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The one hundred honoree: BOTSwana Oncology Global Outreach (BOTSOGO)

Profile in Medicine

The one hundred honoree: BOTSwana Oncology Global Outreach (BOTSOGO)

Mass General Giving

The BOTSwana Oncology Global Outreach program (BOTSOGO) works to improve access to quality cancer care in Botswana through a growing collaboration between physicians and other healthcare professionals in Boston and in Botswana. BOTSOGO, which means “health” in Botswana’s primary language, was co-founded and is co-directed by Jason A. Efstathiou, MD, DPhil, and Scott Dryden-Peterson, MD, and their team comprises representatives from the Mass General Cancer Center, the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership, Botswana’s cancer caregivers and the Botswana government. The group’s ultimate goal is to improve access to quality cancer care in Botswana by educating the Botswana population, training future generations of cancer caregivers and conducting vital clinical research.

The global burden of cancer is considerable. The majority of cancer cases and more than 70% of cancer deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Based on current population trends, global cancer mortality is expected to double by the year 2030. The problem is magnified in Botswana, which has the second highest infection rate of AIDS/HIV in the world. As HIV patients are beginning to live longer with effective therapy, healthcare providers are seeing a surge of cancer cases. More than 60% of new cancer cases in Botswana are due to HIV-associated malignancies.

Today, thanks to BOTSOGO, the Botswana physicians are fully trained in brachytherapy (a form of delivering local radiation that can be curative of cancers such as cervical cancer) and treat 30- 50 patients each month. A monthly internet-based tumor board draws the BOTSOGO community together and serves as a catalyst for new initiatives. A full-time Mass General medical oncologist now supports the Botswana staff in improving the quality and safety of their cancer care.

As Justin Eusebio, a program coordinator, says, “The obstacles seem insurmountable but the commitment and willingness to work together provides hope for the future.”