Global reach: Hutch in Uganda

Hutch Magazine

Global reach: Hutch in Uganda

A 10-year partnership, already thriving, is poised to break new ground

A three-story, state-of-the-art research, training and outpatient facility is slated to open in Kampala in early 2015. Here, workers apply Uganda-made red bricks that match the buildings on Fred Hutch’s Seattle campus.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

Over the last decade, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute have been building a unique international partnership. Now the partners are about to have a new home.

A three-story, state-of-the-art research, training and outpatient facility is slated to open in early 2015. With a red-brick exterior that matches the bricks on Fred Hutch’s campus, it rises on the edge of the UCI’s Kampala campus, next to a hodgepodge of stucco-walled structures that have served as Uganda’s only cancer treatment center for more than 40 years.

In advance of the building’s opening, Hutch photographer Robert Hood and writer Mary Engel went to Kampala to see the partnership’s progress to date.

The accomplishments are many. Just look at Mike Kiragga, a bright-eyed 4-year-old boy cured of Burkitt lymphoma, the most common childhood cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. A Fred Hutch-UCI team introduced a systematic approach to treating this cancer that has nearly doubled survival rates and is now being applied to other cancers.

More than a dozen Ugandan physicians have trained at Fred Hutch and returned to practice at the UCI, and another 200 individuals have undergone shorter trainings in Kampala. Almost 30 joint research projects are completed or ongoing.

With the opening of the outpatient facility, as well as a recently completed inpatient hospital built by the Ugandan government, physician-researchers like Dr. Nixon Niyonzima, now studying at Fred Hutch, will have top-notch labs and a community of scientists to go home to.

“The trainees can now say, ‘This is a place I can practice,’” said Dr. Corey Casper, head of the Hutch’s Program in Global Oncology. “I can say to them, ‘There will be a future where you can practice medicine the way you want to.’”

Follow Mary Engel on Twitter @Engel140 and write to Robert Hood at rhood@fredhutch.org.

Hutch in Uganda

Naheni Teopista, left, played with her 6-year-old granddaughter, Naula Kamondi, who was feeling better after starting treatment for Burkitt lymphoma. Naula’s father decided to take Naula to the UCI when both sides of her jaw became swollen.

Fred Hutch’s Dr. Corey Casper and UCI’s Dr. Jackson Orem, co-directors of the Uganda Cancer Institute/Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance, shared a celebratory moment on the roof of the almost-completed research, training and outpatient facility.  

A passionate believer in education, UCI head nurse Allen Naamala Mayanja is always looking for training opportunities for her staff to advance in their careers, going from the yellow belts worn by junior nurses to red to her own black belt.

Dr. Nixon Niyonzima, who is working on a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology at Fred Hutch, filled in at the UCI this summer on a visit home to Kampala.  

Ronald Lumala hugs his son Mike Kiragga who is healthy again after having been successfully treated for Burkitt lymphoma at the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Mike Kiragga in 2013 before he was treated for Burkitt lymphoma at the Uganda Cancer Institute.