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Building Partnerships to Promote Global Health Equity: Takeaways from the 6th Annual Symposium on Global Cancer Research

, by Amara Ndumele

Credit: Consortium of Universities for Global Health/CUGH

Building on the momentum from the previous six years, CGH celebrated yet another successful and inspiring Annual Symposium on Global Cancer Research (ASGCR) held in conjunction with the 9th Annual CUGH (Consortium of University on Global Health) Conference on March 15, 2018 in New York, NY. The theme of this year’s symposium, “Global Cancer Research: Addressing Disparities, Locally and Globally”, provided an unprecedented opportunity to address the complexities of cancer disparities research and promote the exchange of scientific findings, best practices, and innovations in cancer prevention and control within and across countries.

The day began with keynote speaker Dr. Electra D. Paskett, Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, providing a dynamic presentation that charted the future of cancer health disparities research. She placed strong emphasis on a multi-level approach to implement various recommendations for designing measures, understanding the biologic and environmental determinants of cancer incidence, promoting patient navigation, and redesigning clinical trials to address cancer disparities.

Dr. Paskett was followed by Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Director of the International Center for AIDS Care, who broadened the discussion beyond cancer to reflect on interdisciplinary lessons that can be translated from experiences within the infectious disease community. From organizing equitable health systems to forming impactful partnerships, the global response to cancer and other non-communicable diseases can learn from both the challenges and successes seen in other disease arenas.

Following the keynotes presentations, attendees had the opportunity to engage with three provocative panel discussions aimed at tackling some of the most challenging questions in global cancer research:

  • ‘New Technology for Cancer Control: Hope or Hype?’ addressed the promise of artificial intelligence in medicine and was moderated by Medical Oncologist Dr. Bishal Gyawali, who provided expertise on cancer care in both low- and high-income countries.
  • Dr. Rengaswamy Sankaranarayanan, Chief of the Cancer Screening Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, led a discussion focused on ‘Early Detection: To Screen or not to Screen? That is the Question.’
  • ‘Comprehensive Cancer Care and Public Partnerships: Paving the Way to Universal Health Coverage or Worsening Cancer Health Disparities’ allowed Kings College Professor Dr. Richard Sullivan and other panelists to confront the utility of public-private partnerships in global health.

 Through poster session presentations, many participants had the opportunity to share the findings of their cancer-related research or interventions that addressed the global burden of cancer from Argentina, Kazakhstan, and Zimbabwe; of which five CGH fellows were selected to present the results of projects they had been working on throughout the year. This symposium provided a venue for investigators working in different geographic and scientific areas to connect and initiate collaborations on cancer research projects in low- and middle-income countries.

In addition, the ASGCR Humanitarian Scientist Award was presented to Dr. You-lin Qiao of Peking Union Medical College to honor his contributions to the field of global cancer research and his efforts to improve cancer outcomes in his home country of China.

Wrapping up a day of global cancer research dissemination and collaboration, the Honorable Minister of Health of Liberia, Dr. Bernice Dahn, left attendees with an invigorating call to action. She, along with Dr. Keith Martin, Executive Director of CUGH, urged the group to recognize that the time is now to prevent, and ultimately eliminate, cervical cancer globally. They challenged all nations to achieve a 70 percent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rate for adolescent girls by the year 2030. If action is taken together amongst policymakers, researchers, healthcare providers, advocates, and patients, conquering cervical cancer worldwide is an achievable goal.

The symposium would not have been a success without the strong partnership and leadership of colleagues from the New York University’s Langone Health Perlmutter. Additional sponsorship and planning support was received from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, Rutgers Global Health Institute, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and CUGH. The CUGH Symposium on Global Cancer Research truly created an environment to facilitate new collaborations to advance knowledge and practice aimed at overcoming cancer disparities.

Following the Symposium, a commentary was developed to discuss how enhanced communication and collaboration can support global cancer prevention and control. Selected conference abstracts are also available for review in the Journal of Global Oncology.

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