SickKids Foundation

SickKids Foundation

February 14, 2013 17:00 ET

SickKids Announces Caribbean Paediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Project

Partnerships with The University of the West Indies and local hospitals aim to increase childhood cancer survival rates

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 14, 2013) -

Editors Note: There is a photo associated with this press release.

SickKids Foundation today launched a new project aimed at improving diagnoses and outcomes for children affected by paediatric cancers and serious blood disorders in the Caribbean. The Caribbean-SickKids Paediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Project will help build health care capacity in six countries - Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas - by training health professionals, providing consultation and diagnostic expertise, and developing and expanding access to treatment and supportive care.

At a celebratory event held this evening, SickKids Foundation also announced a generous donation from the Leslois Shaw Foundation to become the lead donor for Barbados. Other confirmed donors to date include Myron and Berna Garron, Wayne Purboo and QuickPlay Media, and Sandals Foundation. Events held in support of this Project include Mining4Life Charity Challenge, Barbados Ball Canada Aid, Kardinal Offishall's Christmas Event, and Rock the Runway, bringing the total raised to $2 million and helping to ensure SickKids Foundation is on target to raise the $8 million needed over the next five years.

"If a child is born in Canada and develops cancer, it is believed the child has between an 80 to 90 per cent chance of surviving the disease. If that same child is born in the Caribbean and develops cancer there, the child has a much lower chance of surviving the disease," says Dr. Upton Allen, Division Head of Infectious Disease at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids)."The inequality between outcomes for children with cancer and serious blood disorders in the Caribbean compared to those in Canada is heartbreaking. Together, we can help change that."

In the Caribbean, there is a lack of medical professionals with specialized training in paediatric cancer care, limited technological resources which often prohibits proper diagnoses, few nurses and pharmacists able to provide specialized front-line health care and limited data on the effectiveness of treatments and epidemiology of paediatric cancer. Working with local hospital partners in the Caribbean, the Project includes a five-year plan for addressing the region's gaps in research, care and education in order to advance the diagnosis and management of paediatric cancer and blood disorders.

"The Caribbean faces limitations on its health resources, and these limitations affect the quality and length of life for children in this region," says Ted Garrard, President and CEO, SickKids Foundation. "These generous gifts will help build capacity for these Caribbean countries to more effectively diagnose and treat children with cancer and blood disorders. We are excited to launch this Project to help improve health outcomes for children in the Caribbean."

The Caribbean-SickKids Paediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Project is led by Dr. Victor Blanchette, former Chief of Haematology/Oncology and a native of Barbados, and Dr. Upton Allen, Division Head of Infectious Disease, who is a native of Jamaica. Both are physicians at SickKids.

Until recently, Jamaica did not have a single resident fully trained paediatric oncologist among its population of more than 2.8 million. Last May, Dr. Michelle Reece-Mills, who was trained at SickKids, returned home to Jamaica as the country's first and only fully trained physician specializing exclusively in children's cancer and blood disorders. The lack of trained medical professionals and access to care for children in her country diagnosed with cancer is what inspired Dr. Reece-Mills to complete her training at SickKids. She continues to work jointly with world-renowned SickKids experts, learning how to treat the full spectrum of paediatric cancers.

Dr. Reece-Mills will never forget a patient she treated in the second year of her residency at The University Hospital of the West Indies in Jamaica. A young girl was transferred from the Bahamas and immediately administered chemotherapy, and sadly, the girl died within a week of arriving at the hospital.

"This patient really touched me, and I remember wishing there was something else we could have done in this situation. We often don't have the resources in the Caribbean to treat these cases," says Dr. Reece-Mills. "I'm very excited to be a part of this SickKids Project because it will help provide more effective treatment for kids with cancer in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. For Jamaica's population, we need at least six or seven paediatric oncologists. I'm starting to see more interest in paediatric oncology from our residents and we hope to have more doctors involved in this Project."

"Too often, children in the Caribbean succumb to cancer because the proper diagnostics and treatments are not available. Our goal is to ensure more children are able to survive their diagnosis, be cured, and lead healthy, productive lives," says Dr. Victor Blanchette, haematologist, SickKids. "This Project will help build capacity in the Caribbean to deal with the fundamental challenges of paediatric cancer and serious blood disorders and will immediately improve the outlook and outcome for children living in all of the partner countries."

Elements of the five-year plan include using TeleMedicine, physician envoys, and the SickKids International Learner Programme to provide customized, hands-on training to local individuals, establishing and maintaining a patient registry to provide high-quality data and key outcomes, and increasing the knowledge of primary care practitioners and pharmacists in the region to improve cancer care access. Trainees will also travel from the Caribbean to SickKids on a regular basis for hands-on training and experience within the Garron Family Cancer Centre at SickKids. To date, seven trainees from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados have been to SickKids.

For more information on the Caribbean-SickKids Paediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Project, please visit To watch a video about the Project, please visit

About SickKids Foundation

Established in 1972, SickKids Foundation raises funds on behalf of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and is the largest charitable funder of child health research, learning and care in Canada. Philanthropy is a critical source of funding for SickKids -- one of the world's foremost paediatric health-care institutions. For the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012, SickKids Foundation made an investment of $61.3 million in children's health, a direct result of community and corporate support. For more information, please visit

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