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AORTIC 2019: CGH engages with partners at the largest cancer research conference in Africa

, by Doug Perin and Kalina Duncan

AORTIC 2019 Opening Ceremony.

On November 5th-8th, 2019, Maputo was the venue for the most important cancer conference in Africa, organized by the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC). Mozambique was hosting this event for the first time and the organizers made sure to provide a warm welcome to the international delegations visiting their country. The great scientific quality of the conference was clear during the four days of engaging presentations with almost 100 panel sessions, roundtable discussions, and keynote addresses alternating between English and Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique. First Lady Isaura Nyusi; Dr. Nazira Abdula, Mozambique Minister of Health; and, Princess Dina Mired, UICC President, led the opening ceremony of AORTIC 2019, calling for countries in the region to increase and coordinate their efforts in cancer research and control to reduce the ever-growing burden of the disease in their populations.

Our strong interest in cancer research and control in Africa was evident from the robust U.S. presence, including NCI, NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, and several others. Staff from Center for Global Health (CGH), Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS), Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), Office of HIV and Aids Malignancies (OHAM), and Center for Cancer Research (CCR) formed the NCI delegation and organized sessions, coordinated side meetings, and showcased their research done in partnership with investigators in Africa.

Even before the conference started, our team was already leading and facilitating meetings and workshops. Kalina Duncan (CGH) was a facilitator in the 2-day Project ECHO immersion training for cancer researchers and practitioners working in Africa, which saw more than 75 attendees from the region. Dr. Mark Parascandola (DCCPS/CGH) led a discussion on building capacity for tobacco control research in Africa. Dr. Sandy Dawsey (DCEG) coordinated a meeting of the African Esophageal Cancer Consortium, which had also a dedicated session to showcase its latest research outcomes during the conference.

 Dr. Paul Pearlman (CGH) presenting about the NCI Affordable Cancer Technologies Program at AORTIC 2019.

During the conference, NCI sessions covered a breadth of themes that included: HIV/AIDS-associated malignancies led by Dr. Geraldina Dominguez (OHAM); esophageal cancer, Dr. Sandy Dawsey (DCEG); Burkitt Lymphoma, Dr. Sam Mbulaiteye (DCEG) and Dr. Vidya Vedham (CGH); new low-cost technologies, Dr. Paul Pearlman (CGH) and Dr. Ophira Ginsburg (NYU Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center); biobanking, Marianne Henderson (DCEG/CGH) and Dr. Zisis Kozlakidis (IARC); cancer research and training collaborations, and tobacco control, Dr. Mark Parascandola (DCCPS); the Beginning Investigator Grant for Catalytic Research, Dr. James Alaro; and global cancer control planning, Kalina Duncan (CGH), among other relevant topics for cancer research and control in Africa.

We had the opportunity to learn more about Mozambique’s efforts in cancer research and control on a series of site visits facilitated by our partners in the Ministry of Health and the U.S. Embassy in Maputo. We met with radiotherapy and oncology teams at the Maputo Central Hospital and toured their facilities, where it was encouraging to see that Mozambique’s only radiotherapy unit recently started treating cancer patients. At Polana Caniço Health Research and Training Center, we were pleased to meet with an enthusiastic team of researchers actively engaged in the local community to perform population health studies. Dr. Kathleen Schmeler, Dr. Ellen Baker and other colleagues from MD Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University took us on a visit to Mavalane General Hospital for a demonstration of the cutting-edge technologies they are using to screen cervical cancer patients in Maputo, a study supported by USAID, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and NCI Affordable Care Technologies program. Cervical cancer presents the highest incidence and mortality among all cancers in Mozambique. The NCI delegation met with U.S. Ambassador Dennis Hearne, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Abigail Dressel, and the health team at the U.S. Embassy, and identified several pathways for continued support of the great work that U.S. institutes have been conducting in the country. In addition, together with Brazilian Deputy Chief of Mission Jonas Ferreira, we discussed how to closely collaborate with our Brazilian partners who have been very active in Mozambique and share a common language with them.

Dr. James Alaro and Dr. Sam Mbulaiteye meet the new AORTIC President-Elect, Dr. Bello Mohammed.

AORTIC 2019 was an enriching experience for us and it fully delivered on its objectives of bringing together the global cancer community to discuss innovation, the latest strategies, and successful implementation of cancer research and control in Africa. We would like to congratulate Dr. Cesaltina Lorenzoni, Dr. Cristina Stefan, the conference organizers, the entire AORTIC team; and sincerely thank First Lady Nyusi, the Ministry of Health and all Mozambicans for the warm welcome to their beautiful country. We also wish Dr. Bello Mohammed, new President Elect of AORTIC, success in running this great organization of cancer researchers.

CGH team and partners at the AORTIC 2019 social media hub.

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