Improving cancer outcomes in the UK and Kenya
On 3 March, [email protected] – The University of Manchester’s policy engagement team –gathered a panel of experts to discuss the future of cancer care in the UK and abroad, including specialists on AI & algorithms in clinical settings, advanced radiotherapies, and international healthcare collaborations.
The panel discussion formed part of a wider launch event for [email protected]’s latest publication, On Cancer, which combines academic insight and analysis with clear recommendations to policymakers on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
Chaired by Professor Rob Bristow, Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, the panel included Dr Dónal Landers, Professor Ananya Choudhury, and His Excellency Mr Manoah Esipisu, the Kenya High Commissioner to the UK.
His Excellency Manoah Esipisu discussed the challenges facing cancer care in Kenya, and how the Kenya-UK Healthcare Alliance between institutions in Manchester and Nairobi is helping to overcome these barriers. Cancer cases in Kenya have increased by more than 10,000 a year between 2012 and 2018, with the disease accounting for half of all deaths in Kenyan hospitals.
“£100 – 250 million of Kenyan money is spent each year in Indian hospitals and elsewhere”, said Mr Esipisu, as Kenya lacks the specialist staff and equipment needed to tackle some types of cancer. Investing in domestic capabilities both in Kenya and across the East Africa region would prevent money being spent abroad and improve outcomes for patients, Mr Esipisu explained, and the Healthcare Alliance was key to this. He added that Manchester is a globally recognised partner in terms of its clinical and research expertise, and its commitment to successful outcomes. Representatives of the University and The Christie Hospital recently joined British and Kenyan officials for the launch of a new initiative on Comprehensive Cancer Care Services.
Dr Landers discussed AI, algorithms, and machine learning in clinical settings, what policymakers and regulators need to do to ease their wider introduction, and the benefits that introduction can bring. He will also discuss the role digital devices can play in allowing patients to have treatment in their own homes.
“It’s important that ethics is kept at the forefront of everything we do with AI”, said Dr Landers, pointing to the use of digital devices that allow patients to remotely monitor the impact of cancer treatment on their kidney function, allowing patients to receive more personalised treatment and reduce the negative side effects. Dr Landers noted that moving services “closer to home” requires patient consent beyond traditional clinical treatment.
Professor Choudhury’s research covers advanced radiotherapies, including Proton Beam Therapies, FLASH radiotherapies, and a new technology being pioneered in Manchester which combines treatment with real-time tumour monitoring, MR-LINAC. On the panel, she highlighted how MR-LINAC and PBT are helping to deliver cancer therapy more accurately, targeting the tumour while sparing healthy tissues.
These technologies come at a significant cost, however, and Professor Choudhury says there is a significant challenge in developing cost-effective approaches to their use. “It’s really important to look at how we fund treatments and radiotherapies,” she said, adding; “It’s absolutely critical that we have the capacity to research and assess new technologies within the NHS”.
Professor Bristow is the Director of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, and spoke about the wider context of the articles in On Cancer, both in the UK and abroad. He also discussed some of the pioneering research and treatment being conducted in Manchester – such as cell and gene therapies which use a patient’s own cells to fight their cancer – and how the region’s care networks are serving as an international model.
A full recording of the panel can be viewed here. If you would like to know more about the event, or any of the articles in the On Cancer publication, please email Callum Wood ([email protected]).