Joanne Silberner, a Seattle journalist, friend and colleague who formerly produced many prize-winning reports on health for NPR, traveled across the planet to document the fight against cancer in poor countries with few resources.
Jim Kublin provides an overview of AIDS vaccine science at Seattle HVTN meeting
Seattle is home to the world’s largest HIV vaccine research network and, as a scientitic meeting here this week indicated, they’re quite comfortable with not knowing where they’re heading.
“We actually don’t know what the agenda is,” said Dr. Jim Kublin, executive director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) based at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
That drew a lot of laughs from the audience, since Kublin’s lecture title for the day was ‘Scientific Agenda, the Next Seven Years.’
“That’s the way science is,” Kublin told me after his talk. “Good science is based on uncertainty, on having an open mind and dealing with the unknown.”
But what makes it easier to laugh about not knowing where you’re going, he added, is that researchers today have a lot more tantalizing clues – beginning with the ground-breaking Thai vaccine trial known to this bunch as RV 144. Continue reading →
So, you can imagine, I had a lot of questions for Uganda’s Minister of HealthChristine Ondoa, a pediatrician and pastor, and one of her traveling companions, Ugandan Parliamentarian Tim Lwanga. Ondoa has been in Seattle for the last few days to meet with a number of local organizations, talking about collaborating on projects aimed at improving health in the poor East African nation.
“The main challenges are the infectious and communicable diseases, especially malaria,” said Ondoa, who while in town met with folks at Gates Foundation, PATH, World Vision and also at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to discuss the Seattle cancer center’s ongoing project with the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala.
(I suspect the Fred Hutch folks might chafe at the claim malaria is Uganda’s biggest health problem. The cancer community is part of a broader campaign out there contending non-communicable diseases like cancer deserve equal attention in Uganda. As my friend and local journalist colleague Joanne Silberner has reported, cancer kills more people than HIV, TB and malaria combined.)
Uganda has all of the typical health problems of a poor African country, but Ondoa says malaria does deserve special attention Continue reading →
As an example of how cancer is no longer viewed solely as a health care issue of the rich world, a physician from Seattle plans to launch a pilot project studying the use of portable ultrasound for breast cancer diagnosis in Uganda.
Dr. Constance Lehman, a radiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, wants to see if using the device in selected communities can improve detection and treatment success rates of this common cancer and killer.
“In developing countries, breast cancer is detected much later than in countries with established screening programs,” Lehman said in the statement announcing her project. Her goal is much earlier detection with referral to the Uganda Cancer Institute, a research and treatment facility Fred Hutch helped establish in 2008 in Kampala.
“In addition to social stigma and shame associated with a breast cancer diagnosis, many barriers impact Ugandan women’s access to care,” Lehman said. “By the time these women arrive at the Uganda Cancer Institute, in most cases their breast cancers are advanced, and treatment options are limited. At this time, most women diagnosed with breast cancer in Uganda do not survive.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide and has been gaining recognition as a threat that needs addressing in the global health field, which has traditionally not focused on chronic diseases of the rich world.