Procedural fairness for radiotherapy priority setting in a low resource context

Radiotherapy is an essential component of cancer treatment, yet many countries do not have adequate capacity to serve their populations. This mismatch between demand and supply creates the need for priority setting. There is no widely accepted system to guide patient prioritization for radiotherapy in a low resource context. In the absence of consensus on allocation principles, fair procedures for priority setting should be established. Research is needed to understand what elements of procedural fairness are important to decision makers in diverse settings, assess the feasibility of implementing fair procedures for priority setting in low resource contexts, and improve these processes. This study presents the views of decision makers engaged in everyday radiotherapy priority setting at a cancer center in Rwanda. Semi-structured interviews with 22 oncology physicians, nurses, program leaders, and advisors were conducted. Participants evaluated actual radiotherapy priority setting procedures at the program (meso) and patient (micro) levels, reporting facilitators, barriers, and recommendations. We discuss our findings in relation to the leading Accountability for Reasonableness (AFR) framework. Participants emphasized procedural elements that facilitate adherence to normative principles, such as objective criteria that maximize lives saved. They ascribed fairness to AFR’s substantive requirement of relevance more than transparency, appeals, and enforcement. They identified several challenges unresolved by AFR, such as conflicting relevant rationales and unintended consequences of publicity and appeals. Implementing fair procedure itself is resource intensive, a paradox that calls for innovative, context-appropriate solutions. Finally, socioeconomic and structural barriers to care that undermine procedural fairness must be addressed.

Practical considerations for prostate hypofractionation in the developing world

External beam radiotherapy is an effective curative treatment option for localized prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men worldwide. However, conventionally fractionated courses of curative external beam radiotherapy are usually 8–9 weeks long, resulting in a substantial burden to patients and the health-care system. This problem is exacerbated in low-income and middle-income countries where health-care resources might be scarce and patient funds limited. Trials have shown a clinical equipoise between hypofractionated schedules of radiotherapy and conventionally fractionated treatments, with the advantage of drastically shortening treatment durations with the use of hypofractionation. The hypofractionated schedules are supported by modern consensus guidelines for implementation in clinical practice. Furthermore, several economic evaluations have shown improved cost effectiveness of hypofractionated therapy compared with conventional schedules. However, these techniques demand complex infrastructure and advanced personnel training. Thus, a number of practical considerations must be borne in mind when implementing hypofractionation in low-income and middle-income countries, but the potential gain in the treatment of this patient population is substantial.

Sequential improvement in paediatric medulloblastoma outcomes in a low-and-middle-income country setting over three decades

Background: Medulloblastoma (MB) is the commonest malignant brain tumour of childhood. Accurate clinical data on paediatric MB in the low-and-middle-income countries (LMIC) setting are lacking. Sequential improvements in outcomes seen in high-income countries are yet to be reflected in LMICs.

Aim: The aim of this study was quantification of paediatric MB outcomes in the LMIC setting over three decades of advances in multidisciplinary intervention.

Setting: Cape Town, South Africa.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of 136 children with MB diagnosed between 1985 and 2015. The modified Chang criteria were used for risk stratification. The primary objective of this study was overall survival (OS), quantified by analysis of epidemiological, clinical and pathological data.

Results: OS improved significantly during the most recent decade (2005–2015) when compared with the preceding two decades (1985–1995 and 1995–2005). Despite reduced-dose craniospinal irradiation (CSI) for standard risk cases, OS was significantly greater than during the preceding two decades. High-risk disease was identified in 71.4% of cases and was associated with significantly inferior OS compared with standard-risk cases. Improved OS was positively correlated with the therapeutic era, three-dimensional (3D) conformal radiotherapy technique, older age at diagnosis, classic and desmoplastic histology, extent of resection and absence of leptomeningeal spread on imaging.

Conclusion: Advances in multidisciplinary management of MB in our combined service are associated with improved survival. Access to improved imaging modalities, advances in surgical techniques, increased number of patients receiving risk-adapted combination chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as CSI using a linear accelerator with 3D planning, are considered as contributing factors.

Access to Radiotherapy for Cancer treatment (ARC) Project’: Guidance for low and middle-income countries establishing safe and sustainable radiotherapy services

Efforts to improve access to cancer care, including radiotherapy services in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) is challenging. Many radiotherapy initiatives in LMICs have failed to fully deliver on their promise because of multi-faceted barriers at the systems, organisational and patient levels, leading to significant wastage of scarce resources. Greater guidance on how to assess and build LMICs’ readiness for establishing sustainable radiotherapy services is needed to improve cancer care outcomes in LMICs. 𝗔𝗶𝗺: The ‘𝗔ccess to 𝗥adiotherapy for 𝗖ancer treatment (ARC) Project’ aimed to provide practical guidance to LMICs on establishing safe and sustainable radiotherapy services. 𝗠𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗼𝗱𝘀: The mixed qualitative methods ARC Project involved a: systematic review; and two-part qualitative study. The systematic review synthesised strategies adopted by LMICs to improve access to cancer treatment and palliative care. Semi-structured interviews undertaken with global radiotherapy experts explored perceived facilitators and barriers to establishing sustainable radiotherapy services in LMICs. The mid-point meta-inference of the systematic review and semi-structured interview data generated a draft list of requirements, which was circulated to global experts during the second part-of the qualitative study. The final meta-inference was undertaken following the completion of the three studies. 𝗙𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀: The systematic review identified that comparatively few studies have focused specifically on improving radiotherapy in LMICs, with no research evaluating effectiveness. The semi-structured interviews identified three key facilitators to establishing sustainable radiotherapy services in LMICs, namely: committing to a vision of improving cancer care; making it happen and sustaining a safe service; and leveraging off radiotherapy to strengthen integrated cancer care. The mid-point meta-inference generated 42 potential requirements, which were organised into four readiness domains: commitment (n=13); cooperation (n=7); capacity (n=17); and catalyst (n=5). The participant validation confirmed 37 of the generated requirements as relevant for inclusion in a radiotherapy service development readiness self-assessment guide for use by LMICs. The end-point meta-inference of the ARC Project’s integrated data presented the ‘𝗥𝗘adiness 𝗦𝗘lf-𝗔ssessment (RESEA) Guide’, with 120 questions that may help LMICs at macro and meso level to determine and create action plans to improve their readiness to establish radiotherapy services. 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗹𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀: The ARC Project has identified a complex combination of facilitators and barriers that influence the establishment of sustainable radiotherapy services in LMICs. It has developed a RESEA Guide to provide support for LMICs seeking to establish sustainable radiotherapy services. Further work is needed to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of the RESEA Guide and inform further refinements.

Effects of income and residential area on survival of patients with head and neck cancers following radiotherapy: working age individuals in Taiwan.

The five-year survival rate of head and neck cancer (HNC) after radiotherapy (RT) varies widely from 35% to 89%. Many studies have addressed the effect of socioeconomic status and urban dwelling on the survival of HNC, but a limited number of studies have focused on the survival rate of HNC patients after RT.During the period of 2000-2013, 40,985 working age individuals (20 < age  medium income group > low income group and northern > central > southern > eastern Taiwan. Patients with moderate income levels had a 36.9% higher risk of mortality as compared with patients with high income levels (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.369; p < 0.001). Patients with low income levels had a 51.4% greater risk of mortality than patients with high income levels (HR = 1.514, p < 0.001).In Taiwan, income and residential area significantly affected the survival rate of HNC patients receiving RT. The highest income level group had the best survival rate, regardless of the geographic area. The difference in survival between the low and high income groups was still pronounced in more deprived areas.

Barriers and facilitators to implementation of cancer treatment and palliative care strategies in low- and middle-income countries: systematic review.

To appraise improvement strategies adopted by low- and middle-income countries to increase access to cancer treatments and palliative care; and identify the facilitators and barriers to implementation.A systematic review was conducted and reported in accordance with PRISMA statement. MEDLINE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Library databases were searched. Bias was assessed using the Standards for Quality Improvement Reporting Excellence, and evidence graded using the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council system.Of 3069 articles identified, 18 studied were included. These studies involved less than a tenth (n?=?12, 8.6%) of all low- and middle-income countries. Most were case reports (58%), and the majority focused on palliative care (n?=?11, 61%). Facilitators included: stakeholder engagement, financial support, supportive learning environment, and community networks. Barriers included: lack of human resources, financial constraints, and limited infrastructure.There is limited evidence on sustainable strategies for increasing access to cancer treatments and palliative care in low- and middle-income countries. Future strategies should be externally evaluated and be tailored to address service delivery; workforce; information; medical products, vaccines, and technologies; financing; and leadership and governance.

Pilot study assessing the direct medical cost of treating patients with cancer in Kenya; findings and implications for the future.

Currently the majority of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where there are appreciable funding concerns. In Kenya, most patients currently pay out of pocket for treatment, and those who are insured are generally not covered for the full costs of treatment. This places a considerable burden on households if family members develop cancer. However, the actual cost of cancer treatment in Kenya is unknown. Such an analysis is essential to better allocate resources as Kenya strives towards universal healthcare.To evaluate the economic burden of treating cancer patients.Descriptive cross-sectional cost of illness study in the leading teaching and referral hospital in Kenya, with data collected from the hospital files of sampled adult patients for treatment during 2016.In total, 412 patient files were reviewed, of which 63.4% (n?=?261) were female and 36.6% (n?=?151) male. The cost of cancer care is highly dependent on the modality. Most reviewed patients had surgery, chemotherapy and palliative care. The cost of cancer therapy varied with the type of cancer. Patients on chemotherapy alone cost an average of KES 138,207 (USD 1364.3); while those treated with surgery cost an average of KES 128,207 (1265.6), and those on radiotherapy KES 119,036 (1175.1). Some patients had a combination of all three, costing, on average, KES 333,462 (3291.8) per patient during the year.The cost of cancer treatment in Kenya depends on the type of cancer, the modality, cost of medicines and the type of inpatient admission. The greatest contributors are currently the cost of medicines and inpatient admissions. This pilot study can inform future initiatives among the government as well as private and public insurance companies to increase available resources, and better allocate available resources, to more effectively treat patients with cancer in Kenya. The authors will be monitoring developments and conducting further research.