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Approximately 70% of global cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (LIMCs).
And cancer’s disproportionate burden on underserved nations is only expected to worsen over the next several decades. But we can change that together, by going global.
We have an extraordinary chance to bring our experience to areas where cancer’s burden is greatest.” - Dr. Peter Kingham
Peter Kingham, MD, FACS, established MSK’s Global Cancer Disparities Initiatives team in 2011 in a drive to defy the grim outlook cancer places on underserved populations in LIMCs. The philanthropically funded program prepares local clinicians with comprehensive training and support to build and manage research-and-care infrastructures that will allow many of their fellow citizens to live beyond cancer.
Challenge One: These countries often lack comprehensive data on patient demographics, disease stages, and survival rates that inform treatments. Local populations also have diets, lifestyles, and genetic compositions distinctively different from U.S. patients—so studies from MSK and its peers are not always relevant to oncological care in the developing world.
The Solution: The Disparities Team has targeted sub-Saharan African countries, initiating collaborative projects that are increasing detection, improving care, and collecting data. They have focused on breast and colon cancers because low-cost interventions promise the greatest impact on these cancers, which hit this region hard. One Nigerian study screening 400 patients at high risk for colon cancer captured treatable Stage 1 or 2 colon cancers in 74% of the patients diagnosed with disease. In contrast, most Nigerians diagnosed with colon cancer die within a year. MSK physicians are partnering with local clinicians to set the stage for lasting changes.
“Local physicians will develop innovations of their own after we leave. And that’s part of the idea—to support a sustainable system that fosters discovery while improving care.” – Dr. T. Peter Kingham
Challenge Two: Sub-Saharan Africa needs more skilled medical oncologists to care for a population with a high cancer rate. Building physicians’ capacity to diagnose early-stage cancers, provide effective treatments, or perform pathology research is essential.
The Solution: Dr. Kingham and his team have introduced training fellowships and educational opportunities, such as a bi-annual symposium in Nigeria, for local physicians. MSK and a consortium of five Nigerian hospitals have established the African Research Group for Oncology (ARGO) to establish patient data tracking systems. Dr. Kingham envisions building a research and training problem in Kenya/Tanzania based on the Nigerian model. Such programs are allowing oncologists to provide better cancer care—in their own land.
“Please help us continue this important work, which is already improving access to world-class cancer care in underserved regions.” - Dr. Peter Kingham