National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
March 24, 2009 • Volume 6 / Number 6

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A Conversation With

A Conversation with…Dr. Jorge Gomez

Dr. Jorge Gomez is director of NCI’s Office of Latin American Cancer Program Development (OLACPD), which was formed in 2008 by NCI and NIH’s Fogarty International Center to advance cancer research and research capacity in partnership with Latin American countries. Last week, Dr. Gomez, other NCI staff, and U.S. scientists met with delegations from five Latin American nations for a 3-day workshop to develop pilot projects in breast cancer research in the region.

Dr. Jorge Gomez Dr. Jorge Gomez

What are the goals of OLACPD?
The goal is to develop a program to sponsor cancer research in Latin American countries in partnership with their governments and research institutions. OLACPD will also sponsor training and help build infrastructure for cancer research in the region. The majority of the investment NCI has made in the region in past years has been in the form of training grants through Fogarty or through other types of grants and subcontracts, so this is a new approach for our collaboration in Latin America.

It’s also the first time that we’re collaborating through formal agreements with the ministries of health in Latin America. These government agencies are assembling clinical research networks in their own countries, which will basically create a United States–Latin American cancer research network. The health ministries are providing some matching funds for this project, so NCI is not doing it alone. We’re also collaborating with their research institutions, which work closely with their government agencies.

Who attended the workshop and what was accomplished?
There were delegations from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay, representatives from different NCI divisions, centers, and programs, and prominent U.S. scientists in breast cancer research, who provided their input and brainstormed about the research concepts that were being discussed.

The goal of the workshop was to lay the groundwork for one or two pilot research projects that will have an impact on breast cancer management in Latin American women. The research projects will be implemented in the five countries and potentially also within research institutions in the United States.

We want to address how we can all contribute to the overall knowledge of breast cancer. For example, what is the molecular classification of breast cancer in Latin American women compared with what is known right now about breast cancer subtypes in the United States and Europe? In Latin America, and in other parts of the world, they generally follow U.S. models. That may not be the best way of managing breast cancer treatment, recurrence, and follow-up care for Latin American women living in the region or those who reside in the United States.

What are the next steps for the pilot projects?
Based on the discussions at the workshop, we have identified two research concepts for molecular profiling and early detection that will be reviewed by the OLACPD steering committee in the next few months. Eventually, those or other research proposals will be transformed into clinical research protocols to be implemented in the five countries in partnership with the ministries of health and in close collaboration with NCI.

We expect this pilot clinical research network for breast cancer to be a model that we will use to look at other common cancers in Latin America, such as colon cancer and gastric cancer. We hope that we can support clinical research in the region in a way that can be the basis for studying other types of cancer in a more systematic and orderly way.