Biopharmaceutical leader Takeda Healthcare Philippines Inc. (“Takeda Philippines”) has launched the “Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma” initiative to answer the call of the government’s National Integrated Cancer Control Act for medical stakeholders to come together and work towards a cancer-free Philippines.
The initiative is led by Takeda Philippines and is supported by various organizations including the Philippine Cancer Society, Health Futures Inc., Philippine College of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine, Philippine Society of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, Philippine Society of Pathologists, Carewell Community Foundation and Lymphoma Philippines. “Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma” aims to raise awareness about lymphoma and improve access to lymphoma treatments in the Philippines by providing free testing to patients, partnering with relevant organizations and institutions, and sponsoring talks and seminars to educate the public about the disease.
What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is the most common type of blood cancer in the world. According to a study by the Global Cancer Observatory (Globocan), over 600,000 new cases of lymphoma were detected worldwide in 2020, making it the 11th most common cancer in the world. In the Philippines, there were over 4,000 new patients diagnosed with lymphoma, making it the among the 30 most common cancers in the country. This might seem like a small fraction of the population, but if left untreated, lymphoma can be deadly for the people who suffer from it, with nearly 300,000 deaths resulting from the disease in 2020 alone, 2,500 of which were recorded in the Philippines.
The pandemic has also put those with lymphoma at risk, as patients with the disease were identified to be more susceptible to COVID-19 according to a study published in the World Journal of Virology. And with the fear of being infected by COVID-19 still looming, it has been more difficult for people experiencing symptoms of the disease to go out and undergo testing for lymphoma.
Lymphoma begins when an infection-fighting white blood cell or lymphocyte mutates, divides and grows out of control, compromising the immune system and lodging itself onto lymph nodes or “kulani” and causing them to swell. Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of lymphoma that involves the presence of a specific type of lymphocyte, Reed-Sternberg cells. Hodgkin lymphoma cases comprise one-fifth of all lymphoma cases in the world, making it a rare cancer.
And like any other cancer, detecting the disease in its early stages is essential, as survival rates drop from 90% to 70% in patients with advanced stages of the disease. Even then, relapse is common in advanced stages of the disease, with one-quarter to one-third of patients not achieving long-term remission with standard frontline therapy. However, detecting it is not an easy feat.
Hodgkin lymphoma shares common symptoms with other diseases such as fever, chills, night sweats, unexplained weight loss and fatigue. This, coupled with the fact that it is a relatively rare disease, makes it difficult for people to identify it in its early stages. The most telling signs are painless lumps or swelling of lymph nodes or “kulani” in the neck, armpit or groin region, but even then, the only way to get properly diagnosed is through biopsy or CD30 testing, which is not accessible to everyone. It’s also due to its rarity that there is a lack of public awareness about Hodgkin lymphoma, with treatment options and relevant information not readily available to patients.
Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma
As part of this initiative, Takeda Philippines has ongoing partnerships with several organizations to improve access to testing and raise awareness about the disease. One of its recently concluded partnerships is with the Philippine Cancer Society, where Takeda Philippines provided support to patients through free CD30 testing to help detect Hodgkin lymphoma. To date, the partnership has provided free testing to over 60 patients all over the country.
Aside from making testing more accessible, Takeda has also partnered with the Philippine College of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine, Philippine Society of Pathology, Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, Philippine Society of Hematology and Blood Transfusion and Health Futures, Inc. for various webinars and talks on Hodgkin lymphoma for medical professionals and patients alike.
“Rare cancers like lymphoma continue to be a problem due to lack of awareness and information available to the public, which is why patients continue to search for treatment options and support in managing their disease. With the ‘Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma’ initiative, we hope to reinforce our commitment in providing access to innovative medicines to lymphoma patients and to address gaps in the areas of screening, diagnosis, treatment and patient support,” said Loreann Villanueva, Country Manager of Takeda Philippines.
Lymphoma Philippines, one of the partner organizations of Takeda Philippines, shared their support for the newly-launched initiative. “We at Lymphoma Philippines try our best to help every patient that needs support in any way we can, whether by providing information, improving access to treatment or supporting patient advocacy. By joining the ‘Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma’ initiative, we hope to make the general public more aware about lymphoma, the issues that patients face and what they can do to help,” said Jheric Delos Angeles, co-founder of Lymphoma Philippines.
Given the rarity of their condition, Hodgkin lymphoma patients may feel isolated as they are less likely to meet other people with the same form of their disease. With the “Spot Lymphoma, Stop Lymphoma” campaign, Takeda and its partners hope to raise public awareness, inform the public about treatment options and make information about the disease more readily available.
If you or someone you know has been experiencing any symptoms associated with Hodgkin lymphoma, please consult with your local oncologist or hematologist.