Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital will establish a pediatric cancer center in Botswana, officials said this week, a new front in their effort to fight disease in the developing world.
The Houston medical school and children's hospital announced that they have signed an agreement with the government of Botswana to build the southern African nation's first pediatric cancer center. Cancer kills roughly 80 percent of the 40,000 sub-Saharan African children diagnosed with the disease annually, compared with less than 20 percent of the nearly 16,000 U.S. children diagnosed annually.
"This center of excellence, in partnership with the Botswana Ministry of Health, will change those numbers in favor of the children of Botswana," said Dr. David Poplack, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and director of Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers.
The center is an outgrowth of the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI), a Peace Corps-like effort providing life-saving AIDS treatment to children in Africa and other impoverished locations. The Botswana clinic, launched in Gaborone in 2003, was the first BIPAI center in Africa. Pediatric oncologists from Baylor and Texas Children's have provided care there for about 10 years, the first such program on the continent. This week's agreement expands that program into a stand-alone cancer center devoted exclusively to treatment of children with cancer and blood diseases.The program also provides pediatric care for cancer in Uganda and Malawi and for sickle cell disease in Angola.