Uganda program breaks ground for pioneering cancer center

First comprehensive cancer center collaboration by U.S. and sub-Saharan African cancer institutions will further specialized study, treatment of infection-related cancers
Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi
Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi plants a tree to mark the future site of the Uganda Cancer Institute/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Clinic and Training Institute in Kampala. Ssekandi noted that the tree symbolizes the growth of good work done to improve public health. Photo by Jacqueline Koch

A pioneering international collaboration forged by the Hutchinson Center with the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala, Uganda, has broken ground for the construction of a state-of-the-art cancer training and outpatient treatment facility in Kampala. The building will be the first comprehensive cancer center jointly constructed by U.S. and African cancer institutions in sub-Saharan Africa.

"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," said Dr. Larry Corey, Hutchinson Center president and director.

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.

Dignitaries include NCI Nobel laureate Harold Varmus

Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi led the Oct. 4 groundbreaking ceremony and was joined by Dr. Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate and director of the National Cancer Institute; Ugandan Minister of Health Christine Ondoa; and other government officials, international dignitaries, global health experts and community leaders.

"We are gathered here today to celebrate a great example of a partnership between two institutions dedicated to saving lives—the Uganda Cancer Institute in Uganda and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. I offer my congratulations to the two institutions who have come together, dedicated to improving the health and well being of people in Uganda and worldwide," Ssekandi said.

Increasing survival rates, preventing infection-associated cancers

Nearly 25 percent of cancers cases worldwide are infection related, and 50 percent of these cancer deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, said Dr. Corey Casper, of the Center's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division and co-scientific director of the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance, which is the official name of the collaboration between the Hutchinson Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Dr. Corey Casper
The Hutchinson Center's Dr. Corey Casper with a mother and patient at the Uganda Cancer Institute. Photo by Jacqueline Koch

"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 while pursuing a unique research opportunity to find new ways to prevent infection-associated cancers, which will benefit cancer patients both in resource-poor and resource-rich regions," he said.

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," said Dr. Jackson Orem, director of the Uganda Cancer Institute and co-scientific director of the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance.

Plans for the collaborative new cancer center

The proposed new facility will be three stories and include adult and pediatric cancer care clinics and specialized diagnostic laboratories. The facility will be funded in part by two grants totaling $1.4 million from the United States Agency for International Development’s 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; the UCI/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance was established formally in 2008.

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.

Photos, video, and more information on groundbreaking

Learn more about the new facility and see the actual groundbreaking by viewing the multimedia news release now available online.

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