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ACS helps make cancer treatments more available in Africa and Asia

Cancer Access Partnership is expected to result in a 59% savings on cancer medicines

ACS and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) today announced agreements with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Novartis, and Mylan to expand access to 20 lifesaving cancer treatments in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Purchasers are expected to save an average of 59% for medicines procured through the agreements. 

The countries included in the agreements are: Botswana, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, in Africa; and Vietnam, India, and Myanmar in Asia. Oncologists, government officials, and nonprofit organizations in many of these countries contributed to these agreements by sharing information and feedback to the CHAI team.

Medications included in the agreements cover recommended regimens for 27 types of cancer and enable complete chemotherapy regimens for the three cancers that cause the most deaths in Africa—breast, cervical, and prostate. These cancers are highly treatable and account for 38% of cancers in the countries covered in the agreements. The new agreements include both chemotherapies and endocrine therapies aligned to evidence-based guidelines harmonized for sub-Saharan Africa, and expand access to additional formulations, including those essential for treating childhood cancer.

"With cancer cases increasing at such a rapid rate in sub-Saharan Africa, access to affordable cancer treatment that meets the quality standards set by a stringent regulatory authority is imperative," said Bill Cance, our chief medical and scientific officer.

In 2018, there were an estimated 811,000 new cases of cancer and 534,000 deaths from cancer in the region. Cancer patients in sub-Saharan Africa are twice as likely to die as those in the United States, often due to late diagnosis and lack of access to treatment. Based on population aging alone, annual cancer deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to almost double by 2030. The new agreements reach 23 countries in Africa, covering 74% of the annual cancer cases.

This new Cancer Access Partnership is an initiative of Allied Against Cancer and an expansion of the Chemotherapy Access Partnership. ACS and CHAI began working together in 2015 to improve care and treatment of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa, working with governments and cancer treatment institutions to address market inefficiencies, improve supply chains, and increase procurement to ensure quality medications were available at affordable prices. This collaboration has shown that access to high-quality cancer treatments can be expanded in a sustainable way.

In 2017, Allied Against Cancer members ACS and CHAI announced agreements with Pfizer and Cipla to expand access to 16 essential cancer treatment medications in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The market access agreements secured competitive prices, allowing these governments to realize substantial savings and improve the quality and quantity of treatment available. As a result of the agreements, several African governments and hospitals increased their commitment to procuring necessary cancer medicines by using the cost savings to increase the volumes of medicines procured, setting up innovative systems to supply high-quality cancer medications, and increasing budgets for cancer care and treatment. Countries that accessed products through the agreements saved an average of 56%. As a result, patients have new levels of access to quality chemotherapies in nearly all of the countries included in the original agreements. Three new countries were added in November 2019.

The market access agreements are part of a broader effort to improve access to quality cancer care in Africa. In 2019, ACS, CHAI, the African Cancer Coalition, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), and IBM joined to form Allied Against Cancer. This coalition is leveraging the strengths of each organization to connect with and empower the African oncology community to deliver high-quality cancer care and is working to pursue additional market-based collaborations to increase access to cancer medicines in the region.

NCCN, ACS, and CHAI are also working with the African Cancer Coalition, which comprises 110 leading oncologists from 13 African countries, to adapt the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) to create the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines™ for Sub-Saharan Africa. These guidelines outline pragmatic approaches that provide effective treatment options to improve the quality of care in resource-constrained settings, and are available free of charge to health care providers. IBM and ACS also developed ChemoSafe, a suite of training resources for regional healthcare personnel to guide the safe transportation, storage, administration, and disposal of hazardous drugs.

  • ACS holds virtual Day of Understanding to address racism

    On our June 16 ACS Day of Understanding Teams Live event, volunteers and staff were urged to be "anti-racist" and to take actions that will help rid our country of hundreds of years of systemic racism, a reference to the systems in place that create and maintain racial inequality in nearly every facet of life for people of color (e.g. housing, education, the legal system, work, health, etc.).

    "When facing race today, one of most important things we need to remember is that it is not enough to be merely not racist," said award-winning author and speaker Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever. "The opposite of racist is not being not racist, but explicitly anti-racist," she said. "It's not just about being friendly. It is about taking action to create change. That means you show up and speak out when you see something that looks discriminatory and help make sure change occurs."

    When she asked participants, "What will you do to create change going forward?" they said: speak up when I see people being treated unfairly; continue to read and educate myself; actually show up at protests; grow my community to include people of color; not shy away from confronting ignorance and racism; call out my family members; lead by example; challenge staff/volunteers when they exhibit racism; and be a better ally.

    Our CEO Gary Reedy said he is hopeful that "we have finally reached a tipping point" in this country, and that real change will take place. He said he and COO Kris Kim have been checking in with black members of our staff to see how they are doing. He said those conversations have taught him several things: "I have learned that racism has an impact on our staff on a daily basis and adds tremendous stress to their lives. They have grave concerns about their fathers, brothers, and sons. And, I also learned that they are grateful for the work we are doing in health disparities."

    A special thank you to our three ACS staff members who shared personal experiences: Mel Toran, executive director, Southeast Region; Natasha Coleman, senior director, Cancer Control Strategic Partnerships, Northeast Region; and Kyle Brown-Latham, income support specialist, National Cancer Information Center (NCIC).

    Mel said he "often times receives a look and receives less than optimal service" as a customer. He said the sustained energy of the people who have been protesting since the murder of George Floyd makes him optimistic – along "with the willingness of my colleagues to be part of the solution." He recommended a documentary and two children's books, which you can find in the list of resources below.

    Natasha said she worries when her husband leaves their home. What if he is stopped by a police officer? She urged her fellow staffers to address social inequality within their own communities, and even in their ACS events.

    Kyle shared that his dad was killed by a police officer 24 years ago, when he was 12. He asked staff to be introspective: "Are you contributing to this broken system? Look at the things you say and do. You may not feel like you have a part, but you do. We are the future of this country and we have a moral obligation to pull all members of society up and it starts with each and every one of us. Doing nothing accomplishes nothing."


    Mel's recommendations

    Mel encouraged staff to educate themselves and recommended the documentary, The African Americans – Many Rivers to Cross. This six-part series by Henry Louis Gates depicts the beginning of the Slave Trade through modern times, covering many topics in between.

    Noting that no one is born racist, Mel said children can be the difference makers. For parents looking for a way to have a conversation with their children, he recommended Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester and Let the Children March by Monica Clark Robinson.

  • ACS celebrates Supreme Court decision on LGBTQ rights

    June marks Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month, and June 2020 will forever be known as the month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination. It was a long-sought and rather unexpected victory.

    Tawana Thomas-Johnson, our VP, Diversity & Inclusion, said: "We are thrilled about this landmark Supreme Court decision which represents a sea change for equality and the civil rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. The decision affirms the belief that civil rights should be enjoyed by everyone, and that the LGBTQ+ people should be protected from workplace discrimination under federal law. This is not only a victory for LGBTQ+ communities, but for all of us."

    As an organization, the American Cancer Society is committed to a workplace free from discrimination. Our Equal Employment Opportunity policy says we are "dedicated to providing equal opportunities to all individuals regardless of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, veteran’s status, caregiver status, genetic information, or any factor that is a prohibited consideration under applicable law."

    Did you know this community bears a disproportionate burden of cancer? People who are LGBTQ have higher rates of some cancer risk factors and face barriers in accessing health care, including higher uninsured rates and discrimination. 

    Learn more here.

  • ACS publishes new guideline for diet and physical activity

    ​More emphasis on consuming less red meat and alcohol, and increasing physical activity

    Our new guideline on diet and physical activity for cancer prevention says adults should engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, and that it's best to avoid alcohol.

    At least 18% of all cancer cases in the U.S. are related to what we consume and our activity level. In fact, after not smoking, these lifestyle habits are the most important behaviors that people can control and change to help lower their cancer risk.

    The new guideline appears today in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

    The updated guideline reflects the latest evidence published since the last update in 2012. It is based on reviews conducted by the International Agency on Cancer Research, the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research, and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

    Here's a summary of what's changed:


    Adults should engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week; achieving or exceeding the upper limit of 300 minutes is optimal.

    Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.

    DIET(Healthy dietary patterns are associated with reduced risk for cancer, especially colorectal and breast cancers.)

    Follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages.

    A healthy eating pattern includes:

    • Foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;
    • A variety of vegetables—dark green, red, and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas), and others;
    • Fruits, especially whole fruits with a variety of colors; and 
    • Whole grains.

    A healthy eating pattern limits or does not include:

    • Red and processed meats;
    • Sugar-sweetened beverages; or
    • Highly processed foods and refined grain products.

    Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods. 

    • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Limit consumption of processed meat and red meat.
    • Eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
    • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.


    It is best not to drink alcohol. People who do choose to drink alcohol should limit their consumption to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. (A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)

    If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption. Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.

    Recommendation for Community Action

    Public, private, and community organizations should work collaboratively at national, state, and local levels to develop, advocate for, and implement policy and environmental changes that increase access to affordable, nutritious foods; provide safe, enjoyable, and accessible opportunities for physical activity; and limit alcohol for all individuals.

    Public, private, and community organizations should work collaboratively at national, state, and local levels to implement policy and environmental changes that:

    • Increase access to affordable, healthy foods in communities, worksites, and schools, and decrease access to and marketing of foods and beverages of low nutritional value, particularly to youth.
    • Provide safe, enjoyable, and accessible environments for physical activity in schools and worksites, and for transportation and recreation in communities.

    Additional recommendations for diet and physical activity 

    • Get to and stay at a healthy body weight throughout life. If you’re overweight or obese, losing even a few pounds can lower your risk for some types of cancer.
    • Children and teens should get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day.
    • Spend less time sitting or lying down. This includes time looking at your phone, tablet, computer, or TV.
    • Eat a colorful variety of vegetables and fruits, and plenty of whole grains and brown rice.
    • Avoid or limit eating red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, deli meats, and hot dogs.
    • Avoid or limit sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods, and refined grain products.


    The updated guideline also includes answers to questions that commonly arise within the general public, including information on genetically modified crops, gluten-free diets, juicing/cleanses, and more.

    • Genetically modified crops are made by adding genes to plants to give them desired qualities like being resistant to pests or having a better flavor. There is no evidence at this time that foods made with these crops are harmful to health, or that they affect cancer risk.
    • Gluten is a protein in wheat, rye, and barley that is safe for most people. People with celiac disease should not eat gluten. For people without celiac disease, there is no evidence linking a gluten-free diet with a lower risk of cancer. There are many studies linking whole grains, including those with gluten, with a lower risk of colon cancer.
    • There is no scientific evidence to support claims that drinking only juices for one or more days (a “juice cleanse”) reduces cancer risk or provides other health benefits. A diet limited to juice may lack some important nutrients and in some cases may even lead to health problems.

  • Diversity, inclusion, and equity in America

    Our mission cannot be achieved without equity in all aspects of American life

    The American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network are saddened and distressed by the tragic deaths of the Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd.

    It bears underscoring that the external climate and the issues of systemic injustice have a direct impact on our organization and our work. Diversity is a core value for the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; inclusion and equity are critical to our mission. As organizations deeply committed to addressing health disparities, we recognize that health equity cannot be fully achieved without equity in all aspects of American life.

    Individuals and institutions across the country have a responsibility to ensure equity. Yet, too often our nation falls short. The American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network see the impact every single day through the cancer lens. Cancer is a disease that can affect anyone, but it does not affect everyone equally. Black communities and others disparately impacted by cancer experience greater obstacles to cancer prevention, treatment and survival, including systemic racial disparities that go beyond the obvious connection to cancer. They include racism, poverty, access to unhealthy foods, jobs with inadequate pay, low quality education and housing, and unsafe environments. 

    No one should be disadvantaged from fighting cancer because of the color of their skin, and all people deserve a fair opportunity to live long, healthy lives. 

    These issues guide us in nearly every initiative we undertake – from providing rides to treatment locally to advocating for access to health care nationwide.

    We’re proud to work for an organization and with volunteers and staff who are deeply committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity. It has never been more important, and each of us must live that commitment every day.

  • ACS cautions Americans to practice sun safety as stay-at-home orders are lifted

    ​As states begin opening beaches, parks, and public areas, the American Cancer Society wants to remind people that sun safety remains as important as ever.

    Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the nation, with almost 5.5 million cases diagnosed in Americans each year – more than breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancers combined.  In fact, 1 out of every 5 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma accounts for about 1% of all skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.

    “COVID-19 has forced Americans to remain indoors, and many people are anxious to get back to outdoor activities with some stay-at-home orders being lifted,” said Laura Makaroff, DO, senior vice president, prevention and early detection, at ACS. “As more people get outside, practicing social distancing and avoiding crowded areas is still very important to reduce the risk of COVID transmission, and it is also important to not forget the risks of sun exposure and sunburn and take appropriate steps to protect your skin.”

    Skin cancer is highly preventable. Over 90% of all skin cancer is caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices.  Americans can dramatically reduce their risk of skin cancer by:

    • Not burning or tanning intentionally – no tan is a safe tan. Generously apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 sun protection factor (SPF), and remember to reapply every two hours
    • Wearing sun-protective clothing and broad-brimmed hats
    • Seeking shade during peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Using extra caution near water, snow, and sand, all of which reflect the sun's rays

    For more information about skin cancer and what you can do to lower your risk, visit

  • REPLAY: Special NCCRT webinar on the latest colorectal cancer stats and trends

    In this May 18 webinar, Robert Smith, PhD, senior vice president of cancer screening at ACS, and Rebecca Siegel, MPH, scientific director of surveillance research at ACS, provide a closer look at the findings from Colorectal Cancer Statistics 2020.

    Watch the replay here.

    The webinar focuses on findings released on March 5, 2020, that indicate the burden of colorectal cancer is swiftly shifting to younger individuals as incidence increases in young adults and declines in older age groups. 

    Also, the median age of diagnosis has dropped from age 72 in 2001-2002 to age 66 during 2015-2016, and half of all new diagnoses are in people 66 or younger. The publication is accompanied by a consumer version, Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures and a press release is also available.

  • Cancer patients increasingly face COVID-19 health impact

    Second ACS CAN survey finds more delays in care, financial strain, and negative mental health effects

    Cancer patients and survivors are finding it increasingly challenging to get necessary health care as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Many are experiencing financial stress and mental health issues as they try to navigate the difficult health and economic environment. 

    In an ACS CAN survey of cancer patients and survivors, 87% of respondents said the pandemic had affected their health care in some manner, up from 51% in an April survey. Of those in active treatment, 79% reported delays to their health care (up from 27%), including 17% of patients who reported delays to their cancer therapy like chemotherapy, radiation, or hormone therapy. The most commonly reported effects for those in active treatment were changes to in-person cancer provider appointments (57%*), and delays in access to imaging services (25% up from 20%) and surgical procedures (15% up from 8%). Delayed access to support services, including physical therapy or mental health care, remained steady (20%).

    Nearly 1 in 4 patients surveyed say the pandemic has made it more difficult to contact their providers with questions about their health care needs, and 1 in 5 say they are worried their cancer could be growing or returning due to delays and interruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

    “The situation is getting worse, not better for cancer patients during this pandemic,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Health practitioners continue to work to balance safety for an immunocompromised population at increased risk for contracting COVID with timely treatment to prevent the spread of cancer. Unfortunately, this results in delays in treatment for many cancer patients.”

    Patients are also under significant financial strain. Forty-six percent said the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted their financial situation and ability to pay for care in some way (up from 38%). And nearly a quarter (23%) said they worry they may lose their health insurance due to the pandemic and its effects on the economy.

    While a majority of respondents said they are sheltering in place, 18% said they were working outside the home, including 11% of those still in active treatment. More than a third (34%) of patients say they’re anxious the pandemic will make it hard to afford basic household expenses. Concerns are especially prevalent among lower-income patients, with more than half (54%) of those earning $30,000 or less reporting that they’re worried about affording essentials like rent, food, and utilities

    This combined medical and financial stress has resulted in nearly half (48%) of patients saying the COVID-19 pandemic has had a moderate or major effect on their mental health. In particular, 67% said they worry it will be harder for them to stay safe when social distancing and other restrictions are relaxed in their area, and 70% of patients worry they will be unable to find protective equipment like gloves or masks to help keep them safe.

    The survey also collected feedback from a small group of providers and caregivers who similarly reported concern about delayed care and difficulties providing support for patients while being unable to see them, as well as a lack of personal protective equipment. Caregivers, like patients, reported anxiety over reopening and the increased potential for their and their loved one’s exposure to the virus.

    “A cancer diagnosis brings any number of challenges and stressors, but right now it’s even more fraught with additional barriers to timely and affordable care that could be further exacerbated by job loss – like millions of Americans have already endured,” Lisa said. “COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the barriers to affordable health care that cancer patients have long faced. The survey responses highlight the increasing and urgent need for Congress to swiftly pass measures that help these patients alleviate their physical, financial and emotional strain during and beyond the pandemic.”

    The web-based survey was taken by more than 1,200 cancer patients and survivors. This sample provides a margin of error +/- 3% and 96% confidence level.  Additional input was provided by 111 caregivers and 139 health care providers supporting cancer patients and survivors.

    A full polling memo can be found here.

    NOTE: The previous survey did not distinguish between cancer provider and other in-person provider appointments, so no comparison is available.

  • 20 patient groups urge Supreme Court to uphold health care law

    ​COVID-19 pandemic makes clear the urgent need for patient protections and access to health insurance.

    Twenty patient groups representing millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions filed an amicus curiae (“friend-of-the-court”) brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case California v. Texas (previously Texas v. United States), citing the devastating impact patients would face should the court rule to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case after the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down the individual mandate without a tax penalty as unconstitutional and sent the case back to the District Court to determine if the mandate can be “severed” from the rest of the law. The District Court previously ruled the entire law was invalid.

    The patient groups argue the law has expanded access to health insurance coverage and has improved patient outcomes as Congress intended. Congress’s decision to keep the ACA in place after eliminating the tax penalty tied to the individual mandate reinforces that intent.

    Following is the groups’ joint statement:

    “While the coronavirus pandemic further highlights the importance of access to meaningful health insurance coverage for millions of Americans – especially for those who are at high-risk of being severely affected by the virus – patient protections in the ACA provide an essential lifeline for countless Americans who have pre-existing or acute conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and lung diseases.

    “If the entire health care law is invalidated, health plans could once again deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition, set arbitrary lifetime and annual limits on care, and skirt essential benefits necessary to prevent and treat acute conditions. The link between access to comprehensive health coverage and patient outcomes is well established. Because of the ACA there have been statistically significant shifts toward early-stage diagnosis for several common cancers, a surge of people getting screened for and diagnosed with diabetes, and a significant drop in uninsured substance abuse or mental health disorder hospitalizations in states that expanded Medicaid.

    “Invalidating the law would likely reverse these gains. It also would jeopardize the federal tax credits that make health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans, threatening their access to critical health coverage, and rescind Medicaid expansion funding, crippling the safety net health insurance program at a time when millions more unemployed Americans have no alternate coverage option.

    “Undoing the patient protections and improved health care access would ignore the will of Congress at the expense of millions of Americans who would lose their coverage and millions more who would likely be unable to obtain coverage due to pre-existing conditions. We urge the Supreme Court to uphold the decade-old law and preserve access to health insurance – and therefore health care—for millions of Americans.”

    Read a copy of the brief.

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