February 06, 2019
$5.1 million grant to expand cervical cancer diagnosis and prevention in Mozambique
BY Clayton R. Boldt, Ph.D.
MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers, together with collaborators from Mozambique, Brazil and the U.S., have been awarded a $5.1 million grant to evaluate innovative approaches to increase screening and prevention of cervical cancers in Mozambique, which has some of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world.
The grant was awarded by the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program, sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development in partnership with the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The MD Anderson effort will be led by Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., associate professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, in collaboration with partners from the Mozambique Ministry of Health, the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, Population Sciences International, the MD Anderson Sister Institutions and affiliates from Brazil, Rice University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Projects are expected to begin in March 2019 and run through September 2021.
“We have an enormous opportunity to reduce suffering and death from cervical cancer, an almost entirely preventable disease,” said Schmeler. “We are honored to work with our partners in Mozambique, Brazil and the U.S. to decrease the burden of cervical cancer in Mozambique and other underserved regions around the world.”
Most cases of cervical cancer are preventable, through human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and the detection and treatment of cervical pre-cancers. Still, according to the World Health Organization, each year there are more than 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer and more than 260,000 deaths from the disease worldwide. The majority of cases occur in low- and middle-income countries, such as Mozambique, in which cervical cancer accounts for 32 percent of new cancers in women.
The program will work to expand cervical cancer screening in conjunction with visits for family planning services, as well as the treatment of pre-cancerous lesions. Many of these efforts will focus on increasing local capacity, such as training local health care providers in appropriate screening, biopsy and treatment procedures. Through these efforts, the research team plans to implement currently available techniques while also investigating the efficacy of new technologies developed by Rice University for screening and diagnosis.
The current program will expand upon ongoing efforts between the collaborating partners to reduce the cervical cancer burden in Mozambique. Schmeler and her team began working with colleagues in Brazil and Mozambique in related areas in 2013 and have established comprehensive programs through regular visits to the African country and monthly virtual tumor boards using the Project ECHO telementoring platform.