How much does it cost to cure childhood cancer in Africa? 

The cost of cancer care in Africa, and other low- and middle-income countries, is an enormous question. Cancer is a very complex disease to treat. It takes time, medicines (and maybe surgery and maybe radiation), a team of healthcare professionals and a comprehensive health system to make it happen. Because of the complexity, one might assume that treatment is prohibitively costly in resource-constrained settings. But is this assumption correct?

On this episode I will discuss a recent study that was published by a team of researchers working in Uganda about the cost of treating (and curing) Burkitt lymphoma in the country. We will hear from the lead author on the paper, Dr. Avram Denburg, who has done a lot of work in the intersection between global health systems and pediatric cancer. You’ll hear that the team found Burkitt lymphoma to be very, very cost effective to treat in Uganda. How this information generalizes to other diseases and other countries remains to be explored, but at a minimum this is a very important piece of evidence that treating and curing childhood cancer in resource-constrained settings is economically advantageous under certain conditions.

The study we discuss: The cost effectiveness of treating Burkitt lymphoma in Uganda

WHO cost effectiveness publication: WHO Guide to Cost Effectiveness Analysis

Another recent and relevant cost study (not discussed in the episode): Evidence From Ghana Indicates That Childhood Cancer Treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa Is Very Cost Effective: A Report From the Childhood Cancer 2030 Network

Other interesting work by Dr. Denburg: Political priority and pathways to scale-up of childhood cancer care in five nations


Dr. Avram Denburg, MD MSc PhD FRCPC is a staff oncologist and clinician-scientist in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the Hospital for Sick Children. He has a Master of Science in Health Policy, Planning and Financing from the London School of Economics, and a PhD in Health Policy from McMaster University. Dr. Denburg’s research centres on the analysis and strengthening of childhood cancer care systems, with specific focus on issues related to pharmaceutical policy and drug access. He has ongoing collaborations in the field of global oncology with a range of national and international partners, including the Union for International Cancer Control, the World Health Organization, and the Pan-American Health Organization. Dr. Denburg is Immediate Past Chair of the Essential Medicines Committee for the International Society of Pediatric Oncology and co-founder of Access to Childhood Cancer Essentials, a global initiative to improve access to essential medicines and therapeutics for children with cancer. He serves as an expert member of the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review for the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health.