Temporal trends in childhood cancer survival in Egypt, 2007 to 2017: A large retrospective study of 14 808 children with cancer from the Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt

Childhood cancer is a priority in Egypt due to large numbers of children with cancer, suboptimal care and insufficient resources. It is difficult to evaluate progress in survival because of paucity of data in National Cancer Registry. In this study, we studied survival rates and trends in survival of the largest available cohort of children with cancer (n = 15 779, aged 0‐18 years) from Egypt between 2007 and 2017, treated at Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt‐(CCHE), representing 40% to 50% of all childhood cancers across Egypt. We estimated 5‐year overall survival (OS) for 14 808 eligible patients using Kaplan‐Meier method, and determined survival trends using Cox regression by single year of diagnosis and by diagnosis periods. We compared age‐standardized rates to international benchmarks in England and the United States, identified cancers with inferior survival and provided recommendations for improvement. Five‐year OS was 72.1% (95% CI 71.3‐72.9) for all cancers combined, and survival trends increased significantly by single year of diagnosis (P < .001) and by calendar periods from 69.6% to 74.2% (P < .0001) between 2007‐2012 and 2013‐2017. Survival trends improved significantly for leukemias, lymphomas, CNS tumors, neuroblastoma, hepatoblastoma and Ewing Sarcoma. Survival was significantly lower by 9% and 11.2% (P < .001) than England and the United States, respectively. Significantly inferior survival was observed for the majority of cancers. Although survival trends are improving for childhood cancers in Egypt/CCHE, survival is still inferior in high‐income countries. We provide evidence‐based recommendations to improve survival in Egypt by reflecting on current obstacles in care, with further implications on practice and policy.

Barriers to the uptake of cervical cancer services and attitudes towards adopting new interventions in Peru

Cervical cancer mortality is high among Peruvian women of reproductive age. Understanding barriers and facilitators of cervical cancer screening and treatment could facilitate development of contextually-relevant interventions to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality. From April – October 2019, we conducted a cross-sectional survey with 22 medical personnel and administrative staff from Liga Contra el Cancer, in Lima, Peru. The survey included structured and open-ended questions about participants’ roles in cervical cancer prevention and treatment, perceptions of women’s barriers and facilitators for getting screened and/or treated for cervical cancer, as well as attitudes towards adopting new cervical cancer interventions. For structured questions, the frequency of responses for each question was calculated. For responses to open-ended questions, content analysis was used to summarize common themes. Our data suggest that the relative importance and nature of barriers that Peruvian women face are different for cervical cancer screening compared to treatment. In particular, participants mentioned financial concerns as the primary barrier to treatment and a lack of knowledge or awareness of human papillomavirus and/or cervical cancer as the primary barrier to screening uptake among women. Participants reported high willingness to adopt new interventions or strategies related to cervical cancer. Building greater awareness about benefits of cervical cancer screening among women, and reducing financial and geographic barriers to treatment may help improve screening rates, decrease late-stage diagnosis and reduce mortality in women who have a pre-cancer diagnosis, respectively. Further studies are needed to generalize study findings to settings other than Lima, Peru.

Identifying Breast Cancer Care Quality Measures for a Cancer Facility in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Results of a Systematic Literature Review and Modified Delphi Process

The burden of cancer is growing in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), including sub-Saharan Africa. Ensuring the delivery of high-quality cancer care in such regions is a pressing concern. There is a need for strategies to identify meaningful and relevant quality measures that are applicable to and usable for quality measurement and improvement in resource-constrained settings.

To identify quality measures for breast cancer care at Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence (BCCOE) in Rwanda, we used a modified Delphi process engaging two panels of experts, one with expertise in breast cancer evidence and measures used in high-income countries and one with expertise in cancer care delivery in Rwanda.

Our systematic review of the literature yielded no publications describing breast cancer quality measures developed in a low-income country, but it did provide 40 quality measures, which we adapted for relevance to our setting. After two surveys, one conference call, and one in-person meeting, 17 measures were identified as relevant to pathology, staging and treatment planning, surgery, chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, palliative care, and retention in care. Successes of the process included participation by a diverse set of global experts and engagement of the BCCOE community in quality measurement and improvement. Anticipated challenges include the need to continually refine these measures as resources, protocols, and measurement capacity rapidly evolve in Rwanda.

A modified Delphi process engaging both global and local expertise was a promising strategy to identify quality measures for breast cancer in Rwanda. The process and resulting measures may also be relevant for other LMIC cancer facilities. Next steps include validation of these measures in a retrospective cohort of patients with breast cancer.

The Cervical Cancer (CC) Epidemiology and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in the Middle East

Viral infections contribute 15–20 percent of all human cancers as a cause. Oncogenic virus infection may spur various stages of carcinogenesis. For several forms for HPV, about 15 associated with cancer. Following successful test techniques, cervical cancer remains a significant public health issue. Prevalence and mortality of per geographic area of cervical cancer were vastly different. The fourth most common cause of death from cancer among women is cervical cancer (CC). Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in the cervix is the most significant risk factor for forming cervical cancer. Inflammation is a host-driven defensive technique that works rapidly to stimulate the innate immune response against pathogens such as viral infections. Inflammation is advantageous if it is brief and well-controlled; however, it can cause adverse effects if the inflammation is prolonged or is chronic in duration. HPV proteins are involved in the production of chronic inflammation, both directly and indirectly. Also, the age-specific prevalence of HPV differs significantly. Two peaks of HPV positive in younger and older people have seen in various populations. A variety of research has performed worldwide on the epidemiology of HPV infection and oncogenic properties due to specific HPV genotypes. Nevertheless, there are still several countries where population-dependent incidences have not yet identified. Additionally, the methods of screening for cervical cancer differ among countries.

Oral cancer: Clinicopathological features and associated risk factors in a high risk population presenting to a major tertiary care center in Pakistan

Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) has the highest prevalence in head and neck cancers and is the first and second most common cancer in males and females of Pakistan respectively. Major risk factors include peculiar chewing habits like areca nut, betel quid, and tobacco. The majority of OSCC presents at an advanced stage with poor prognosis. On the face of such a high burden of this preventable cancer, there is a relative lack of recent robust data and its association with known risk factors from Pakistan. The aim of this study was to identify the socioeconomic factors and clinicopathological features that may contribute to the development of OSCC. A total of 186 patients diagnosed and treated at a tertiary care hospital, Karachi Pakistan were recruited. Clinicopathological and socioeconomic information was obtained on a structured questionnaire. Descriptive analysis was done for demographics and socioeconomic status (SES) while regression analysis was performed to evaluate the association between SES and chewing habits, tumor site, and tumor stage. The majority of patients were males and the mean age of OSCC patients was 47.62±12.18 years. Most of the patients belonged to low SES (68.3%) and 77.4% were habitual of chewing. Gender (male) and SES were significantly associated with chewing habits (p<0.05). Odds of developing buccal mucosa tumors in chewers (of any type of substance) and gutka users were 2 and 4 times higher than non-chewers respectively. Middle age, chewing habits, and occupation were significantly associated with late stage presentation of OSCC (p<0.05). In conclusion, male patients belonging to low SES in their forties who had chewing habits for years constituted the bulk of OSCC. Buccal mucosa was the most common site in chewers and the majority presented with late stage tumors.

Implementing oncology clinical trials in Nigeria: a model for capacity building

Background: There is both higher mortality and morbidity from cancer in low and medium income countries (LMICs) compared with high income countries (HICs). Clinical trial activities and development of more effective and less toxic therapies have led to significant improvements in morbidity and mortality from cancer in HICs. Unfortunately, clinical trials remain low in LMICs due to poor infrastructure and paucity of experienced personnel to execute clinical trials. There is an urgent need to build local capacity for evidence-based treatment for cancer patients in LMICs.

Methods: We conducted a survey at facilities in four Teaching Hospitals in South West Nigeria using a checklist of information on various aspects of clinical trial activities. The gaps identified were addressed using resources sourced in partnership with investigators at HIC institutions.

Results: Deficits in infrastructure were in areas of patient care such as availability of oncology pharmacists, standard laboratories and diagnostic facilities, clinical equipment maintenance and regular calibrations, trained personnel for clinical trial activities, investigational products handling and disposals and lack of standard operating procedures for clinical activities. There were two GCP trained personnel, two study coordinators and one research pharmacist across the four sites. Interventions were instituted to address the observed deficits in all four sites which are now well positioned to undertake clinical trials in oncology. Training on all aspects of clinical trial was also provided.

Conclusions: Partnerships with institutions in HICs can successfully identify, address, and improve deficits in infrastructure for clinical trial in LMICs. The HICs should lead in providing funds, mentorship, and training for LMIC institutions to improve and expand clinical trials in LMIC countries.

Sword of Damocles: application of the ethical principles of resource allocation to essential cancer surgery patients requiring beds in limited supply during the COVID-19 pandemic

As a surge of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) patients strains the health care systems, shortages of health care professionals and life-saving equipment such as ventilators are forcing hospitals to make difficult decisions [1, 2]. It is critical that these health care systems consider whether non-essential surgical procedures can be delayed to ration medical equipment and interventions. Theatre list shortages occur for many reasons, including lack of beds, lack of ventilators, lack of anaesthetic staff, lack of surgical staff, lack of nursing staff and material shortages (e.g. personal protective equipment). Contributing to resource scarcity is the prolonged intubation many COVID-19 patients require as they recover from pneumonia, often two to three weeks, with several hours spent in the prone position and then, typically, a very slow weaning. During shortages, health care systems must determine how to fairly distribute these scarce resources to patients. Unfortunately, no single distribution framework applies to all shortages. However, general allocation principles for scarce health care resources, grounded in distributive justice and utility, can be applied, although particular rules will differ depending on the circumstances.

Minimizing Delays in the Breast Cancer Pathway by Integrating Breast Specialty Care Services at the Primary Health Care Level in Zambia

In Zambia, more than two-thirds of female patients with breast cancer present with late-stage disease, leading to high mortality rates. Most of the underlying causes are associated with delays in symptom recognition and diagnosis. By implementing breast care specialty services at the primary health care level, we hypothesized that some of the delays could be minimized.

In March 2018, we established a breast care specialty clinic for women with symptomatic disease within 1 of the 5 district hospitals in Lusaka. The clinic offers breast self-awareness education, clinical breast examination, breast ultrasound, ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, surgery, referral for chemoradiation, follow-up care, and electronic medical records.

Between March 2018 and April 2019, of 1,790 symptomatic women who presented to the clinic, 176 (10%) had clinical and/or ultrasound indications for histologic evaluation. Biopsy specimens were obtained using ultrasound-guided core-needle procedures, all of which were performed on the same day as the initial visit. Of the 176 women who underwent biopsy, 112 (64%) had pathologic findings compatible with a primary breast cancer, and of these, 42 (37%) were early-stage (stage I/II) disease. Surgery for early-stage cancers was performed at the district hospital within 2 weeks of the time of definitive pathologic diagnosis. Patients with advanced disease were referred to the national cancer center for multimodality therapy, within a similar time frame.

Breast care specialty services for symptomatic women were established in a district-level hospital in a resource-constrained setting in Africa. As a result, the following time intervals were minimized: initial presentation and performance of clinical diagnostics; receipt of a definitive pathologic diagnosis and initiation of surgery; receipt of a definitive pathologic diagnosis and referral.

Awake Craniotomy in a Child: Assessment of Eligibility with a Simulated Theatre Experience

Background: Awake craniotomy is a useful surgical approach to identify and preserve eloquent areas during tumour resection, during surgery for arteriovenous malformation resections and for resective epilepsy surgery. With decreasing age, a child’s ability to cooperate and mange an awake craniotomy becomes increasingly relevant. Preoperative screening is essential to identify the child who can undergo the procedure safely. Case Description. A 11-year-old female patient presented with a tumour in her right motor cortex, presumed to be a dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial tumour (DNET). We had concerns regarding the feasibility of performing awake surgery in this patient as psychological testing revealed easy distractibility and an inability to follow commands repetitively. We devised a simulated surgical experience to assess her ability to manage such a procedure. During the simulated theatre experience, attempts were made to replicate the actual theatre experience as closely as possible. The patient was dressed in theatre attire and brought into the theatre on a theatre trolley. She was then transferred onto the theatre bed and positioned in the same manner as she would be for the actual surgery. Her head was placed on a horseshoe headrest, and she was made to lie in a semilateral position, as required for the surgery. A blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, nasal cannula with oxygen flow, and calf pumps were applied. She was then draped precisely as she would have been for the procedure. Theatre lighting was set as it would be for the surgical case. The application of the monitoring devices, nasal cannula, and draping was meant not only to prepare her for the procedure but to induce a mild degree of stress such that we could assess the child’s coping skills and ability to undergo the procedure. The child performed well throughout the simulated run, and surgery was thus offered. An asleep-awake-asleep technique was planned and employed for surgical removal of the tumour. Cortical and subcortical mapping was used to identify the eloquent tissue. Throughout the procedure, the child was cooperative and anxiety free. Follow-up MRI revealed gross total removal of the lesion.

Conclusion: A simulated theatre experience allowed us to accurately determine that this young patient, despite relative contraindications, was indeed eligible for awake surgery. We will continue to use this technique for all our young patients in assessing their eligibility for these procedures.

Is AJCC/UICC Staging Still Appropriate for Head and Neck Cancers in Developing Countries?

By 2030, 70% of cancers will occur in developing countries. Head and neck cancers are primarily a developing world disease. While anatomical location and the extent of cancers are central to defining prognosis and staging, the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC)/International Union Against Cancer (UICC) have incorporated nonanatomic factors that correlate with prognosis into staging (eg, p16 status of oropharyngeal cancers). However, 16 of 17 head and neck surgeons from 13 African countries cannot routinely test for p16 status and hence can no longer apply AJCC/UICC staging to oropharyngeal cancer. While the AJCC/UICC should continue to refine staging that best reflects treatment outcomes and prognosis by incorporating new nonanatomical factors, they should also retain and refine anatomically based staging to serve the needs of clinicians and their patients in resource-constrained settings. Not to do so would diminish their global relevance and in so doing also disadvantage most of the world’s cancer patients.