The news regularly reports amazing new cancer treatments, promising life-saving and life-changing results for those affected by the myriad of different forms of the disease. Yet millions around the world are unable to receive even the most basic level of care afforded to those in wealthy countries.
Today is World Cancer Day, and this year’s theme is “Close the Care Gap”, bringing awareness to the equity gap that exists globally between people living with cancer and the care that they need. At ICEH we are taking this opportunity to reflect on the inequalities inherent in retinoblastoma, the most common eye cancer in children.
A child diagnosed with retinoblastoma in Europe will nearly always survive, whereas in Africa 70% of those with the condition will die. Late presentation of children to health services, late diagnosis and a lack of appropriately trained staff all contribute to these outcomes in low and middle-income countries.
As part of the VISION 2020 LINKS programme, ICEH established the Retinoblastoma network (Rb-NET) in 2017, with the aim of improving outcomes for the disease in these countries. The network consists of 10 retinoblastoma treatment centres in six Sub-Saharan African countries, who are linked with experts from specialist centres in the UK India, Israel, Europe and the USA.
Together the network trains multi-disciplinary teams who develop and deliver improved, integrated care for retinoblastoma. The network focuses on planning and developing services, establishing referral pathways, training in equipment and coordinating research across the centres involved. The network also holds regular case study meetings in which the evaluation and management of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma are discussed. As the condition is generally rare, healthcare professionals may not have seen many cases. These discussions can help to improve network members’ ability to accurately diagnose the disease and provide appropriate treatment.
Collectively, the Rb-NET, and other initiatives like it, are helping to close the care gap in cancers globally, reducing unnecessary suffering and deaths from treatable diseases.
Find out more about the Rb-NET here.
 Kivelä, T. (2009). The epidemiological challenge of the most frequent eye cancer: Retinoblastoma, an issue of birth and death. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 93(9), 1129–1131. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjo.2008.150292