Team Up for Cancer Research—CGH and the International Cancer Control Partnership
, by Doug Perin, Kalina Duncan, and Mishka Cira
On September 24, the international community celebrates World Cancer Research Day (WCRD) to raise awareness of the role of research in the fight against cancer. This year’s theme, “Let’s Team Up for Cancer Research,” highlights the importance of networks and partnership to accelerate cancer research.
NCI recognizes the need for and value of partnership in cancer research. The Center for Global Health (CGH) works to facilitate and strengthen new and existing international research collaborations and biomedical partnerships that advance NCI scientific priorities and respond to the field of global cancer research.
One such collaboration is the International Cancer Control Partnership (ICCP), a program that advances and disseminates cancer research to inform global cancer control. Since ICCP’s inception in 2012, CGH has worked closely with many partners such as the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), University of Texas/MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI) to achieve the ICCP mission of providing leadership, expertise and guidance to national cancer planning stakeholders and decision-makers in their efforts to develop, implement and evaluate data-driven, stakeholder-informed country level national cancer control plans.
Aligned with CGH goals, ICCP facilitates engagement with key partners in global cancer control planning and the promotion and integration of scientific knowledge in this field. ICCP has also provided technical assistance through its many partners to guide countries that are developing and implementing their own evidence-based national cancer control plans (NCCPs).
Although cancer control planning has specific requirements, certain components of cancer control activities can be beneficial beyond cancer. For example, strengthening data for disease surveillance and research, improving laboratory capacity, and training an adequate health care workforce, lead to improved health systems overall. The importance of planning and investing in health systems across the globe has become even more evident during the current COVID-19 pandemic, to allow health systems to pivot and prioritize the most pressing public health needs, particularly when resources are scarce.
In response to requests for technical assistance, and given the lack of opportunities to study concrete ways to implement NCCPs, in April 2020 ICCP launched a call for applications for the ICCP Cancer Control ECHO® Program. This program aims to support and examine NCCP implementation in low- and middle-income countries through a virtual community of practice that uses the Project ECHO collaborative learning model, which will also provide opportunities for research in the field of implementation science. In particular, rigorously studying the barriers and facilitators that contribute to effective plan implementation on the ground may inform future programmatic efforts worldwide. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, country teams responded, and a total of 8 countries will join the first round of the ICCP ECHO Program, which aims to start next month.
To prepare for the upcoming program, CGH is supporting the development of a program evaluation framework for ICCP ECHO. Using this framework, CGH will evaluate the utility of Project ECHO to foster knowledge exchange through a virtual learning platform and will seek to identify which factors influence NCCP implementation. The evaluation will also assess changes in participants’ knowledge of available strategies and how they integrated these strategies to overcome identified barriers and make measurable progress.
Through this program, we will identify priorities and anticipated challenges for country teams as they implement their cancer control plans. This offers an opportunity for ICCP and CGH to understand how to best disseminate scientific knowledge related to cancer in service of helping countries achieve their implementation goals.
In addition, CGH will engage with other NCI divisions, NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, and the global cancer research community to identify technical experts to contribute to this collaborative learning community. CGH is committed to expanding and strengthening our partnerships to successfully implement this program, and promoting and accelerating cancer research across the globe.
Through key partnerships such as the one with ICCP, CGH will continue to “team up” for cancer research and control. We believe collaboration and innovation are critical to our efforts to support scientific advances and accelerate progress that will benefit patients worldwide.