Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Works to End the “Lottery” Of Cancer Treatment In America And Africa

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Throughout the US and around the world, there are huge disparities in cancer care access, quality and outcomes, particularly among minority populations, the poor, and vulnerable. For many patients, quality prevention, screening, treatment, palliative care and survivorship services are either unavailable or access is limited. Plus, only three percent of medical oncologists practice in rural areas, forcing cancer patients in these places to travel great distances for care, making a person's chance of surviving the disease determined by where they live.

For instance, even though cervical cancer is largely preventable when screening guidelines and follow-up monitoring are pursued, recent studies show that racial disparities in America’s death rates from cervical cancer are significantly wider than estimated. As black women are dying from cervical cancer at twice the rate of white women. While globally, cancer inequalities also persist. In Sub-Saharan Africa 22.5 out of 100,000 people die from cervical cancer in comparison to 15 in North America. Similarly, 20.9 per 100,000 die from prostate cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to 9.8 per 100,000 North America.

In Africa, cancer is an emerging public health problem. In spite of this, cancer continues to receive low public health priority, largely because of limited resources and other pressing public health problems, such as AIDS, HIV infection, malaria and tuberculosis. It may also be in part due to a lack of awareness and understanding about the magnitude of the current and future cancer problems among policy makers, the general public, and international private or public health agencies.

Working to bridge this ‘lottery of cancer treatment’, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has awarded a $10 million grant to Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO), based at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. This funding from the Foundation will allow Project ECHO to significantly expand its footprint in cancer, in the US and in Africa. It will also enable the ECHO model to become part of cancer prevention, screening, treatment, palliation and survivorship in America.

The announcement is also part of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s commitment to the White House Cancer Moonshot initiative. The goal of this partnership is to improve cancer outcomes by bringing top-quality care to cancer patients living in rural and underserved areas where cancer specialists are not readily available, and to increase care capacity at community hospitals and health centers by partnering local clinicians with National Cancer Institute, designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and other academic medical centers.

Everyone should be able to get the healthcare they need, when they need it, irrespective of where they live. It is vital that cancer patients are diagnosed and treated quickly so they have the best possible chance of recovery. The support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation will help increase access to high-quality cancer care and prevention for people in rural and underserved communities around the world. In the process, it will save and improve many lives.

Photo Credit: Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation