Closing the pediatric cancer survival gap

Pediatric cancer care at the UBS Optimus Foundation

Share this page

UBS Optimus Foundation works with our clients to support organizations in low-and middle income countries that partner with governments to create replicable models that increase pediatric cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Together we can close the gap in childhood cancer care.

The problem you'll help to address 

There has been significant progress in addressing pediatric cancer in high-income and upper-middle income countries, while the number of deaths continues to rise in low-income countries. Three-quarters of new pediatric cancer cases occur in low- and middle-income countries. And deaths from childhood cancer are growing rapidly. Most of these children could survive with access to timely diagnosis and treatment.

Challenges across the care continuum, lead to low survival rates of pediatric cancer in low-income countries, including:

No or late diagnosis

Children are often not or late diagnosed due to a lack of awareness in families about cancer symptoms and other access barriers to primary or specialized care centers.


Children can be misdiagnosed due to a lack of trained physicians, including pathologists, or specialist diagnostic equipment such as imaging machines.

Lack of treatment access, delays & abandonment

Several factors are barriers to treatment, such as scarcity of trained pediatric oncologists and nurses, low supply of treatment options, lack of financial resources within the family or lack of non-medical supportive care for pediatric patients.

Fatal toxicity or ineffective treatment

Inadequate treatment protocols not adapted to low-resource settings or insufficient ancillary medical care can lead to relapse or death.

How we work

The UBS Optimus Foundation focuses on four key strategic focus areas of comprehensive interventions to strengthen affordable access and care capacity for pediatric cancer.

Building the workforce of pediatric oncology specialists


  • We create and strengthen pediatric oncology training programs for physicians
  • We support programs to strengthen specialized nursing skills and key sub-specialties (pathology, pediatric surgery)

Increasing early diagnosis and improving referral pathways


  • We pilot, refine, and scale up delivery of early warning signs training for frontline healthcare providers in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • We build capacity of ’shared care’ centers to diagnose and refer or treat at lower-level facilities

Reducing treatment abandonment


  • We provide patients with social support services including psycho-social support and education
  • We support families with cost of living, accommodation and transportation during treatment 

Addressing financial barriers to treatment


  • We assess bottlenecks to affordability of cancer treatments
  • We use market shaping and other innovative approaches lower cost of treatment and strengthen supply chains

What are our ultimate goals?

We aim to reduce child mortality from cancer in Low- and Middle-Income countries through:

  • Increased services coverage of national health insurance schemes
  • Governments and donors prioritizing efforts to improve access to pediatric cancer care
  • Proven models for increasing pediatric cancer diagnosis and treatment adopted and replicated by governments.

Stories from the field

Hear from some of the professionals we have supported through our partners in Ghana.

Meet Angela from the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra

We have been working with World Child Cancer and their partner Korle Bu Teaching Hospital’s Centre of Excellence in Ghana to support them in transforming child cancer care. Learn how by spending a few minutes with Augusta Asiedu-Lartey, a Child Life Specialist, as she shares more about her daily work looking after the mental and physical wellbeing of children and their caregivers during treatment there.

Meet nurse Pat from the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra

Despite being technically retired, she goes above and beyond in her role every day to make the lives of five-year-old Tiwo and the many other children who suffer from pediatric cancer a little easier.

“Cancer is a heavy load for anyone, but even more so for families in Ghana. Here, families struggle to find the funds to pay for three meals a day, yet alone the cost of cancer. Because of this, it is important for us as nurses to go above our duty of care to not only support the child, but also the families, with the mental stresses of having a child with cancer,” says Pat.

Our recommended partners

Here are some of the partners that we are working with:

World Child Cancer’s (WCC) mission is to improve diagnosis, treatment and support in the developing world for children with cancer and their families, so that every child with cancer has equal access to the best treatment and care. Over the past ten years WCC has worked to improve services for over 20,000 children with cancer. 

The Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI) is a global health organization committed to strengthening integrated health systems and expanding access to care and treatment in the developing world. CHAI’s solution-oriented approach focuses on improving market dynamics for medicines and diagnostics; lowering prices for treatment; accelerating access to lifesaving technologies; and helping governments build the capacity required for high-quality care and treatment programs.

Funding from a UBS impact investment

Funding for our multi-year projects with World Child Cancer and the Clinton Health Access Initiative comes from philanthropists working with UBS Optimus Foundation as well as the UBS Oncology Impact Fund.

The UBS Oncology Impact Fund is an impact investment initiative in oncology research that donates part of its performance fee and one percent of royalties to oncology research and cancer care access.

UBS Optimus Foundation has been able to grant almost USD 7 million to pediatric cancer special initiatives thanks to the proceeds from the Oncology Impact Fund and UBS Optimus Foundation client donations.

Want to speak with our experts?

Contact your client advisor or reach out to our UBS Optimus Health experts at

Marissa Leffler
Program Director, Health
UBS Optimus Foundation

About Marissa

Marissa leads health investments across the UBS Optimus Foundation ‘capital stack’ including grantmaking, debt and equity, and outcomes-based financing instruments. In this role Marissa sets the Foundation’s investment strategy and cultivates a portfolio to contribute towards measurable impact on children’s health. Marissa also co-leads the Foundation’s Emergency Response efforts with the aim of providing immediate relief and supporting longer-term recovery for children affected by humanitarian crises.

Prior to UBS, Marissa spent over 10 years at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where she most recently served as the Innovation Team Leader in the Global Health Center for Innovation and Impact, a center of excellence established to accelerate the development, introduction, and scale up of priority global health interventions.

Marissa also has a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Cedrine Gisin
Program Manager, Health
UBS Optimus Foundation 

About Cedrine

Cédrine serves as Program Director managing health investments across the UBS Optimus Foundation ‘capital stack’ including grantmaking, debt and equity, and outcomes-based financing instruments. In this role Cédrine sets the Foundation’s health investment strategy and cultivates a portfolio to contribute towards scalable quality primary healthcare that improves the health of the world’s most vulnerable children. She also co-leads the Emergency Response work of the Foundation supporting children and their families to recover more quickly from disasters and build resilience to cope with future shocks. 

Prior to UBS, Cédrine spent over two years in the life science industry. At Novartis, she most recently worked in Corporate Responsibility Strategy contributing to a new company-wide social impact reporting approach. She graduated from the University of St.Gallen with a Master's degree in Business Innovation. During her studies she conducted research on scaling mobile health innovations in low and middle income countries. 

Better health for all

Want to learn more about how to have an impact towards better health for all? Read 'Picture of Health', our client guide for philanthropists and changemakers.