly adopt treatment innovations is partly the reason as to why they are hosting the conference to share experiences with colleagues on the continent and see what can be adopted here or what others can borrow from Uganda.
Every year however, Uganda sees between 600 and 700 children presenting to UCI or Mbarara hospital with cancer and she says these represent just 25% of children who they predict to be battling the disease.