Ching-Hon Pui, MD

    Ching-Hon Pui, MD

    Collaboration in China saves lives of children with cancer

    A small pilot program in the People’s Republic of China has saved the lives of children who would otherwise have died from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) because of their family’s inability to pay for care, according to clinicians in the St. Jude International Outreach Program (IOP). The program is a collaboration among St. Jude, the Beijing Children’s Hospital and the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

    Since March 2005 the program has treated 17 children from eight Chinese cities, according to Raul Ribeiro, MD, IOP director. All of the patients, from 16 months to 9 years of age, achieved complete remissions and are now living without evidence of leukemia. Complete financial support for the China IOP program comes from residents of that country and companies operating in China.

    The success of the program shows that collaboration among the private sector, international agencies and local governmental institutions is practical in mainland China, Ribeiro noted. Furthermore, it showed that Chinese families are eager to accept financial help to ensure their children receive treatment and readily cooperate with clinicians in the care of their children. The program is supported by Project HOPE Hong Kong, Limited and the Ermenegildo Zegna Foundation.

    “Our initial success is especially significant because fewer than 10 percent of children with cancer in mainland China receive treatment because their families cannot afford to pay for care,” Ribeiro said. “This is especially tragic because the children in our program have low risk leukemia, which responds well to treatment. So this program holds promise for saving many children from preventable death by ensuring excellent care regardless of cost.”

    The project also suggests that large pediatric hospitals in China can collaborate in the design of treatment protocols, according to Ching-Hon Pui, MD, chair of the department of Oncology. Pui is medical director of the IOP’s China program. “Based on the success of this pilot project, we expect to procure additional partners and contributors to increase the opportunities of access for children with ALL,” Ribeiro said.

    Last update: June 2006