In an effort to promote the early detection, screening and treatment of cancer to reduce deaths, AstraZeneca on Tuesday unveiled the Cancer Care Africa programme in Kenya.

To boost cancer care, AstraZeneca has partnered with the Ministry of Health, Kenya Society of Haematology and Oncology (KESHO), Axios, and National Cancer Institute of Kenya (NCI).

The program by the biopharmaceutical firm aims to equitably enhance access and outcomes across the entire patient care pathway, from diagnosis all through to treatment and beyond.

Cancer is currently ranked the third leading cause of death in Kenya, behind infectious diseases and cardiovascular Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), and the fifth in Africa.

AstraZeneca Executive Vice-President, Oncology Business Unit, Dave Fredrickson, said the firm seeks to avail pioneering science and research to deliver positive outcomes to patients.

“With an increasing number of patients being diagnosed with cancer in Kenya and across Africa in the coming decades, joint action to improve patient outcomes and safeguard health care systems for the future has never been more important,” noted Dave.

He added: “The Cancer Care Africa programme will support early detection, increase timely diagnosis, and improve access to treatment options for patients across Kenya.”

Health CS Susan Nakhumicha says the partnership will amplify cancer prevention and control and co-create a comprehensive and coordinated approach to cancer care in Kenya.

“The partnership with AstraZeneca brings together cancer experts, researchers, patient voices, health tech firms, government officials and policymakers, aiming to develop sustainable cancer care ecosystems, which can withstand the burden of future pressures,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

KESHO Chairperson Dr Naftali Busakhala revealed that there are currently 102,000 cancer patients in hospitals across the country piling financial burden on many Kenyan families.

“There’s a need for drug companies, media, patients and medical practitioners to work together to fast track cancer awareness and care in Kenya,” indicated Dr Busakhala.

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), there were a total of 44,726 cancer cases and 29,317 cancer deaths recorded in Kenya in 2022 alone.

Medical experts and researches estimate that 2.1 million new cases of cancer and 1.4 million deaths will be reported annually by the year 2040 across the African continent.

Lack of awareness, limited diagnostic capabilities, absence of proper screening programmes, and challenges in accessing treatment continue to hamper the effective cancer treatment.

The ambitious initiative seeks to deal with cancer through capacity building, enhancing screening and diagnostics, empowering patients as well as enabling access to medicines.

AstraZeneca seeks to establish more than 100 oncology centres and train more than 10,000 healthcare professionals to improve the quality of care offered for cancer across Africa.

Unveiled in November 2002 at COP27 in Egypt, Cancer Care Africa helps Africa to fight cancer by pushing for policy reform to boost screening and diagnostics among other measures.