Vietnam Medical Association and Roche Vietnam Report Significant Advances in First Year of Joint Project to Improve Access to Innovative Breast Cancer Therapies in 2020-2025

4:00:17 PM | 1/17/2022

Recently, the Vietnam Medical Association (VMA) and Roche Vietnam held a meeting to review the first year of implementation of the joint project to “Improve access to innovative therapies for high-risk breast cancer patients in Vietnam for the period 2020 – 2025”.

Despite the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, this strategic project has achieved positive and sustainable progress, thanks to the innovative and close cooperation among key stakeholders at the Government level (Ministry of Health, Vietnam Social Security, and Vietnam Health Insurance), medical institutions, major hospitals, and Roche Vietnam.

According to GLOBOCAN 2020, with more than 21,500 new cases diagnosed per year and counts for 25.8% of all female cancer patients, Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Vietnamese women. At the same time, with 9,345 deaths per year, breast cancer is the third most fatal cancer type in Vietnam, after liver and lung cancer.

Addressing this significant unmet need for better awareness and treatment, the project to “Improve access to innovative therapies for high-risk breast cancer patients” is the very first comprehensive project targeting breast cancer in Vietnam. It is deployed in key hospitals nationwide with collaboration by several crucial healthcare stakeholders since 2020.

At the review meeting, Deputy Minister of Health Professor Dr. Tran Van Thuan said: “The project to ‘Improve access to innovative therapies for high-risk breast cancer patients in the period 2020 – 2025’ has made important contributions to achieving the objectives of the National Strategy for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases like cancer in 2015 – 2025.

Associate Professor, Dr. Nguyen Thi Xuyen, President of the VMA, stated: “The very first project in Vietnam dedicated to breast cancer, we are overjoyed that project has so quickly reached such an unprecedented scale and number of partners. Implemented amid the extraordinary difficulties caused by COVID-19, this strategic project has made positive, tangible and sustainable improvements after just a year of deployment. This would not have been possible without the tremendous efforts of healthcare professionals and the key stakeholders’ commitment to save patients across the country.”

Lennor Carrillo, General Manager of Roche Pharma Vietnam, said: “As a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, Roche is committed to working with Vietnam to address healthcare challenges through a variety of activities. Roche Vietnam is proud to be part of the project and is delighted to witness the success after a year of implementation. We are looking forward to a better future for patients with breast cancer in particular and the Vietnamese healthcare system in general.”

Raising awareness with free breast cancer diagnosis for thousands of women

For many years, many breast cancer patients in Vietnam were diagnosed at late stages of disease due to limited public awareness of breast cancer and understanding of the importance of early screening. Meanwhile, screening services were not covered by health insurance, disincentivizing voluntary testing.

One of the four goals of the project is to increase awareness and early breast cancer detection rates among high-risk women. The official column "Breast Cancer Corner" has been launched by the Bright Future Fund (BFF) and the National Institute for Cancer Control (NCI) on the website, featuring 25 articles written by leading oncologists in Vietnam. On mass media, the Breast Cancer Corner has gained over 1 million impressions. Besides, several workshops such as "Raising awareness about breast cancer" and "Understanding breast cancer" have been carried out, reaching thousands nationwide.

The program highlight was “Joining Hands for Her”, which offered screening to approximately 3,000 women in their 40s nationwide. The screenings took place at 7 hospitals including the Vietnam National Cancer Hospital, Bach Mai Hospital, Hai Duong Medical Technical University, Hue Central Hospital, Danang Oncology Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital, and Hanoi Oncology Hospital. The project has been widely promoted, reaching 3.7 million impressions to raise community awareness about breast cancer prevention and early detection, as well as encouraging local women to use regular breast screening services.

Enhancing capacity of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in Vietnam

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, several project initiatives have been implemented, both online and offline. Specifically, a great number of medical staff were provided training on multidisciplinary treatment and clinical research at five key hospitals participating in the project, including Vietnam National Cancer Hospital, Bach Mai Hospital, Hanoi Oncology Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City Oncology Hospital and Cho Ray Hospital. This has contributed to a measurable improvement in the quality of patient service.  

Building database to foster sustainable efficiency gains

Another important objective of the “Improve access to innovative therapies for high-risk breast cancer patients” project is to build a database for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. After a year of implementation, 11 health-economic research projects have been implemented on breast cancer screening and treatment. These projects have conducted a systematic review of the cost effectiveness of breast cancer screening detection strategies as well as an overview of breast cancer screening/treatment payment policies. 6 out of 11 researches were completed. The research results have provided useful information and recommendations for the database building, the creation of appropriate strategies, and the sustainable improvement of quality of life for patients with breast cancer.

B.H (Vietnam Business Forum)