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Raul C. Ribeiro, MD
Program prevents treatment abandonment by families, reduces treatment toxicity and provides psychosocial support.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has significantly reduced the rate at which families in Recife, Brazil abandon treatment for their children who have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and has significantly increased the rate of event-free survival during a single decade. Event-free survival is the length of time after treatment that a person is free of treatment side effects, cancer recurrence and other problems.
The St. Jude program in Brazil decreased the rate of abandonment from 16 percent to 0.6 percent and increased event-free survival from 32 percent to 63 percent, according to Raul Ribeiro, MD, a member of Oncology at St. Jude and director of its International Outreach Program (IOP). Families abandon treatment for a variety of reasons, including treatment cost, stress of traveling to a distant hospital and lack of local housing and employment.
The program not only established an efficient pediatric cancer care unit where children received continuous care from the same caregivers, but also initiated psychosocial programs and generated community involvement, said Ribeiro, who presented a report on this program at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Atlanta, Georgia on June 4, 2006.
The improved outcome in Brazil is significant because it is a model program for reducing the disparity in cure rates between high- and low-income countries, Ribeiro said.
“It’s very important to provide psychosocial support to families to see them through the emotional upheaval of their child’s cancer treatment,” said Scott Howard, MD, an assistant member of Oncology at St. Jude and IOP director of clinical trials.