South Africa, an upper middle income country, among the most wealthy nations in Africa, has a childhood cancer survival rate of just over 50%. We’ll revisit this statistic many times so I won’t go into detail now, but one of the many, many reasons our survival rate is so poor is that we don’t do enough research. Not that we can’t or wont, we just don’t. We don’t have enough doctors to go around. Our doctors burn the candle at both ends, trying to see patients, wade through admin, fulfill teaching duties and do research.
Centres in high income settings with high survival rates have dedicated researchers, protected research time, and enough doctors to see patients and do research. And it’s not just the doctors who do the research. Nurses do it, students do it, lab-based scientists and all sorts of people we can’t even imagine here are engaged on an intimate level with childhood cancer research. And they’re reaping the benefits: kids who would have had no chance of survival a mere fifty years ago are now given an 80% chance of survival in these places.
We have the minds and we certainly have enough patients – we just need more research support. South Africa must support its health professionals to investigate innovative ways to save more lives of children with cancer.
(How’s that for the worst throwback? If I gave you a soundworm, I’m sorry.)
For childhood cancer research.