Wilms tumour in Africa

This week I was very fortunate to attend a meeting of the Collaborative Wilms Tumour Africa Project in Accra, Ghana. The collaboration brings together sub-Saharan African centres through the use of a SIOP PODC adapted treatment protocol, with the aim of improving outcomes for children with this type of renal tumour. The members of the collaboration have working meetings to address challenges, discuss progress and build trust amongst the centres involved.

Before the meeting we went to visit one of the centres involved – Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, before the meeting started. Dr Vivian Paintsil and her team in Kumasi are working very hard to raise awareness of the early warning signs of childhood cancer. They are attending local churches and giving talks and leaflets to the congregations, making radio appearances and holding fundraising events. They also have a great Facebook page which is updated frequently, allowing them to share patient’s stories and spread awareness even further. The multi-disciplinary team effort is vital for the treatment of Wilms tumour, involving paediatric oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, nurses and pathologists. We were able to meet with some of the team at KATH.

KATH team: Dr Lawrence Osei-Tutu (paediatrician), Dr Vivian Paintsil (paediatric oncologist), Dr Michael Amoah (paediatric surgeon), Dr Adu-Tutu Amankwah)

We met Yaw, 9 years old, who recently underwent surgery to remove his Wilms tumour and is now receiving post-operative chemotherapy. Yaw wore his smartest jacket to come to KATH to see Vivian and talk to us. He said that when he grows up he wants to become a soldier and is looking forward to joining his friends at school now that he is out of the hospital.

Yaw, Wilms tumour patient at KATH

After returning to Accra we then had a very nice meeting with people representing the centres who were able to come, including Ghana, Malawi, Cameroon and Uganda. So far all of the centres are enrolling patients on the new treatment protocol, and the project funding aims that not only treatment costs are covered for these patients, but also that social support is provided. Funding the treatment costs alone will not help to ensure that the patients can complete their treatment and return for follow-up appointments. Food and transport costs must also be provided, or many patients will not be able to return for their post-op chemotherapy or check-ups. The collaboration is recording how outcomes are improved by keeping close track of patients once they finish their treatment. The number of children who need to stop treatment early or are lost to follow-up is already decreasing and this is setting an example of how regional collaboration can make a big impact on the lives of children with cancer.

As always it was a pleasure to be in sunny Ghana and enjoy the hospitality and friendliness of this wonderful country.

About the author

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Liz Burns

Liz is the Head of Programmes at World Child Cancer and oversees our work globally.