The building will be the first comprehensive cancer center jointly constructed by a U.S. and African cancer institution.
Once completed, the Uganda Cancer Institute/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Clinic and Training Institute will extend patient access to cancer diagnosis and research-based treatment while furthering study on the links between infectious diseases, such as HIV and Epstein-Barr virus, and cancers such as Kaposi sarcoma and the most common life-threatening malignancy among Ugandan children, Burkitt lymphoma.
Vice President Edward Ssekandi led the groundbreaking ceremony and was joined by Dr. Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate and director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Uganda's Minister of Health Dr. Christine Ondoa and David Eckerson, Mission Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) alongside government officials, international dignitaries, global health experts and community leaders.
"Cancer is being increasingly recognized as an enormously important global health problem that kills more people worldwide than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined, and nearly two-thirds of these deaths are in the developing world," said Dr. Lawrence Corey, president and director of the Hutchinson Center. "Sub-Saharan Africa has among the highest cancer rates in the world, and these rates appear to be increasing in association with the HIV epidemic. Through the collaboration between the Hutchinson Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute, we hope to develop new, low-cost prevention and treatment strategies that will not only stem the rising burden of cancer in sub-Saharan Africa but will benefit millions of people worldwide."
Nearly 25 percent of cancers cases worldwide are infection related, explained Dr. Corey Casper, an associate member of the Hutchinson Center's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division and co-scientific director of the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance, which is the name of the collaboration between the Hutchinson Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute.
He added: "Our commitment in Uganda is to increase survival rates for common infection-caused cancers from 10 percent to 90 percent over the next three years d.
The new facility that will enable these lifesaving advances will be three stories, totaling approximately 5,600 square feet. The building will include adult and pediatric cancer care clinics, including exam rooms, procedure suites, pharmacies and an infusion suite. It will also be equipped with cancer histopathology, clinical chemistry and hematology, immunology and molecular diagnostics laboratories. The facility is funded in part by two grants totaling $1.4 million from the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program and a $900,000 investment from the Hutchinson Center.
The Hutchinson Center's relationship with the Uganda Cancer Institute dates back to 2004 and the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance was established formally in 2008. The program builds on the Hutchinson Center's innovative research approach, which is to draw data from a setting where the disease burden is exceptionally high, while reinforcing the organization's commitment to reduce cancer-related suffering and death in both resource-rich and resource-poor regions.
The development should be welcome development for many Ugandans since despite the growing burden of cancer in the country, little effort has been made by the government over the past years to build capacity of the cancer institute in terms of infrastructure and human capacity improvement.
In 2008, Uganda had just one oncologist who treated more than 10,000 patients annually. In response, the Hutchinson Center spearheaded an extensive medical training program that has increased the number of practicing oncologists in Uganda fivefold.
More than 1.2 million Ugandans are living with HIV/AIDS. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, people infected with HIV are several thousand times more likely than uninfected people to be diagnosed with Kaposi sarcoma and at least 70 times more likely to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Kaposi sarcoma is the most common cancer in adult Ugandan men; human herpesvirus 8, also a cause of Kaposi sarcoma, is the most common cancer-related infection in women. According to UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance researchers, nearly 75 percent of these cases can be treated for less than $800.
Ugandan children are also vulnerable to infection-related malignancies that are not HIV-associated. "Cancer, especially childhood cancer, is a growing threat to Uganda's next generation and must be addressed with equal vigor as HIV/AIDS," stated Jackson Orem, M.D., director of the Uganda Cancer Institute and co-scientific director of the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance. blog comments powered by Disqus
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