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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 10:50 GMT
Thousands denied anti-cancer drugs
Cancer drugs can save lives
Tens of thousands of children around the world are being denied life-saving cancer drugs, according to experts.

They say many lives could be saved each year if doctors in developing countries had access to cheap drugs to fight the disease.

Cancer Research UK has called for an international campaign to improve the supply and reduce the cost of key drugs.

What is required is an international campaign, so successful with AIDS, to improve the supply and reduce the cost of the drugs used to treat cancer

Prof Vaskar Saha,
Cancer Research UK
Officials pointed to the success of a similar campaign to try to cut the cost of anti-retroviral drugs to fight HIV.

According to the charity, every year more than 80,000 children around the world die of cancer. Nine out of 10 of these deaths occur in the developing world.

Mortality rates

Many of these children are never diagnosed. Others are denied life-saving treatment. Most will die from the disease.

This compares to children in countries like the UK and the United States where seven out of 10 are still alive five years after diagnosis.

Cancer Research UK said the difference in mortality rates can be attributed in part to poverty and malnutrition in developing countries.

But officials said a key factor was access to drugs. Many countries cannot afford anti-cancer treatments.

Professor Vaskar Saha, head of the charity's children's cancer group, said: "More than seven out of 10 children diagnosed with cancer in this country can look forward to living a normal life.

"This tremendous achievement is considerably diminished when we consider that, on an international front, these advances have failed to improve the outcome of 90% of children with cancer."

Professor Saha called for a concerted international effort to tackle the problem.

"What is required is an international campaign, so successful with AIDS, to improve the supply and reduce the cost of the drugs used to treat cancer in these countries, and a commitment from those more privileged to help those in the developing world to help themselves."

The call comes ahead of International Childhood Cancer Day, which takes place on Saturday 15 February.

Coping with cancer

Meanwhile, a study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh has suggested the Britons with cancer could learn a lot from Africans who are also diagnosed the disease.

According to the researchers, people in the UK are usually most concerned about emotional suffering associated with cancer, while those in Africa were worried about the physical pain.

Dr Scott Murray, who led the study, said the research showed how Western medicine should learn from developing countries about the best ways to empower families and humanise death.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, he said: "We found that people dying of cancer in Scotland have good access to health care but may still experience distress on an emotional level."

See also:

02 Jul 02 | Health
31 Aug 01 | Health
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