What are the major transformations CCCL has implemented in the past year?
Hana Chaar Choueib We are celebrating our 14th anniversary this year and are introducing innovative ideas to be able to cope with the increasing number of patients approaching us. The economic environment is anything but positive at the moment, and we need to raise USD15 million to secure treatment for our patients, which is why we are mobilizing our efforts to guarantee the money despite the downturn in fundraising. Our strategy has been reoriented to approach as many donors as we can, regardless of their potential to donate money. We have introduced a wider spectrum of programs dedicated to individual and small donors and the response has been positive so far. We have always been completely transparent with our donors, have good brand recognition, and are open to people who want to see how we work and how we invest donations.
What are your main partnerships abroad and how do they contribute to the work of CCCL in Lebanon?
HCC Our most significant partnership in the US is with St. Jude Hospital, which contributes USD1 million annually, used for research and certain medical programs to provide early diagnosis to patients. Even if a patient is not accepted into CCCL for capacity reasons, we can still provide them with diagnosis and testing protocols to continue the treatment elsewhere. Our survival rate reaches an average of 80%, and that is a main driver to continue our work. We have also created a separate entity called CCCL UK Limited through the Lebanese diaspora settled in the UK to raise funds for the center's needs here. Regarding other Arab nations, we have hosted events and meetings with other centers since 2006, and they have turned out to be supportive of our cause and we try to keep them close. This year we will have an event in Kuwait and another in Dubai to raise funds. Of the funds we raise, 70% comes from Lebanon and the rest from abroad.
How would you assess the support from the public sector for children's cancer treatment in Lebanon?
Dr. Hassan El Solh There is a high level of awareness regarding childhood cancer in Lebanon, which motivates a great amount of support from society in that aspect. There is a great sense of social responsibility to battle this catastrophic disease, and this is evident in all the volunteering work carried out here at the center, whether it is for medical, financial, or educational reasons. We also get support from the Ministry of Public Health and from the National Social Security Fund for partial coverage of the patients' expenses during their treatment, including chemo and radiation therapy. We have come to realize that people maintain the support when they see the results in children that leave the center healthy.
What is the main challenge currently facing CCCL?
HCC The main challenge is the cost of healthcare since the treatment involves hospitalization, medication, intensive care, surgical procedures, and radiation. Moreover, the biological modifiers employed during the treatment are truly expensive and can cost around USD200,000 in some cases. The challenge for us is to provide treatment to as many patients as possible whilst maintaining the best technological applications and a state-of-the-art treatment free of cost to our patients. We also require our staff to be experienced in their fields and to be trained for some of the varied tasks the center carries out, and that implies a challenge as well.
What would you like CCCL to achieve in the upcoming year?
HES Aligned with the AUBMC's 2020 Vision to expand to the new Medical Center of the American University of Beirut, which is being built next to the existing campus; we intend to be able to help a growing number of patients. This is a major expansion at the level of clinical care. We also established the Genomic Center recently thanks to a generous donation and now have the platform and infrastructure to conduct research at the biological level of cancer. We have had a great outcome in terms of cancer treatment and aim to go to a higher level to reach other places in the region and internationally. We want to become a world-class center with the leading vision on childhood cancer treatment. That will not happen in a year, but we aim for it to occur as soon as possible.