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Strengthening CGH’s partnerships in cancer research and control in Africa: AORTIC 2017

December 20, 2017, by Mishka K. Cira

Members of the CGH AORTIC team with Honorable Minister Gashumba and her Ministry of Health cancer and NCD leads.

Cancer in Africa: Making Strides, Creating Solutions was the perfect description of the 2017 African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) conference, the biennial conference on cancer prevention and control research, training and advocacy in Africa.  This year’s conference was held from November 7-10, in Kigali, Rwanda, where over 1,100 cancer advocates, clinicians, researchers, policymakers and technical experts from all over the Africa region and the world convened to discuss best practices to increase cancer research and control capacity within the Africa region.

The relevance of the AORTIC biennial gathering is underscored by the fact that by 2020 there are expected to be 15 million new cases of cancer every year, 70% of which will be in developing countries like those in the Africa region, where governments are least prepared to address the growing cancer burden and where survival rates are often less than half those in more developed countries.  And, Rwanda served as an opportune destination for this year’s conference, given Rwanda’s commitment to strengthening the government response to cancer prevention and control, most notably through the successful (93% coverage rate) human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign, and the high level of access (90% of the population) to health coverage.


For NCI, the action started in Kigali before the conference kicked off. With so many cancer research and control collaborators and partners in one place, there was opportunity for pre-conference meetings to advance NCI’s work in strengthening the global cancer research community.  NCI had several divisions presenting at AORTIC, including the Center for Cancer Research (CCR), the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), the Office of HIV and AIDS Malignancy (OHAM), and the Center for Global Health (CGH).

Dr. Sandy Dawsey and Dr. Michael Mwachiro on the mentor-mentee relationship in the Beginner Investigator Grant for Catalytic Research program session.

CGH meetings included the annual gathering with partners from the African Strategies for Advancing Pathology; the culminating meeting of the 2017 Africa Cancer Control Leadership Forum in partnership with the World Bank;  and, an in-depth meeting with Rwanda’s Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Diane Gashumba, to discuss opportunities for cancer research and control collaborative activities. Additional activities included a joint NCI-CDC-Rwanda Ministry of Health series of technical discussions on strengthening cervical cancer prevention, and an opportunity for select CGH staff to visit the Partners in Health-supported Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in northern Rwanda.

Amongst the thought-provoking sessions at the conference, the CGH team participated in several scientific panel sessions and presentations (see Table 1), and side meetings, which allowed CGH to share about and receive feedback on NCI’s efforts to support cancer control planning, regional cancer research priorities, biobanking, and cancer research skill strengthening.  In addition to the conference sessions, the NCI booth provided a central location for colleagues, researchers, and partners to discuss research ideas, NCI funding opportunities, and to learn from ‘meet-the-expert’ knowledge sessions.

Rwanda was a masterful host of this biennial meeting, raising the bar for the next AORTIC Conference in 2019. We have no doubt that Mozambique, the 2019 AORTIC Conference Host, will rise to the challenge!

Table 1. NCI SPONSORED SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE SESSIONS
The AORTIC and NCI BIG Cat Research Program A panel session featuring grantees and mentors to discuss the scientific outcomes of research grants, and to highlight the important role of mentorship for early career investigators.
Adapt, Engineer, Apply -
Translational Research on Affordable Technology in Global Oncology
Set of talks by grantees in the ACT Program currently working in sub-Saharan Africa, show casing their perspectives on design successes/challenges and clinicians.
Advancing the Translation of Evidence to Policy Discussion on the importance of data to drive decision making, and how to identify relevant sources of data for national cancer planning.
Esophageal Cancer Research Esophageal cancer panel to highlights research, research gaps, and critical partnerships and consortia in the field.
HIV Associated Malignancies Roundtable Roundtable discussion on HIV associated malignancies research gaps in Africa.
Status of Biomarker Testing in Cancer and Biobanking Roundtable discussion on the status of biomarker testing globally and in Africa and how biobanking can contribute towards their development, validation, and utility in clinical settings.
Framework for A Systematic and Equitable Implementation
of National Cancer Control Plan
Roundtable focus group discussing the framework for a systematic and equitable implementation of a national cancer control plan.



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