Childhood cancer care in the Middle East, North Africa, and west/central Asia: A snapshot across five countries from the POEM network

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Background: The Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean (POEM) network, through this report, provides a snapshot view of an expected child's treatment journey in five countries in the region.
Methods: Pediatric oncologists from cancer centers in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, and Pakistan provided input on referral pathways, barriers to care, and patient outcomes, based on personal experience and published data. Outcome data were extracted from institutional registries. A literature review of articles and meeting abstracts was conducted, and results summarized.
Results: Countries across the Middle Eastern, North African, and West Asian region face common difficulties relating to the provision of pediatric oncology care. National registries are largely lacking, with unavailability of outcome data. Economic barriers are a common theme, leading to delays in patient diagnosis, and interruptions and abandonment of therapy. Insufficient infrastructure and human resources, high rates of toxic deaths, and lack of common national protocols are common. The establishment of successful fundraising organizations linked to specific cancer hospitals showcase several success stories, enhancing services, improving patient access, and leading to outcomes comparable to those in developed countries. All identified published literature is institution-based and from only one or a few hospitals. Therefore, outcomes at a national level likely differ due to disparate cancer care capabilities.
Conclusion: Well-designed national registries are essential for identifying gaps, and clear referral networks are needed to address delays to diagnosis and therapy. National and transversal programs to improve infrastructure, facilitate knowledge transfer, and promote advocacy, are needed to accelerate progress in the region.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

Cancer Epidemiology