The African Cancer Institute (ACI) at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Stellenbosch University (SU), has formed a partnership with the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) to focus on cancer research regarding public health, primary care, nursing, and rehabilitation sciences to build capacity for basic and advanced cancer care.
The partnership was launched on Thursday 30 June 2016 at a cancer research symposium at the FMHS with key experts addressing various aspects linked to vaccination against cervical cancer, rehabilitation of breast cancer survivors, smoking and cancer, nutrition in cancer management, funding opportunities for research and current research activities related to cancer.
The ACI serves as a coordinating and directive institution for research and training in the field of cancer at Stellenbosch University dedicated to improving cancer prevention, diagnosis, and management in Africa. CANSA, a non-profit organisation, also enables and conducts cancer risk research, educates the public and provides support to all persons affected by cancer.
Professor Vikash Sewram, Director of the ACI said: “The two institutions will work together to strengthen and accelerate innovative research in selected priority areas and translate cancer prevention and control knowledge into public health action. Given the research diverse platforms within the ACI and its international and regional networks, and the various outreach initiatives of CANSA, such as its volunteer-based programme, care services, toll-free line, and health promotion activities, this partnership will harness the strengths of both institutions in reducing disparities in cancer morbidity and mortality in South Africa with potential extension to neighbouring countries.”
Prof Sewram further states: “South Africa is in transition with regard to its epidemiological profile – moving from high mortality rates primarily due to communicable diseases towards an ageing population afflicted by non-communicable, lifestyle-related diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, mental illness and cancer.”
Elize Joubert, CANSA’s CEO said: “I am delighted about this partnership with the ACI that will contribute to enhancing cancer control in South Africa. We believe that this partnership is going to be of immense value to deal with the neglected areas regarding cancer linked to health promotion, social sciences research, health systems and services research, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, nutrition, primary care and oncology nursing.”
“Cancer risk identification and prevention, along with advancements in early cancer detection and treatment, are emerging as critical national health issues that need to be addressed appropriately in order to improve the quality of life of South Africans. Cancer research funding devoted to prevention/public health efforts have also grown marginally compared to efforts at developing treatments which have produced only modest clinical results. Increased efforts into research on prevention and screening, is likely to produce benefits that far outweigh its proportion of investment. We have treated cancer more so as a medical problem and now we need to approach it as a public health problem. Cancer and its many associated issues indeed have a significant impact on public health,” added Prof Sewram.
Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, Vice Dean of Research at the FMHS stated: “I am delighted by the official launch of this partnership and the possibilities that this holds for collaborative research projects between the ACI and CANSA. The FMHS and CANSA have had a longstanding relationship in terms of cancer research, with SU involved in a large number of CANSA-funded research studies over many years. In 2013 SU and CANSA partnered to host the 2013 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit (WCLS) welcome dinner in Cape Town, an illustrious event where the ACI was also officially launched. We therefore see this next step as a natural progression in our combined efforts over a sustained period of many years to make a difference in the fight against cancer in South Africa and on the African continent. CANSA’s mission is to enable research, to educate and to support, and these objectives overlap and synergize perfectly with our own functions as a research-intensive university focused on research and innovation, learning and teaching and social impact. I am therefore very happy with this development and look forward to see how this partnership will grow and strengthen our ability to fight cancer in our country and on our continent.”
Prof Sewram concludes that a number of opportunities for improving cancer-related public health still exist such as:
- Intensifying surveillance activities;
- Testing of behavioural interventions that can influence cancer risk or cancer recurrence (eg. related to tobacco use, diet, and screening practices);
- Evaluating patterns of cancer care and resultant outcomes in different health care settings;
- Improving cancer control programmes and enhancing health systems so as to improve access to and delivery of cancer care;
- Quantifying how much environmental and occupational exposures contribute to cancer risk;
- Testing ways to meet the needs and challenges of a growing population of cancer survivors.
As a roadmap going forward the ACI and CANSA will focus on collaborative research projects as well as undertake workshops and conferences to advance the understanding of cancer and improving cancer care.
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