BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), has launched a new initiative aimed at tackling Africa’s emerging cancer crisis.  The African Access Initiative (AAI) was announced at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) International Convention at the San Diego Convention Center.

In an address led by BVGH in partnership with Pfizer, Inc., Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., and the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), AAI will expand access to oncology medicines and improve cancer care in Africa. Cancer kills 60% more people in Africa than malaria, and the number of cancer deaths is expected to increase almost 70% by 2030.

BVGH President Jennifer Dent said: “In the US, many cancers are diagnosed at the earliest, most treatable stages, and women with breast cancer today have a 90% chance of survival partially due to the life-saving medicines that have been developed. Cancer death rates overall have declined 25% over the last two decades. Unfortunately, the benefits of these medicines are not yet seen in Africa.”

The reasons underlying Africa’s cancer crisis are complex, but increasingly overwhelmed and under-resourced healthcare systems—plagued by shortages of life-saving medications, essential diagnostic and therapeutic equipment, and trained providers—are major barriers to quality care.

Additional factors include disproportionately low health expenditures by African governments and international stakeholders; differences in tumour biology between African cancer patients and patients in developed countries; and inadequate infrastructure to support research on Africa’s unique cancer landscape to inform cancer control planning. For example, the proportion of triple negative breast tumours—which are associated with poorer prognosis—is higher in Africa compared with other regions.

AAI leverages BVGH’s strong industry relationships, African networks, and capacity-building programs to start to tackle this crisis. Four African countries—Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Nigeria —have been selected for the first phase of the initiative, in which BVGH will identify cancer care and research needs in each participating country and hospital; match those needs with participating companies’ oncology portfolios and research capacity building capabilities; develop innovative business models driven by country/hospital priorities and aligned with company interests; and coordinate delivery of medicines, technologies, and training.

“Access to innovative medicines and quality healthcare is vital to the health of people across the world,” said Christophe Weber, President and CEO, Takeda. “In line with Takeda’s values, our Access to Medicines strategy will expand on our existing commitments to enhance global health, so that our innovative and potentially lifesaving medicines can be more accessible and affordable to patients in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa.”