Central Asia & Europe

Spot On CML: A Little Card That’s Making a Big Difference for Diagnostics

Access to accurate diagnostics is a major challenge for many cancer patients in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This is especially true for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients. GeneXperts, the machines used to diagnose CML, run $10,000-$70,000 USD, and the cartridges used for each test cost around $50 USD. At these prices, many health facilities in LMICs cannot afford to provide CML diagnostic testing for their patients. And without a definitive diagnosis, CML patients are unable to access lifesaving drug therapies.

The Max Foundation Senior Program Manager, Erin Lindsay Schneider, saw this situation firsthand when she visited the National Medical Center in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in April this year. When she spoke to the doctors there, she learned that diagnostic testing for CML patients isn’t available in Tajikistan. Patients must pay to have their blood hand-delivered to Moscow for testing. This option is out-of-reach for most in a country where 31% of the population lives below the poverty line. Partner physician, Dr. Mirzovali Rahimov, estimates that as many as 200 CML patients in Tajikistan lack access to diagnostic testing and, as a result, go without appropriate drug treatment. This situation isn’t unique to Tajikistan; CML testing capability is limited throughout Central Asia and Central America. Only two countries in sub-Saharan Africa have diagnostic testing for CML.

The Max Foundation and Dr. Jerry Radich of the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch) are now partnering to help tackle this problem and improve CML diagnostics in underserved regions. Dr. Radich has developed a low-cost, paper-based diagnostic testing method for CML. Previously, vials of blood were sent to labs in Europe and the U.S. for testing, which was both costly and unreliable – vials were often damaged in transit. With this new method, a physician spots a patient’s blood onto a test card and sends the card to Dr. Radich’s lab at the Fred Hutch for processing. He and his team are able to perform accurate diagnostic testing on the samples even after weeks of transport. Once patients are diagnosed, The Max Foundation connects them with available treatments free of charge. The free treatment is made possible thanks to The Max Foundation’s partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to provide cancer drugs to patients in need in specified LMICs.

Program Officer, Erin Lindsay Schneider, with physicians at the National Medical Center in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Dr. Mirzovali Rahimov is at the far right.

When Erin Lindsay learned that patients in Tajikistan lacked access to diagnostic testing locally, she told Dr. Mirzovali about the diagnostic program, dubbed Spot On CML. Spot On CML prioritizes physicians and patients who otherwise lack access to CML diagnostics, making Tajikistan an ideal candidate for. Dr. Mirzovali eagerly agreed to participate. Over the following weeks, he and Erin Lindsay coordinated shipment of the testing supplies, and Dr. Mirzovali gathered patients to draw blood samples, carefully prepared the test cards and shipped them to Jerry Radich’s lab in Seattle for processing. In July, the first results came in: 14 Tajikistan patients tested positive for Philadelphia chromosome-positive CML and were immediately approved for drug therapy. These patients range in age from 25 to 64.

Dr. Jerry Radich of Fred Hutch shows Pat Garcia-Gonzalez of The Max Foundation the results of a PCR test in his office in Seattle.

Demand for the Spot program is quickly growing. Testing in now underway for more patients in Tajikistan, as well as Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger and Mongolia. The Max Foundation and Dr. Radich aim to test at least 365 patients – on for every day in the year – and connect them with treatment over the next 12 months. Spot On CML is making great strides toward overcoming barriers to diagnostics and better health for CML patients in low and middle-income countries!

Learn more about Spot On CML

Around the World for Max’s Day!

It was an amazing 24 hours! To celebrate Max’s birthday anniversary, we went around the world through Facebook Live to visit each regional office, meet special friends, and learn how each of us contributes to caring and supporting people facing cancer. Never before has our team felt so close and united.

Watch each of the six Facebook Live recordings below to celebrate this brilliant team of advocates!

Live in Singapore

Our dear friend and CML patient, Tony Leo kicked things off on October 19 in Singapore! Tony shared a bit about his journey and experience with cancer. He also gave a special performance of his song, You, dedicated to Max’s legacy through The Max Foundation.

Live from Malaysia: Celebrating Max's Day!

We're traveling around the world with Facebook Live! First up, Tony Leo, a CML patient and musician, shares the story behind the song You and gives a special performance live!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Live in Thailand

Next we head to Thailand, where our Asia Pacific team members interview a patient who gives back to the MaxSmiles community by cooking large servings of delicious Thai dishes for patients. It’s a testimony of the power of hospitality and kindness.

Live from Thailand: Celebrating Max's Day!

Our Thailand team shares how hospitality and kindness are simple but powerful ways to make a difference in the lives of people facing cancer.

Posted by The Max Foundation on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Live in India

Over in India, our South Asia regional office join in the fun with a wonderful skit showing the patient journey through cancer. Community is key when you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis, and the South Asia team is creating committed networks of patients throughout the region.

Live from India: Celebrating Max's Day

The Max Foundation team in India joins us on Facebook Live to share how people in India are facing cancer with dignity and hope. In the journey of life, no one expects to get cancer – but that doesn't mean the story is over!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Live from Kenya

In Kenya, Lucy represents our Africa & Middle East region and is joined by patient advocates who have gone above and beyond their cancer diagnosis in order to help others face cancer with dignity and hope. They also brought out a beautiful cake decorated by a local patient!

Live from Kenya : Celebrating Max's Day!

From our Nairobi, Kenya team, we hear how cancer patients are combating stigma and raising their voices to support and care for everyone facing cancer!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Live in Argentina

Our Latin America team was represented by Vicky and Melisa in our Buenos Aires office. Together, they shared their love to all in the region and around the world. They also led us through a special mindfulness exercise to focus our attention and energy!

Live from Argentina: Celebrating Max’s Day!

Our Latin America team in Buenos Aires shows how they care for patients in the region by leading us in guided mindfulness. They also share a tour of the office and how they offer support and care to others.

Posted by The Max Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Live in the USA

Finally, we cap off our very full day with a celebration in our Seattle headquarters. Team members and friends gathered to watch the live streams of the day and Pat took to Facebook Live to reflect on Max’s legacy. We also revealed the winner of this year’s Excellence in Patient Advocacy award – congratulations to Viji Venkatesh, South Asia Region Head!

Live from Seattle: Celebrating Max's Day!

We visit The Max Foundation headquarters to join the celebration with friends and team members! Pat offers her thoughts on the day and reflects on the legacy of Max. She also awards one team member with the Excellence in Patient Advocacy award!

Posted by The Max Foundation on Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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