Global Cancer Disparities Initiatives

VIDEO | 01:40
Peter Kingham, MD and Dr. Isaac Alatise discuss the partnership between Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, as well as the mission of the African Research Group for Oncology.
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Cancer has become a major public-health issue in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Approximately 70 percent of worldwide cancer deaths occur in LMICs. Improvements in the approach to oncology treatment and research are crucial to improving patient care in these areas. Memorial Sloan Kettering is leading this effort. The mission of the initiative is to improve outcomes for cancer patients in sub-Saharan Africa through collaborative research and training efforts.

Research must focus on:

  • building cancer registries
  • determining the biology of cancers in LMICs
  • evaluating cost-effective screening methods and therapies
  • providing palliative care options
  • implementing social programs to remove the stigma associated with cancer

By collecting data and understanding how cancer affects LMICs, we can study the implementation of tiered guidelines that can be applied across contexts with differing resources. MSK and our collaborators have initiated several projects to address these goals, under the leadership of Murray Brennan, Vice President for International Programs, Director of the Bobst International Center, and Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Surgery; and Peter Kingham, Director of Global Cancer Disparity Initiatives.


West Africa: African Research Group for Oncology

In 2010, MSK partnered with Obafemi Awolowo University Hospital (OAU) in Nigeria and identified colorectal cancer as a cancer priority in the country. Dr. Kingham and Isaac Alatise from OAU founded the African Research Group for Oncology, or ARGO in 2013. This NCI-recognized consortium of five Nigerian hospitals and MSK was awarded one of the first pilot grants from the National Cancer Institute’s new Center for Global Health. The formation of ARGO has created a team of surgeons, pathologists, medical oncologists, nurses, epidemiologists, and radiologists who work together to treat patients with cancer in the United States and Nigeria. The consortium now includes 26 institutions across Nigeria and is supported by multiple NIH grants. In 2015 ARGO expanded to include breast cancer as a focus of the Consortium. MSK and ARGO have hosted five cancer symposia in Nigeria, an annual event that brings together MSK staff and more than 100 of West Africa’s top physicians to discuss new cancer management techniques, research breakthroughs, and future cancer-related studies in Nigeria.

Building Capacity

In addition to research, the GCDI program at MSK is committed to creating a network of future leaders in cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa and has introduced a variety of training opportunities. Since 2011, 25 Fellows from partner institutions in sub-Saharan Africa have received training in various disciplines at MSK. Educational training opportunities and support for pilot studies at MSK include:

Soudavar Fellowship

International Observership Program

MSK GCDI Observership Program

MSK GCDI Pilot Grant Program

MSKCC Global Cancer Disparities Research Fellowship

International Surgical Oncology Global Cancer Disparities Fellowship

ARGO Academy - Engaging the next generation of Nigerian cancer researchers in ARGO research and training. Supported by the U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation (CRDF) this program facilitates the training of junior faculty in clinical research skills. An African Course in Oncology Research (ACOR) – is currently under design.

Continued growth of the GCDI program

Today the ARGO consortium has continued to expand in Nigeria, attracting talented young physicians and scientists with an interest in cancer research, care, and treatment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Likewise, the GCDI program continues to thrive at MSK and has become an important avenue for recruitment of young faculty interested in global oncology as well as a path to promotion for junior faculty. There are currently over 20 faculty on the GCDI team, with representation of a wide variety of specialties, including Surgery, Pathology, Radiology, Nursing, Medical Oncology, Epidemiology, Anesthesiology, and Pharmacy. These team members are involved in ongoing and planned research projects that involve close collaboration with international researchers and ARGO. Some of the studies underway or recently completed are noted below:

Ongoing colorectal cancer (CRC) projects:

  • Prospective collection and banking of colorectal cancer specimens and database containing clinical information
  • NIH-funded study of a point-of-care urine-based screening test for CRC, which includes three Nigeria sites (Ilorin, Ibadan, OAUTHC)
  • Microbiome study in Nigerian patients with CRC
  • Study of fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) in the Nigerian population
  • Study of modifiable risk factors for CRC in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Qualitative study of Nigerian patient perception and knowledge of CRC
  • Comparison of outcomes and biology of tumors between MSK and Nigerian patients

On-going Breast cancer projects:

  • Prospective collection and banking of breast cancer specimens and database containing clinical information
  • Prevent Cancer Foundation-funded study of iBreast, a handheld device for detecting breast tumors, in Nigeria
  • NIH-funded US-guided breast biopsy pilot study in Nigeria
  • Pilot study of quality of life among Nigerian women with breast cancer, post-mastectomy and treated with adjuvant chemotherapy
  • Pilot study of white adipose tissue inflammation (WATi) and body composition in Nigerian patients with breast cancer

MSK and the GCDI program are committed to building a network of future global leaders to meet the growing challenges of cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa.

Pilot Grant

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Global Cancer Disparities Pilot Grant was established to provide funding to a physician from a low- or middle-income country to support a one-year pilot study in the area of cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment or outcomes. Get more information and see eligibility requirements.