• Pathology in Global Health

    About twice a week, the Pathology Department at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's receives biopsy samples from children with cancer from hospitals in various underdeveloped or developing countries. What happens next can make all the difference to a child and his or her family thousands of miles away. Pathologists in those countries do their best but often have limited expertise in complex cases and lack the most advanced diagnostic techniques — some of which are more costly than the hospitals can afford.

    The Pathology team confirms, improves on, or modifies the tentative diagnoses made in the local pathology departments, most of which are in hospitals that have a "twinning" relationship with the Global Health Initiative (GHI).

    More often than not — about 70 percent of the time — pathologists at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s can use its resources to provide a better diagnosis. For example, a 10-month-old girl in Santander, Colombia, was initially thought to have a dangerous sarcoma of the kidney. When a Boston Children’s pathologist examined a tissue sample, using tests not available at the Colombian hospital, he revised the diagnosis: it was actually a congenital tumor called mesoblastic nephroma, which can be cured by complete surgical removal.

    Another case was that of a 12-year-old boy diagnosed in Managua, Nicaragua, with a soft tissue lump in his groin that doctors had concluded was an alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. Instead, the pathologist determined it was an anaplastic large cell lymphoma, which — although aggressive — is curable with chemotherapy.

    The entire Pathology team is committed to making a difference in the lives of kids with cancer through this free, long-distance consulting service. They not only provide comprehensive evaluation of the cases, but also participate in weekly web-conferences with the GHI partners to review cases and educate local pathologists.

    Helping our partners in underdeveloped or developing countries obtain an accurate, effective, and timely diagnosis is the first step towards increasing the survival of children with cancer and expanding access to cancer care and control.

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