NCI Center for Global Health’s Scientific Alliance with Kazakhstan on Women’s Cancer Research
, by Dr. Sophia Michaelson and Dr. Anna Plotkin
Kazakhstan is a Central Asian country with a population of over 18 million people. It borders Russia to the North, China to the East, and Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan to the South. It is washed by the waters of the Caspian Sea in the West. The GDP per capita in Kazakhstan is $12,950 USD, which ranks 56th in the world. Eleven percent of expenditures in the State budget are allocated to the health sector, which comes in third after social security and education.
The International Congress “Progress and Controversies in Gynecological Oncology and Breast Cancer” was held on October 4-6, 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The Congress is a follow up on the 1st International Conference “Current Concepts & Controversies in Gynecological and Urologic Oncology” held in Minsk, Belarus, in April 2017.
The goal of this conference was to improve the region’s access to quality oncology services through both international collaboration and the creation of a research platform in women’s cancer care. Attendees reviewed key concepts and skill-sets in the field of gynecological oncology and breast cancer. Dr. Edward L. Trimble, Director of the Center for Global Health, NCI, USA, presented the Center’s role in the newly developed women’s cancer control program, highlighting an excellent opportunity to develop collaboration among US NCI and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) cancer centers.
The Congress was attended by over 500 international participants including physicians and cancer control experts from Central Asia, Caucasus, Russian Federation, Turkey, Central and Eastern Europe.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and International Gynecologic Cancer Society (IGCS)
Cooperation of the CIS countries with NCI-CGH was discussed during the summit of NCI directors and IGCS/CGH leaders in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Dr. Trimble emphasized the importance of the upcoming regional oncology leaders meeting in Minsk, Belarus at the Eurasian Cancer Screening Conference (May 17-18, 2018). He highlighted the critical role of partnership programs, physician education and research collaboration amongst various Central Asia countries. He also discussed the benefits of collaboration between NCI-CGH and Central Asia countries in the development of national cancer control programs. Input from Ministries of Health, cancer care facilities, private clinics, professional and civil communities, and other non-governmental organizations should be included in an attempt at reducing the cancer burden in the region.
Grand Opening of the First Vaccination Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Representatives from CGH, IGCS and Kazakh Institute of Oncology and Radiology (KazIOR) celebrated the opening of the first official vaccination center in Almaty, with a specific focus on vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV). According to the country’s cancer registry, there are around 12,000 women currently diagnosed with cervical cancer in Kazakhstan. Annually, an additional 1,800 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and around 600 lose their life from the disease.
Of the nearly 163,000 cancer patients in Kazakhstan, over 80% are detected in advanced stages of the disease. The opening of this vaccination center provides a monumental opportunity for the region to increase the number of cancer cases both prevented and detected in earlier stages, thus improving national treatment outcomes.
Central Asia Pathology Workshop
The highlight of the conference was the pathology workshop for Central Asian regional and local pathologists. Dr. Anna Plotkin, a member of the Educational Committee of IGCS with a focus on Global Diagnostic Oncology, organized and moderated the workshop and presented current classifications of endometrial pre-invasive conditions based on a review of illustrative cases. Dr. Plotkin discussed sentinel lymph node protocol for endometrial cancer and caveats related to grossing of lymph nodes. Approach for ultra-staging for endometrial cancer was a subject for lively debate. Dr. Plotkin advocated for standardization of grossing and synoptic oncology data and collection of important pathology-related data for research and statistics. The workshop concluded with a team approach in quality of diagnostic oncology and emphasizing the importance of collaboration between pathologists and clinicians. The group also discussed strategies for optimization of pathology services in Kazakhstan.
Final Remarks at the International Press Conference
Media attention during the conference was unprecedented, demonstrating the importance from both the scientific community and the public in increasing cancer control efforts in the region. Despite many challenges in the management of gynecological malignancies across the globe, the Congress provided a platform for scientists and clinicians to work collaboratively and improve prevention, early detection, and treatment of oncological diseases. Continued research tailored towards improving women’s health can change the disease landscape of gynecological and breast cancers, and the international cooperation reaffirmed by all Congress participants serves as an encouraging step forward in this pursuit. As the fight against women’s cancer continues worldwide, Kazakhstan became a key regional IGSC and NCI cancer control ally in Central Asia.