Global Cancer Institute (GCI), which is focused on improving survival rates for underserved patients with cancer worldwide, recently announced it has extended its programs to Bangladesh. The extension begins with the launch of monthly tumor boards, which help physicians and oncologists in developing countries connect directly to U.S. physicians by videoconference to discuss challenging cancer cases and ask for advice. The GCI tumor boards will be cohosted by the Bangladesh Society for Breast Cancer Study (BSBCS), a nonprofit organization with the mission to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease.
Tumor boards are common practice within U.S. hospitals and have proved to help boost survival rates for patients by enabling physicians to resolve challenging cases. The ASCO Post has reported that 1 in 10 deaths in Bangladesh is from cancer.1 Bangladesh spends 2.8% of its gross domestic product on health care, which is the 10th lowest percentage in the world, impacting availability of preventive services. The country also has limited hospital resources, with 0.6 hospitals beds and 0.36 physicians per 1,000 people. (By contrast, the U.S. statistics are 2.8 and 2.6, respectively.2)
Bringing Tumor Boards to Bangladesh
“Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Bangladesh, and even basic preventive measures such as breast palpation are not available in primary care settings,” said Arunangshu Das, PhD, General Secretary at BSBCS. “Once a woman develops breast cancer, her treatment options here are limited, as there is a tremendous shortage of oncologists. Our partnership with GCI to bring regular monthly tumor boards to Bangladesh offers patients and their physicians a lifeline to effective treatment.”
GCI has welcomed Bangladeshi physicians to its global tumor boards for many years, and one of GCI’s best success stories came out of a relationship formed with a Bangladeshi physician and his patient, a girl who was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 8 years old. The physician’s participation in a GCI tumor board led to a connection with U.S. physicians at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who were able to admit the girl into a clinical trial for a new drug that ultimately saved her life.
Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, Co-Chief Medical Officer at GCI and Director of Medical Oncology at Rhode Island Hospital, will lead the local Bangladesh program. “Bangladesh is in a cancer crisis. This is an area where GCI can make a huge impact,” said Dr. Dizon. “We’re looking forward to working with our local colleagues to improve cancer care on the ground in Bangladesh.”
1. Are C: Cancer on the global stage: Incidence and cancer-related mortality in Bangladesh. The ASCO Post, February 25, 2017. Available at https://ascopost.com/issues/february-25-2017/cancer-on-the-global-stage-incidence-and-cancer-related-mortality-in-bangladesh/. Accessed November 10, 2020.
2. Kaiser Family Foundation: The U.S. has fewer physicians and hospital beds per capita than Italy and other countries overwhelmed by COVID-19. Newsroom, March 27, 2020. Available at https://www.kff.org/health-costs/press-release/the-u-s-has-fewer-physicians-and-hospital-beds-per-capita-than-italy-and-other-countries-overwhelmed-by-covid-19/. Accessed November 10, 2020.