YEREVAN/BOSTON — There is nothing more heartrending than the sight of children suffering. One of the plagues children face everywhere is cancer. In Armenia, their affliction is made worse due to the lack of resources that are more readily available in the West. American Armenians who came face to face with this difficult situation could not but take action. Now they in turn reach out to the broader community in an effort to create a future in which Armenian children get the same level of treatment as in the United States. On April 5, an evening at the Westin Waltham Hotel featuring Anna Hakobyan, Honorary Chair of the City of Smile Charitable Foundation and spouse of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, will give the public the opportunity to support this vital humanitarian cause.
Today, children in Armenia with cancer primarily come to the Muratsan Chemotherapy Clinic in Yerevan for treatment. Amazingly, treatment is completely free. Children from Artsakh and Javakhk also come here, and even occasionally non-Armenian children from other places. Despite the successes that have been achieved until now by dedicated staff fighting heavy odds, there are many difficulties that this clinic and the medical system in Armenia must overcome in order to provide treatment on a level and scale parallel to that offered in Western countries.
Dr. Gevorg Tamamyan, a pediatric oncologist and hematologist at the Muratsan Clinic and Muratsan Hospital in Yerevan, who is also an associate professor of oncology at Yerevan State Medical University, explained that pediatric cancer was a fatal disease in the Soviet era in Armenia. In 1993, Dr. Samvel Danielyan, who had studied and worked in Moscow, returned to Armenia to change this situation, and became the founder of modern pediatric oncology there.
Danielyan started using German protocols for treatment, and because the necessary drugs were not available, initiated the creation of the Help for Armenia foundation in Germany with the aid of German colleagues and philanthropists to obtain drugs for pediatric leukemia. He began to find ways for the professional development of Armenian doctors, who were sent to Europe, Russia and the United States.
The survival rate of children with pediatric leukemia rose from the initial 0-5 percent to 65 percent, and now it is more than 70 percent. Danielyan eventually left his post at the Prof. R. H. Yolyan Hematology Center of the Armenian Ministry of Health in Yerevan and created the Muratsan Chemotherapy Clinic, connected to the Muratsan Hospital of Yerevan State Medical University, in 2008. The Muratsan Clinic treats almost all pediatric solid tumors in Armenia at the present, along with the majority of lymphomas and some leukemias. The clinic treats both children and adult patients with different types of oncological and hematological disorders. Many new types of treatment were started at this clinic which were not originally available in Armenia, with some of the results published formally.
There is no other clinic for children in Armenia in the private or public sectors. Yerevan State Medical University supports the clinic, which belongs to the Muratsan Hospital complex of the university. This means that there is an educational component of its activities, with students, fellows and research.