Dr Naureen Mushtaq, an assistant professor in oncology at the University, has secured a Sanofi Espoir Foundation My Child Matters grant which supports initiatives to boost cancer diagnosis and treatment in low-income countries around the world.
The €300,000 grant will see Dr Mushtaq and her team lead efforts to build capacity in paediatric neuro-oncology treatment by setting up multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) in seven hospitals across Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.
Dr Mushtaq, who returned to Pakistan after finishing her fellowship in neuro-oncology from the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, Canada, in 2014, states that the quality of life of children with brain tumours continues to be very poor. She believes apart from factors such as poverty, malnutrition and lack of education, most importantly it is the absence of a basic framework to deal with paediatric neuro-oncology in Pakistan.
She noted: “If we can develop MDTs in centres having basic infrastructure for neuro-oncology treatment, then we will be able to enhance outcomes for children fighting for good quality of life while fighting childhood cancer.”
Every year, more than 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer, with those living in low- and middle-income countries being four times likely to die from the disease than their counterparts in high-income countries, according to the World Health Organization. The grant will work towards achieving target 3.4 of the sustainable development goals which seeks to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases like cancer by a third by 2030.
The project will enable a number of Continuing Medical Education workshops as well as two international symposiums held in different cities over the next three years to train paediatric oncologists, neurosurgeons, pathologists and radiologists. The grant will also help establish a paediatric neuro-oncology fellowship as part of the University’s Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) programme.
Dr Mushtaq and team will set up a twinning programme, supported by the Hospital for Sick Kids, which will establish a tumour board to facilitate knowledge-sharing and the development of improvement management plans for children with brain tumours.
The MDTs from the seven centres will also visit the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, Canada, for observerships.