Feb. 4 is World Cancer Day, which was organized by the Union for International Cancer Control to raise awareness of the actions needed to prevent, treat and control the many forms of cancer. That parallels the goal MD Anderson is working toward each and every day.
“Our mission is to end cancer in Texas and the world. We take that very seriously,” says Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., senior vice president for academic affairs at MD Anderson. Bogler heads the institution’s Global Academic Programs, which manages the Sister Institution Network, a consortium of researchers at 29 premier academic cancer institutions in 22 countries.
Such a lofty ambition requires partnerships within and outside of Texas, across the nation and around the globe. MD Anderson and other health care institutions must prepare for the “tidal wave” of cancer cases that World Health Organization (WHO) scientists say is approaching. Their prediction of 24 million cases a year by 2035 necessitates significant planning today.
“We’re all aging. The number of people who are going to get cancer and need cancer services in the next 20 years will be huge,” says Thomas Burke, M.D., executive vice president, MD Anderson Cancer Network®.
With the WHO reporting 60% of the world’s total new cancer cases each year occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, the benefit of building MD Anderson’s international presence also is evident. Currently, there are affiliates in Spain at MD Anderson Madrid and in Turkey at the MD Anderson Radiation Treatment Center at American Hospital in Istanbul, as well as sister institutions that act as academic collaborators throughout the world.
Last year, MD Anderson signed a memorandum of understanding with the newly formed African Cancer Institute (ACI) at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa — the institution’s first African research partner — to advance the prevention, diagnosis and management of cancer across the continent. The first collaborative initiative, led by Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., associate professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, studies the use of high-resolution microendoscopy (HRME) to diagnose and prevent cervical cancer.
This innovative technique uses a fiber optic probe, placed on a patient’s cervix, to transmit cervical images to a cell phone. Immediately, clinicians can detect whether the patient has precancer and needs treatment. This method potentially can be used in areas where no gynecologist, pathologist or lab is available.
Many of the cervical cancer prevention measures planned for Africa were first launched and tested in areas of Latin America. For example, the HRME technique currently is being studied in Latin American trials.
The initial pilot studies were made possible by a grant from the Sister Institution Network Fund. Large studies of more than 10,000 women will begin soon in Brazil, El Salvador and Houston.
In 2014, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein is SÜo Paulo became the first clinical extension of MD Anderson in Latin America and the first associate member of the Cancer Network. A level that’s specifically geared toward top-ranked oncology providers outside of the U.S. The program is designed to collaborate across prevention, clinical care, research and education. All of this collaboration and sharing of knowledge benefits patients.
“It’s an important step toward eradicating cancer around the world,” says Amy Hay, vice president for global business development. “By exporting our research-driven multidisciplinary care, we’ll take a leading role in improving patient care globally.”
Associate members will complement the current Sister Institutions Network to share MD Anderson’s clinical expertise and collaborate on research. Such relationships give patients increased access to clinical trials aimed at developing new treatments and improving existing therapies.
“Our mission and vision challenge us to be the single most impactful institution in relieving the burden of cancer globally, and we can achieve this by extending our brand of prevention, care, research and education to like-minded organizations worldwide,” says MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, M.D.