AstraZeneca, in collaboration with The Ministry of Health, Kenya Society of Hematology [KESHO], Axios, The National Cancer Institute of Kenya [NCI], various health facilities, and professional societies, has recently introduced a groundbreaking technology-based therapy for managing lung cancer in Kenya. This innovative treatment specifically targets non-small cell lung cancer [NSCLC] with epidermal growth factor receptor [EGFR] mutations.
Lung cancer continues to be a major global health concern with high mortality rates and limited access to quality care. According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming nearly 10 million lives in 2020 alone. Among different types of cancer, lung cancer stood out as the primary cause of cancer-related deaths, with approximately 1.8 million fatalities in the same year. In Kenya, there were an estimated 794 cases of lung cancer out of 1,435,943 incidences reported globally in 2020.
Unfortunately, quality cancer care remains inaccessible to many Africans due to various challenges, such as inadequate diagnostic facilities, low patient awareness, lack of healthcare provider training, and difficulties in accessing preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic resources.
At the launch event, Deepak Arora, Interim African cluster President at AstraZeneca, emphasized the company’s commitment to improving healthcare access through science-driven solutions. The introduction of innovative therapies for cancer management is expected to significantly enhance patient outcomes.
Dr. Khomotso Mashilane, Medical Director: African Cluster [SA, SSA, FSA] at AstraZeneca, highlighted the low overall survival rate for lung cancer due to delayed diagnosis and metastasis. However, with the introduction of this targeted therapy, there is potential to improve treatment outcomes and positively impact the lives of lung cancer patients, particularly those with NSCLC and EGFR mutations.
As part of AstraZeneca’s dedication to global oncology, the company has actively engaged in initiatives combating lung cancer in Africa, including the Cancer Care Africa [CCA] program. Launched in November 2022 at COP27 in Egypt, the CCA program is set to expand to Kenya in 2023. It aims to advocate for policy changes and improve cancer outcomes for all individuals affected by the disease, regardless of their demographic, geographic, or socio-economic status.
Through the CCA program and in collaboration with The Ministry of Health, KESHO, Axios, NCI, various health facilities, and professional societies, AstraZeneca focuses on building capacity, enhancing screening and diagnostics, and empowering patients to make informed decisions.
To strengthen healthcare access in Kenya further, AstraZeneca supported the installation of an EGFR testing machine at Aga Khan University Hospital through the CCA program. This real-time testing capability allows for the prompt detection of EGFR gene mutations in NSCLC patients, enabling well-informed treatment decisions tailored to individual patient needs. Previously, patients relied on laboratories in South Africa for this testing, causing potential delays in critical treatment information. With this local testing capability, patients now have better chances of successful outcomes.
To improve affordability of the therapy, AstraZeneca has partnered with Axios to establish a patient access program, ensuring that more patients can benefit from the medication and receive necessary support.
The launch of this targeted therapy in Kenya marks a significant milestone in lung cancer treatment not only in the country but also in Africa. By combining cutting-edge therapies with extensive support programs like the Cancer Care Africa initiative, AstraZeneca is making substantial progress towards improving patient outcomes and raising the standard of care. This latest development reaffirms AstraZeneca’s dedication to advancing oncology and transforming the lives of individuals affected by lung cancer worldwide, leveraging technology-driven solutions for a brighter future.