Delegates from the University of Texas MD
Anderson Cancer Center discussed potential
collaborations with members of UKZN’s College
of Health Sciences.

A research delegation from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC), recently visited the College of Health Sciences at UKZN in order to foster research and educational collaborations between the institutions on gastrointestinal (G-I)cancers.

The visit followed a Health Seminar which was held by the Embassy of South Africa in the United States, highlighting the innovation, forward-thinking ideas, and promoting dialogue on key health priorities in sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, the Embassy wished to showcase South Africa’s leadership on major health issues affecting the population of Africa, including HIV and AIDS, neglected tropical diseases and non-communicable diseases.

At a symposium held at UKZN’s Medical campus, the visiting delegation presented the Centre’s on-going research on G-I cancers and related topics, saying that had hoped to partner with UKZN in order to expand their scope of research and educational network to the African continent.

The discussions were centred on possible exchange programmes for masters and PhD candidates between the institutions, similarities and differences in research findings between African populations and American populations, the sharing of best practises on how to diagnose and treat the various kinds of G-I cancers, shortage of specialists in G-I cancers on the African continent, and ways in which early screening for cancers could be implemented in order to avoid common situations where patients present with advanced stages of cancer when they finally consult with medical doctors.

An interesting presentation by Dr Ernest Hawk who heads the Division of OVP, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at MDACC alluded to the fact that US populations mainly suffered from lifestyle-related cancers whereas African populations had infection-related cancers. Hawk said, ‘Preventative medicine will probably address the full spectrum of health threats common in aging Americans.’

Dr Berhard Levin, Professor Emeritus of Cancer Prevention and Population Studies at MDACC said they promoted systematic testing of asymptomatic individuals’ pre-clinical disease. Such screening was said to be difficult in the African continent due to a variety of reasons, but UKZN already had in place, interventional efforts coming though from the Colorectal Cancer and Stoma Support Group headed by Madiba, and a Gastrointestinal spasm group was said to be in its implementation stage.