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The NCI Center for Global Health hosted its first session at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) last week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional association related to cancer research, and its annual meeting is a veritable who’s who of cancer experts, industry leaders, and policy professionals. This year’s annual meeting included approximately 750 sessions and attracted 20,000 participants, fully overwhelming the Pennsylvania Convention Center in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’.
The NIH has recently awarded its first round of grants in a parallel U.S.-South Africa funding opportunity. Scientific cooperation between the U.S. and the Republic of South Africa was initiated in 1995, and has grown rapidly in recent years. Recognizing that enhanced cooperative biomedical research would be of mutual benefit to the U.S. and South Africa, the NIH Director and President of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in January, 2013 to develop a new U.S.-South Africa Program for Collaborative Biomedical Research. A working group, made up of members from both NIH and SAMRC developed strategic plans for collaboration, each allocating resources to support joint activities pursued under this program.
Initiatives funded through this program will advance biomedical research for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in not only the US and South Africa, but will contribute to the global wealth of knowledge of these diseases. Moreover, the scope of this initiative includes HIV/AIDS co-morbidities, and resulting malignancies. This opportunity was further targeted at expanding basic, translational, behavioral and applied research that will stimulate scientific discovery, and engage U.S. and South African researcher collaboration.
Cancer specific targets for this initiative include the following:
At its core, cancer research is about improving and saving lives of those afflicted by cancer. The Max Foundation, led by CEO and co-founder Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, has been widely credited with helping to save the lives of thousands of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) worldwide by helping patients access the cancer drug imatinib. Pat’s work to bring the fruits of cancer research to patients in low- and middle-income countries inspired the creation of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Global Cancer Medicine Humanitarian Award; and she the award’s first honoree.
Pat Garcia-Gonzalez started the Max Foundation as a tribute to her step-son, Max, who was diagnosed with CML in 1988 at the age of 14 and passed away in 1991. Thirteen years following Max’s diagnosis, imatinib was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat CML patients. Pat saw imatinib’s enormous potential to allow many patients to live a normal lifestyle, but recognized that the drug’s high cost meant that many patients in low- and middle-income countries would have no access to this life-saving treatment. Despite tremendous hurdles, Pat and her team at the Max Foundation worked with the pharmaceutical company, Novartis, to establish a mechanism to provide imatinib to patients in low-resource settings.
Last Wednesday I was able to attend and support the National Cancer Institute’s 3rd Symposium on Global Cancer Research; a satellite meeting to the 6th Annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) Conference in Boston. Partnering with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and CUGH, the Symposium featured speakers from various cancer disciplines including Dr. Larry Shulman (Dana-Farber), Dr. Sudha Sivaram (CGH), and Dr. Clement Adebamowo (University of Maryland). The Symposium centered on the theme of implementation science, a field which studies the integration of research findings and evidence into healthcare policy and practice. Attendees from universities, hospitals, government, and research institutions discussed the importance of assessments, site commitment, and data-set availability to prove the safety and effectiveness of cancer care delivery in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
A personal highlight was the interactive sessions; an opportunity for participant groups to tackle hypothetical implementation science situations encountered in LMICs with regard to pathology, cervical cancer, radiation, and pediatric oncology—challenges similar to those we undertake daily at CGH. I was able to brainstorm alongside researchers with backgrounds working in Haiti, Botswana, and Rwanda to identify the barriers to implementation in our assigned country and determine how funds could be effectively used to combat these deficiencies in both the short-term and long-term. One of our recommendations was to establish supply chain interventions, to ensure the availability of pathology materials. Another encouraged support staff training for slide preparation, allowing the limited number of pathologists in the country free to spend their time diagnosing tissue.
Health officials in India recently announced that the country of 1.25 billion is establishing a national cancer institute, which will be modeled after the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). A delegation of leading health officials from the Government of India visited the U.S. in March to discuss plans for the new establishment in India and to learn more about NCI’s intramural research and clinical care operations.
The visit by the Indian delegation follows on the heels of increased high-level discussions between Indian and U.S. officials on greater collaboration between the two countries. The discussions included a visit to the U.S. last year by Indian Prime Minister Modi to meet with President Obama, and a reciprocal visit by President Obama to India earlier this year.
I believe in partnerships; people helping people to attain shared goals and better health. That’s what attracts me to global health and, specifically, cancer control and prevention. What can we do together to prevent and control this disease that devastates individuals, families, and communities?
CGH staff work every day to answer this question. Through programs, collaborations, and opportunities, CGH strives to unite the cancer community to advance international efforts in cancer control and prevention. Today I’m excited to announce a new funding opportunity available from CGH for cancer prevention and control (CPC) researchers at NCI-designated cancer centers: Administrative Supplements to Promote Cancer Prevention and Control Research in Low and Middle Income Countries.
With so many ongoing cancer research and cancer control activities worldwide, it can be a challenge to know the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ behind these efforts. Providing a resource to researchers and organizations with the capability for sharing information about cancer control work and fostering collaboration will play a major role in advancing cancer research capacity and reducing the global cancer burden.
CGH’s Dr. Sudha Sivaram, Dr. Makeda Williams, and Ms. Kalina Duncan have partnered with Drs. Ami Bhatt and Franklin Huang at Global Oncology, Inc. (GO) to develop a web-based tool designed to facilitate cancer research and control activity planning. This tool, the Global Cancer Project Map (GCPM), is a database that allows users locate and learn more about international cancer projects and research programs through the use of an interactive world map. By employing detailed search functionalities, such as geo-coding and cancer epidemiology background data, GCPM streamlines searches for cancer research and control programs, training activities, and capacity building initiatives. GCPM is available to users free of charge, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
I often hear the phrase ‘Global Health Diplomacy’, and at times even use it myself, but what do these words really mean? In a world where cancer knows no borders, Global Health Diplomacy plays an essential role in all of CGH’s activities as we work to strengthen relationships with our neighbors, and seek to reduce the burden of cancer worldwide. Partnership – that is what Global Health Diplomacy means to me.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 63 percent of deaths in the world today, or more than 36 million deaths each year. The largest burden due to NCDs (80 percent or 28 million) occurs in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). NCDs are a major cause of poverty in these countries.
The four main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (e.g., heart attacks, stroke), cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases (e.g., chronic obstructed pulmonary disease, asthma). Recently, the World Health Organization added mental health to the group to address the rapid rise of mental disorders, injuries, and violence.
‘Not beyond us’ is the theme for World Cancer Day 2015, which recognizes the power of community and seeks to raise awareness that together much can be done to reduce the global cancer burden. In commemoration of World Cancer Day, the Center for Global Health (CGH) has planned a number of activities, including a round table discussion on cancer control tools in low- and middle-income countries and two webinars with an international perspective–one on cancer control plans and another on breast cancer screening.
CGH partnered with the Center for Strategic and International Studies to host Tools against Cancer in Developing Societies, a round table discussion on the research, development, and delivery of tools that can be used effectively and affordably to prevent and treat cancer in low- and middle-income countries. The event will bring together leading minds in global cancer research, including Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute; Ambassador Sally Cowal, Senior Vice President of Global Health at the American Cancer Society; and Mr. Thomas Bollyky, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Economics, and Development at The Council on Foreign Relations. The session will be moderated by Dr. J. Stephen Morrison, Senior Vice President and Director of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, and will be broadcasted via videocast on February 4th from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EST.