Fostering collaboration in CIS to achieve better outcomes for children with cancer

As part of its support to achieving better outcomes for children with cancer in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), WHO organized a meeting of experts in the field of childhood cancer from CIS countries. The meeting was held in Moscow, Russian Federation, on the premises of the Dmitry Rogachev National Research Center of Paediatric Haematology, Oncology and Immunology on 23–25 April 2018.

The event was an important step as it contributed towards developing a regional collaborative working group, which in turn will improve detection and treatment of childhood cancer throughout the CIS. It brought together participants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and an array of international experts from centres of excellence in paediatric haematology/oncology, including from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Dmitry Rogachev Center.

“The welfare of children should be beyond politics and other disputes. All of us should collaborate on this worthy cause” emphasized Professor Alexander Rumyantsev, Chief Paediatric Haematologist of the Ministry of Health and Director of the Dmitry Rogachev Center, Russian Federation, during the event.

WHO/Europe believes that opportunities for development in the paediatric haematology/oncology treatment sector of the CIS can be found through the exchange of experience and learning. Some countries of the CIS, Belarus and the Russia Federation included, have made significant progress in childhood cancer treatment in the last decades, not least owing to the work of the Moscow-based Dmitry Rogachev Center. The similarity of health-care systems and the absence of a language barrier are perfect preconditions for efficient regional cooperation and international work that would enhance childhood cancer treatment throughout the CIS.

While the total population of the Eurasian region is approximately 293.1 million, 80 million of these are children under 18 years of age. Annually, more than 12 000 diagnoses of paediatric cancer are made in the region. The capacity to battle childhood cancers varies widely between the countries of the region. While in some places the sector receives large-scale state support and can benefit from years of successful research and clinical experience, some countries in the region do not have the infrastructure and the experience in place to put the best available practices and protocols in place to save more children’s lives.

Many countries of the CIS, sadly, face obstacles in achieving high success rates when treating childhood cancers. The lack of state support and specialized education and professional growth programmes, the insufficient number of specialized clinics, and the inability to access and implement best global practices due to financial and language barriers hinder the development of the sector in that part of the world.

Events such as this one will ensure dialogue and collaboration to improve the health of children in the region.

The meeting was made possible thanks to the joint efforts of WHO, the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, the Dmitry Rogachev Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Society of Paediatric Haematologists and Oncologists.