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Highlighting NCI Support for Global Health Collaboration and Equity at London Global Cancer Week

, by Elise Garton, MS & Douglas Puricelli Perin, JD, MPH

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the NCI Center for Global Health (NCI/CGH) hosted a webinar at London Global Cancer Week in November 2020. “International Collaboration to Advance Global Cancer Research: The US National Cancer Institute Perspective” showcased NCI-funded research training and collaborations, along with lessons learned and recommendations for building international partnerships to advance global cancer research and control.

Cancer Statistics globally presented by Dr. Satish Gopal during LGCW 2020.

Figure 1: Global cancer burden (World Health Organization), as presented by Dr. Gopal.

To open the session, NCI/CGH Director Dr. Satish Gopal emphasized that, given the increasing burden of cancer in low- and middle-income countries (Fig. 1), it is more important than ever to recognize the scientific opportunities provided by collaborative global cancer research. The session continued with presentations from three NCI-supported global cancer researchers:

•    Dr. Yehoda Martei (University of Pennsylvania, USA) described her experience as an early-stage investigator and shared advice on effective mentorship and development of research teams to promote global equity in breast cancer care. Dr. Martei pointed to the importance of institutional partnerships, such as the collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania and HIV researchers in Botswana.

•    Dr. Partha Basu (International Agency for Research on Cancer, France) built a team of inventors, entrepreneurs, advocates, clinicians, and researchers to implement affordable technology to treat cervical pre-cancer in Zambia. Dr. Basu reflected on how unified goals, regular and transparent communication, and mutual respect helped the multidisciplinary team achieve their objectives (Fig 2).

•    Dr. Valeria Fink (Fundación Huésped, Argentina) extended her research focus from HIV to cancer by leveraging broad international networks, including the Caribbean, Central and South America network for HIV epidemiology from the NIH International Epidemiology Database to Evaluate AIDS, a U54 based consortium with the University of Miami; and the AIDS Malignancy Consortium. Dr. Fink encouraged researchers to act locally by sharing findings and opportunities within their communities while thinking globally by tackling shared problems and participating in international networks.

Pie chart depicting key attributes of a successful research team

Figure 2:  Key attributes of a successful research team as presented by Dr. Basu, IARC.

Credit: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), World Health Organization (WHO)

Attendees raised a critical question on the minds of many researchers and practitioners in global oncology: what can US-based researchers, and the NCI in particular, do to address power dynamics and equity in global health collaborations, especially when financial support is often unidirectional? Webinars such as these serve as one of many avenues to tackle the important challenge of achieving equity in global health collaborations by providing an opportunity to discuss the topic and giving space to young investigators to learn and share their experiences. When asked to reflect on her experience of speaking at the NCI/CGH webinar, Dr. Martei noted, 

“Preparing for the panel presentation allowed me to intentionally reflect upon the critical need for young investigators in global oncology to align their research with their institution’s strengths, and with the local priorities of the international site where the research is being conducted. This in particular resonated with young investigators and trainees in the audience making the transition to their first faculty position [. . . ] Young investigators have been underrepresented in global oncology research and policy work, and I think the support of the NCI is key to changing this landscape.”

To further these conversations, NCI/CGH will host a panel on equity in global cancer research at the virtual 9th Annual Symposium on Global Cancer Research (ASGCR), March 10-11.  In addition, CGH will  co-host a session on strategies to address global health inequities on March 8 with NIH’s Fogarty International Center (FIC) , and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). Opportunities like these provide the global oncology community a forum to exchange knowledge, further the cancer research field, and strengthen prospects for the next generation of cancer researchers.  

View the recording of the webinar, “International Collaboration to Advance Global Cancer Research: The US National Cancer Institute Perspective."

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